After Further Review: Fowler keeps coming up clutch


Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds:

On Fowler winning in Abu Dhabi ...

Rickie Fowler is looking more and more comfortable in the most uncomfortable position in golf.

He was spectacular beating a terrific field at The Players Championship last spring, playing the final 10 holes, four of them playoff holes, in 8 under.

He was impressive at the Scottish Open last summer, making birdies at three of the final four holes to beat a strong field prepping for The Open Championship.

He was nerveless coming from three shots behind ball-striking machine Henrik Stenson on the final nine holes to win the Deutsche Bank Championship last September.

He didn't flinch on the back nine Sunday to win the Abu Dhabi Championship with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy getting all the pretournament hype.

Mostly, Fowler is looking more and more equipped to win his first major this year. – Randall Mell

On the state of the game ...

Golf hasn’t been in hands this capable since Jack Nicklaus was collecting his 18 major championships.

This has been building since Jordan Spieth won last year’s Masters, but on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship the new normal was etched down the leaderboard. In order, world No. 4 Rickie Fowler, No. 3 Rory McIlroy and No. 1 Jordan Spieth were first, third and fifth, respectively.

Spieth won the PGA Tour year lid-lifter in Maui, Fowler cashed the week’s biggest check in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy looked in mid-season form for most of the tournament and world No. 2 Jason Day returns to Torrey Pines on Thursday to defend his Farmers Insurance Open title.

It’s a collective brilliance that leaves the game at an impressive crossroads. – Rex Hoggard

On Rickie vs. Rory ...

As difficult as they are to create in golf, fans pine for rivalries.

Of course, fans aren’t the only ones. Rivalries are pretty good for business around these parts, too. But after months of Rory vs. the world, or Jordan vs. Jason, or (as was the case this week) Jordan vs. Rory, there is a chance we’ve missed one.

Perhaps despite all the other well-discussed options, the true budding rivalry could be Rory McIlroy versus Rickie Fowler.

Fowler now has five worldwide victories, three of which have essentially come at the hands of McIlroy. The Ulsterman’s rally fell short Sunday in Abu Dhabi as he finished T-3, and back in 2012 he watched as Fowler sealed his first PGA Tour win in a playoff over he and D.A. Points at Quail Hollow.

Going even further back, Fowler’s first professional win came in Korea in 2011 over, you guessed it, McIlroy.

Of course, McIlroy has gotten his jabs in as well, notably edging Fowler at both the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2014. But before we rush to confine golf to the Big (Insert Number), it might be wise to give a Fowler-McIlroy rivalry enough time to spring roots and grow. – Will Gray