Victorious Fowler thrives on pressure, big moments

By Randall MellSeptember 8, 2015, 12:45 am

NORTON, Mass. – Rickie Fowler is getting a little weary of all these shadows falling over him.

First there was Rory McIlroy’s with his emergence as the world No. 1 a few years back.

Then Jordan Spieth’s with his major championship run this summer.

And then Jason Day’s this last month or so with his red-hot run.

While not getting himself in the conversation with this trio of young stars in the major championships this summer wasn’t as motivating as being labeled “overrated” in a poll before he won The Players Championship, Fowler is definitely finding fire in his belly again. He said on the eve of the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship that he is driven to join McIlroy, Spieth and Day as the game’s elite new guard.

Fowler, 26, showed Monday he meant it beating Henrik Stenson in a final-round duel at TPC Boston.

“With the three guys that they talk about, Jason, Rory and Jordan, they've clearly played the best out of anyone over the past few months to couple of years,” Fowler said. “So I'm trying to be a small fourth thrown in there. But there are a lot of other really good young players playing well right now, as well.”

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Three shots behind Stenson with eight holes to play, Fowler found another gear Monday, the extra gear that helped him win The Players. He showed something overtaking Stenson, a ball-striking machine. Fowler thrived with nerves and pressure building over the back nine. He was bogey free on that back side, watching Stenson make the mistakes that lost the tournament.

Fowler’s 3-under-par 68 gave him a one-shot victory over Stenson for Fowler’s third worldwide victory this year.

While Fowler didn’t break through to win his first major this summer, he has claimed some big prizes against some stellar fields. He won that Players Championship spectacularly in the spring. He won the Scottish Open with a good field prepping for the British Open. Now, he has added a FedEx Cup Playoff title.

Joe Skovron, Fowler’s caddie, said the spectacular way Fowler won The Players resonates.

Fowler played the final 10 holes at TPC Sawgrass in 8 under par. That includes the playoff there. He beat a terrific field on a demanding course with intense final-round pressure.

“I think it frees you up,” Skovron said in the shadow of the TPC Boston clubhouse after Monday’s trophy presentation. “The more you win, the more it frees you up, especially a guy like Rickie, with all the outside pressure. He doesn’t talk about it a lot, but people have been expecting him to do so much, so quick, because of his popularity and everything else. So that kind of freed him up.

“You trust more and more.”

It’s helping Fowler trust he can handle the pressure and the nerves that come with the big moments.

Earlier this week, Davis Love III talked about how Fowler seems built for big moments. Yes, Fowler hasn’t won a major yet, but Love believes Fowler has something that’s going to help him close them out. He’s got the ability to relish all the adrenaline that comes doing so.

Love says that probably goes back to Fowler’s daredevil days in motocross.

“He’s not afraid of that,” Love said. “He relishes that.

“Some guys get tight and timid, but Rickie likes that adrenalin feeling. I think Rickie is one of those guys, if you get him in the hunt, he’s going to do really well. It’s just Thursday morning is boring for him. When Rickie gets focused, he’s really, really good.”

Like Day, Fowler has required extra time harnessing his special skill set. Being a daredevil who loves adrenalin rushes doesn’t automatically translate into closing out tournaments. There’s still a learning curve. It didn’t help Fowler in his failure chasing Tiger Woods in the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill two years ago, when Fowler melted in the moment there, hitting two shots in the water at the 16th and making triple bogey. It didn’t help him in the final round against Woods at the Memorial three years ago, when he shot 84.

Those failures were likely factors in Fowler being voted “overrated” in a media poll of his peers.

With Butch Harmon helping him with his swing, Fowler’s beginning to put together a game now that’s better built for closing out. You don’t revel making dangerous motocross runs until you’ve mastered the bike.

“He sharpens up,” Skovron said of pressure-packed moments. “Some guys, it bothers them.

“We just hadn’t been in those moments a lot. It was always four and five shots back. Now, he’s getting himself in there more. He’s handling it very well.”

Fowler’s learning to handle the big moments in a way that’s going to help him cast his own big shadow.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”