Fowler likes chances of winning first major at Oakmont

By Rex HoggardJune 14, 2016, 8:35 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – “A major will come.”

It wasn’t the first time Rickie Fowler has uttered those words, or something of the like. He’s come close, had his chances, bided his time and considers Oakmont, site of this week’s 116th U.S. Open, as good a place as any to join the Grand Slam gang.

“If I put the last two years together, that would equal a major this year, but they don't come that easy,” he said on Tuesday. “We've got some work to do, and I’m looking forward to chasing those guys down.”

The relaxed millennial has never lacked for confidence or cachet. A star long before he won his first PGA Tour title in 2012, the poster child for the next generation has taken a decidedly long view when it comes to his climb to the top of golf’s marquee.

At fifth in the Official World Golf Ranking, he’d fit neatly into what’s turning into the U.S. Wide Open, yet some savvy observers have dismissed Fowler’s chances this week based largely on recent form.

2016 began as a typical Rickie Fowler year – fifth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a Sunday duel with Hideki Matsuyama at TPC Scottsdale where he lost in a playoff and a victory against a sneaky deep field in Abu Dhabi that included Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Things started to go decidedly the other way as spring slowly turned to summer. In his last seven starts he has just a single top-10 finish and missed his last two cuts coming into the U.S. Open.

“The only reason that I've struggled a little bit here and there is just because I've been a little bit frustrated with the putting, and that can sometimes leak over into driving the ball and then hitting a good shot into the green,” Fowler said.


U.S. Open: Full-field tee times


The slide seems even more curious to Butch Harmon, Fowler’s swing coach.

“If you look at his stats this year they are the best they’ve ever been, for greens in regulation and driving it in play. He’s just putted poorly, which is unusual for him,” Harmon said.

Fowler has improved in every major ball-striking category since last year when he won three times around the world, including a jump from 106th in greens in regulation to third this season.

But those clutch putts that lifted him to top-5 finishes in every major in 2014 have largely been missing. It was most glaring last month at the Wells Fargo Championship when he began the final round with a one-stroke lead but closed with a 74 to finish tied for fourth place.

Despite his recent play, it should be no surprise that both Fowler and Harmon remained optimistic about Fowler’s chances this week.

“This type of course plays into Rickie’s type of playing because he is creative,” Harmon said. “He likes the course. He’s ready but this is a funny course. You have to play the angles, know where to drive it and how it slopes. It takes a lot of learning how to play it.”

Harmon said Oakmont reminds him of Augusta National in the sense that good shots often need to be played away from pins and you’re much better off being 20 feet below the hole than you are being 10 feet above it.

There is also some solace for Fowler this week that great putters don’t necessarily have an overwhelming advantage on the brutish golf course. In short, Oakmont is the great equalizer for average putters because birdie attempts will be few and lag putting is a much more realistic goal.

Instead, whoever finds themselves in contention on Sunday will have to do so based on their ability to avoid the lush rough and oddly fluffy bunkers.

“If you don’t put the ball in the fairway you not only won’t have a chance to contend, you won’t be here on the weekend,” said Harmon in his signature blunt style.

It’s a lesson Fowler has taken to heart this week, with player and swing coach plotting a course around Oakmont that is as detailed as it is exacting.

Playing below the hole and focusing on the proper angles to approach the relatively large, at least by U.S. Open standards, green complexes is the plan ever since Fowler saw the course a few weeks ago during a scouting trip.

He arrived early for this week’s championship and, according to Harmon, believes Oakmont to be a perfect fit for his game.

“This golf course tee to green is really where you can put yourself in good and safe positions where you're not struggling to make pars,” said Fowler before adding, “I don't think you can play enough rounds here to really know it.”

Fowler is keenly aware of the hole in his resume and the combination of patience and precision that will be required to make Oakmont the site of his breakthrough. He’s also aware, more than anyone else, of his own skill set and his dedication to his craft.

It might not be this week, but Fowler has no doubt that his major will come.

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”