LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The last one hurts the most.
Rickie Fowler left the PGA Championship on Sunday in the same company as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Although Fowler became only the third player to finish inside the top five in all four majors during a year – Nicklaus and Woods each did so twice – he’s the only one on the list who did not win a major. To boot, the fact that Fowler actually held the lead for a brief moment on the back nine and failed to win this time is going to take awhile to get over.
Fowler, 25, was in control of his game for most of the humid day at Valhalla Golf Club but an untimely bogey on the 14th hole ultimately derailed his chances at victory. Still, he shot a final-round 68 and tied for third place, two shots behind Rory McIlroy. He missed a tiddler for birdie on the final hole that would’ve given him a second-place tie with Phil Mickelson.
“It was definitely emotional as soon as I finished up,” Fowler said.
The day’s penultimate group was Fowler and Mickelson, good friends who often play big-money games together on Tuesday before PGA Tour events. So this was a comfortable pairing. Although Fowler made bogey on the second hole, he birdied four of the next five. A birdie on the par-5 10th hole put him in the lead.
On the par-3 14th, Fowler hit a loose tee shot right of the green and into some thick mud. He got a drop, chipped to 30 feet and two-putted for a bogey. He made par on the final four holes.
“I really felt I could win this one,” Fowler said. “Disappointed to come up short, but like I said to look back on the full year and all four majors, definitely something to be proud of.”
Still, Fowler, who has won only one PGA Tour event, came into the season with the goal of contending in major championships. He did that in spades. It all began back in April with a quiet fifth-place tie at the Masters. The second-place tie with Erik Compton at the U.S. Open was of fairly little significance because Martin Kaymer won by such a large margin. Then, last month at the British Open at Hoylake, Fowler shot 67 in the final round to tie for second place with Sergio Garcia, two shots behind McIlroy.
Sure, Fowler left Kentucky disappointed. But he did achieve his goal. And that can only be a sign of good things to come.