ERIN, Wis. – A major trophy went to a first-time winner for the seventh straight time, but Rickie Fowler remains on the outside looking in.
Fowler stormed out to an opening-round lead at the U.S. Open, and he entered the final round at Erin Hills just two shots back. But he was never able to generate any momentum as Brooks Koepka blew past him, and an even-par 72 left Fowler in a three-way tie for fifth, six shots back.
“It was a tough day out there,” Fowler said. “I know it was probably a little less wind than the guys saw this morning, but it still wasn’t easy. I mean, wind was affecting putts quite a bit, and it was tough to get things going.”
Fowler opened with a lengthy birdie on the first hole, but he missed a 6-footer on the next hole that proved to be one of his better chances on the day. He made only one other birdie the rest of the way until a two-putt birdie on No. 18, by which time his title chances were long gone.
“I definitely did make some good putts out there to keep things going, but I also made a couple bogeys that I really couldn’t afford being a couple back at the time,” he said. “I wish I would have been able to give myself a few more looks out there today and make a few more birdies.”
Fowler was Ryder Cup teammates with Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker last fall, and he has watched as each experienced a major breakthrough over the last 53 weeks. Fowler’s finish this week was his sixth career top-5 in majors, likely strengthening his grip on the unwanted title of Best Player Without a Major title, but he sees plenty of positives to take from his week in Wisconsin.
“I feel like golf-wise I’m playing at the highest level,” he said. “If you look at the negatives too much, I mean, you’re going to be stuck doing that the whole time. You have to measure success in different ways, not just by winning, just because that doesn’t happen a whole lot. I think Tiger had the best winning percentage of all time at 30 percent, and you’re lucky to even sniff close to 10 (percent).
“You kind of have to say, ‘Hey, it’s a major.’ We played well this week. I felt like I did a lot of good things, especially in the first round, executing my game plan.”