Beginning the final round with a one-shot lead, Fowler had it all to play for. A win would be his first of the PGA Tour season and put him firmly in the mix for the FedEx Cup; a top-3 finish would allow him to steal the final automatic Ryder Cup pick away from Zach Johnson just before the deadline.
Fowler appeared cool, confident and on a mission, stringing together 55 straight holes without a bogey on the difficult Black Course at Bethpage. Then, suddenly, it all fell apart.
Fowler bogeyed No. 11 to lose the lead, then bogeyed No. 15 to fall two behind Patrick Reed, then shot himself out of tournament contention with a disastrous double bogey on No. 16. While a birdie at 17 revived his faint Ryder Cup hopes, he bogeyed the last to card a 3-over 74 that left him in a tie for seventh, four shots behind Reed and on the wrong side of the Hazeltine bubble.
“It was just a little off here and there. You had to be playing out of the fairway. So yeah, very disappointing,” Fowler said. “Not the way I’ve been playing the back nine all week. Coming to the last eight holes, I made one bogey through the week. I don’t know, like I said, just made a couple bad swings at the wrong time.”
While Fowler successfully converted a 54-hole lead earlier this year at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, his record with a final-round advantage now drops to 0 for 4 on the PGA Tour. That figure includes the Wells Fargo Championship this past May, when a final-round 74 dropped him into a tie for fourth.
“This is about as tough a test as you get. I did great the first 10 holes,” he said. “I didn’t swing the way I needed to. I didn’t drive the ball the way I needed to coming in. I mean, it was barely off at all. A couple that were just in the rough, and you can’t play from the rough out here.”
Fowler ended up 11th on the final U.S. Ryder Cup standings, and he’ll now be competing with the likes of Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk for one of captain Davis Love III’s four picks to be announced next month.
“It’s not for me to worry about right now. I’ve just got to go out and get ready to play next week,” Fowler said. “Coming off a win there last year, I feel like I’m in a good spot. I played great this week, and I’m not worried about resume or anything like that. I’ve just got to continue to work on the game, continue getting better.”
Based on his comments to Reed on the final green, however, Fowler seems confident that his play over the next two weeks will net him a ticket to Hazeltine.
“He just told me, he was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go get my work done,’ and he was like, ‘I’ll see you in Minnesota,’” Reed said. “I said, ‘I know you will be.’”