Fowler hoping unique fall schedule pays off in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 8, 2017, 9:45 pm

Rickie Fowler has officially put Fall Break on hiatus – at least, for a week.

Fowler is teeing it up this week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, where he headlines the field and will make his tournament debut. His appearance south of the border is another testament to the strength-of-field requirement instituted last year by the PGA Tour, one that also helped steer Rory McIlroy to the Travelers Championship this summer.

It also continues a trend in recent weeks where Fowler has gone against the grain of other top-ranked stars' picks of where to play during the fall portion of the season. While most big names are sitting at home this week, Fowler will take on El Camaleon along the shores of Playa del Carmen.

Likewise, while his peers were scooping up dollars and OWGR points by the handful during a three-week Asian Swing last month, Fowler was kicking back at home and visiting some of his old stomping grounds.

The beauty of the saturated PGA Tour schedule is that players are afforded an opportunity to forge their own paths. There is no mandate requiring stars to hop a flight to Asia, although the lucrative purses certainly serve as convincing motivation.

In fact, the only other top-10 players who went 0-for-3 on the Asian events last month were Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Spieth still plans to fly across the globe to defend his Australian Open title next month, while McIlroy opted for rest in an effort to get fully healthy.

Which brings us back to Fowler, who had previously been a staple at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China since 2013. Four years ago he spent his fall racking up frequent flier miles, with starts in Malaysia, China, Australia and Thailand all after October 1.


OHL Classic at Mayakoba: Articles, photos and videos


But Fowler is a different player than he was four years ago, and he has different goals. Coming off an exhaustive summer stretch and a raucous week at the Presidents Cup, he opted to put the clubs away. Earlier this week, he told Golf Channel reporter George Savaricas that he had only played five rounds of golf in the six weeks since leaving Liberty National.

“I wanted to look at this fall and winter as a time to create an offseason,” Fowler said Wednesday. “Enjoy the relaxation and get some time in the gym to get ready to go in January.”

Fowler is interrupting that break to make his maiden trip to Mayakoba this week, and he’ll also tee it up later this month at the Hero World Challenge. But afforded essentially three months between the Presidents Cup and Tournament of Champions, he’s making a clear statement that his focus remains on starting fresh for 2018.

His most recent season is difficult to assess. On one hand, he won the Honda Classic to break a lengthy victory drought, authored perhaps the most consistent summer of his career and contended at multiple majors.

On the other hand, he failed to capitalize on those major chances, notably at the Masters and U.S. Open, and his T-26 finish at the Tour Championship served as an ill-timed clunker with $10 million on the line.

Fowler will turn 29 next month, a reminder that he is not quite as young as his annual spring break comrades Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. But barring injury, he remains on the upswing of his prime, and certainly possesses the talent to make runs like Spieth and Thomas have authored in recent years.

The difference will likely boil down to capitalizing on various opportunities. And while Fowler can put in plenty of legwork toward that goal after the ball drops on 2018, his decision to focus on recharging off the course this fall could prove prescient.

Amid a relatively quiet stretch, Fowler has a chance to shake off some rust this week. A trip to sun-splashed Mexico isn’t exactly the most difficult burden to bear, and his appearance is already a win for a tournament looking to bolster its status.

What’s more telling is the litany of events that Fowler has already skipped. It’s never easy to pass up on guaranteed prize money, not to mention FedExCup points that could prove valuable 10 months from now.

But while the wraparound schedule affords few opportunities to truly rest and unwind, Fowler has created one this fall. It comes at a cost, sure, but he has also played long enough on Tour to weigh the benefits of both options and choose accordingly.

On the heels of a good-but-not-quite-great season, Fowler has started this new campaign with some R&R and time in the gym. He’ll get back to the on-course grind this week, but it may be months before the value of his unique fall itinerary choices comes to fruition. 

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."