COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rickie Fowler was only marginally better on Monday at Brookside Golf & Country Club than he was on Sunday across town at Muirfield Village – shooting a 2-under 70 in the opening round of the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier.
That left Fowler well off the pace of 64 set by Eric Axley at Lakes Golf & Country Club, although Brookside was playing much harder than the Lakes and players switch courses in the afternoon in their quest to secure one of the 15 available qualifying spots.
But if Donnie Darr, one of Fowler’s former coaches at Oklahoma State and the current men’s golf coach at Ohio State who caddied for Fowler this week, had any concerns it wasn’t about Fowler’s score.
“Get him to the course on time,” Darr barked to a member of Team Rickie as he darted to the parking lot to make the 10-mile trip to the Lakes for his man’s 2:20 p.m. (ET) tee time.
Fowler, who turned at even par, was trailed by a gallery of nearly 100 people for most of his round and signed autographs for about 15 minutes after his round. Despite his runner-up showing to Justin Rose, who was scheduled to tee off at 2:10 p.m. at Brookside, Fowler’s celebrity status has only become more frenzied.
Among some of the other highlights from the morning wave:
• Alex Cejka shot the low round of the morning at Brookside, a 6-under 66, despite some sloppy ballstriking. “I scored well. I putted really well,” he said. Cejka was sporting a Chicago Cubs hat for the morning round and when asked about his slumping team he smiled, “C is for Cejka, Columbus, Callaway (who is Cejka’s equipment sponsor). No it’s for the Cubs. You have to stick with them in tough times.”
• Similarly Tim Petrovic had on a Boston Red Sox hat as he arrived at Brookside following a morning round of 6 under at the Lakes that left him in a four-way tie for second place.
• John Cook struggled to an opening 75 but he was enjoying his return to central Ohio nonetheless. Cook’s parents still live in Columbus and he attended college at Ohio State. “Pebble (site of next week’s U.S. Open) is special and I would have to give (qualifying) another try. So why not? It’s Columbus and I spent a good number of years here,” he said.
• Davis Love III shot a 3-under 69 at Brookside, which was playing harder than in recent years because of wet conditions, thick rough and swirling winds, but was derailed by a series of late bogeys. “Same as every round this year,” Love said.
• Aaron Baddeley also carded a 69 at Brookside and was less than pleased as he headed for the Lakes. “I figured it would take double digits (under par to advance to next week’s U.S. Open). Slow start,” he said.