SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – A good start is key to contending in any major. Just ask Rickie Fowler.
Two years removed from a quartet of top-5 results in the year’s biggest events, Fowler has struggled to get out of the gates in big events this year. He opened with 80 at the Masters and 76 at the U.S. Open, not to mention a 72 at TPC Sawgrass.
But Fowler has reversed his opening-round trend in recent weeks, and the 2-under 68 he carded to begin the PGA Championship both put him on the early leaderboard at Baltusrol and extended his streak of sub-70 openers to four in a row.
“I mean, it’s said a lot you can’t win a tournament on Thursday but you can lose it,” Fowler said. “You can take yourself out of the tournament and make it tough to make a cut or be around to keep going. Getting off to a solid start is definitely nice, making some good swings, making some birdies, especially in majors.”
Fowler bogeyed his opening hole, but turned around quickly with birdies on four of his next eight holes. At 2 under, he sits three shots off the early pace set by Jimmy Walker.
Fowler was one of the players to watch early in the year, with a win in Abu Dhabi followed by a playoff loss at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. But he has largely stalled since, with only one top-40 finish in his last six starts.
“The middle part is terrible. Definitely not where I wanted to be, especially after winning early in the year. You don’t have to sugar-coat it, it wasn’t very good,” he said. “Swing-wise, it’s fundamentals. Everything is so small. But the thing is, out here on the highest level, if you are off just a little bit, especially in a major, it picks you apart and it shows.”
Fowler suffered no such fate amid steamy conditions at Baltusrol, and he now hopes to continue a trend that has seen each of the year’s first three majors go to players ranked inside the top 12 who were previously without a major title.
“I mean, everyone that’s in the field obviously teeing it up to go win. I’m here for the same reason,” he said. “I like my chances. I’ve been swinging well and heading in the right direction. Nice to get off to a solid start here. Anything can happen this week.”