PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rickie Fowler’s title defense came to an abrupt halt Friday at The Players Championship.
Fowler was one of several big names unable to make much progress amid swirling winds during the opening round, but he was expected to pick up the pace with an early second-round tee time. Instead, Fowler faltered with an early double bogey en route to a 71. At 1-under 143, he was left one shot outside the projected cut line.
“Putts just weren’t going in. I’m swinging well. I hit a lot of good shots. Just couldn’t make anything the last two days,” Fowler said. “I had a lot that were in the 10-15 foot range. They took peeks, but just didn’t go in.”
Fowler’s likely missed cut extends a recent run of futility from defending champions at TPC Sawgrass. A reigning champ hasn’t cracked the top 10 here since Adam Scott in 2005, and there hasn’t been a defending champ who finished inside the top 40 since 2010.
For Fowler, the result was especially frustrating given that he felt he handled the most difficult aspects of the Stadium Course well.
“This golf course, the hardest part is getting to the green,” he said. “Hitting fairways, hitting greens. I feel like I did a decent job of that this week. I wouldn’t say that it was stellar by any means, but I did make a lot of good swings and I feel like I played pretty well tee to green other than a couple holes.
“You’re going to make mistakes out here, tee to green. I wasn’t able to make up for those with the putter.”
Fowler headed into this week with ample momentum after a T-4 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship where he held the 54-hole lead. While he’ll miss the cut for just the third time this season, Fowler remained upbeat after closing his second round with birdies on two of his final three holes.
“I’m very confident with my game right now. Going through my final eight holes, other than a little missed chip shot on No. 5, I didn’t miss a shot,” he said. “Had a lot of good birdie opportunities, unfortunately only made the ones that were kick-ins.”