PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rickie Fowler took the question head-on. No hesitation, no rationalizing past performances. After two strong rounds to open the Honda Classic, he was willing to say what many were thinking.
It’s time to win.
More than a year has passed since Fowler’s last worldwide victory, an impressive rally against a strong field in Abu Dhabi. It was a title that vaulted him to No. 4 in the world rankings and sparked discussion of a Big Four with Fowler alongside Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.
But as the others continued to pile up victories, Fowler has remained winless. He coughed up a late lead to Hideki Matsuyama last year in Phoenix, failed to convert a 54-hole lead at the Quicken Loans National and couldn’t keep pace with Patrick Reed at The Barclays.
Even this event was a microcosm of Fowler’s run last year, as he played the first 36 holes without dropping a shot at PGA National before fading to a T-6 finish over the weekend.
The Big Four discussion is long gone, as Fowler entered this week ranked No. 14 in the world. But after a pair of 66s to mirror last year’s 36-hole total and sit one shot behind Ryan Palmer, Fowler is eager to seize on yet another opportunity to get back in the winner’s circle.
“I feel like it’s time for me to start finishing off some more events when I am in this position,” Fowler said. “I wouldn’t look just back at this specific event, but there’s been a few where I’ve had a chance. I feel very good out front or around the guys in the lead, and I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
While his first two scorecards aren’t quite as flawless as last year, Fowler has managed to card 11 birdies while avoiding the disaster that lurks around every corner at PGA National. He is making his first start since a T-4 finish in Phoenix, and a playing lesson last week with swing coach Butch Harmon yielded further dividends.
“It’s kind of just been trending in the right direction,” he said. “I feel really good with how we’ve played the first two days, and mentally I can definitely get a bit better. Swinging great, but the mistakes I’m making are just mental and causing myself to make some bad swings.”
Fowler is one of several South Florida residents playing a home game this week, and he’s hopeful that a familiar venue will help him put all the pieces together for the first time since Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a place, a golf course where I feel comfortable, and I’m comfortable with the game right now,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun weekend.”