Fowler motivated to be among golf's elite

By Rex HoggardJanuary 26, 2016, 1:20 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – There was a time not that long ago when Rickie Fowler took stock in moral victories.

When he finished in the top five at all four major championships in 2014 it was undeniable evidence that his plan, his persistence, was leading him down the proper path.

He’d set out looking to harness his prodigious talent and narrow his competitive fire; that it would change his public perception – from stylistic trend setter to title collector – was simply the byproduct of the greater goal.

While his Grand Slam showing in ’14 proved to be a validation of the path he was on, it also brought into sharp focus what he was not – a regular champion.

“At the end of 2014 he had a good year, he felt good about himself and I used some tough love,” Fowler’s swing coach Butch Harmon recalled. “I said, ‘You really didn’t win anything.’ And it struck him a little bit and he was like, you’re right.”

As Fowler put the finishing touches on his one-stroke victory on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, a statement triumph against the year’s deepest field, it was easy to forget that at this point last year he was still searching for that elusive element that always seemed to abandon him on Sunday.

Neither the best swings nor the sweetest putting strokes produce titles. The game is littered with players who don’t miss a shot on the practice range or putting green but come up empty time and time again when it counts on a Sunday afternoon.

Until last May, that esoteric element remained largely foreign to Fowler.

Superficially, Fowler was a star long before he won last year’s Players Championship with what was arguably the year’s most clutch performance on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass.

He birdied the 17th hole not once, not twice, but three times on his way to a playoff victory. It was the type of effort that stays with you.

“Winning breads confidence. We finished it off at The Players and then we finished it off at the Scottish [Open], and he’s closed so well,” said caddie Joe Skovron. “We always know that we’ve been here and done that. He’s just closed over and over and over and he just keeps feeding off of that.”

Fowler’s Players breakthrough begat his Scottish Open triumph, and then another at the Deutsche Bank Championship just as it seemed Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were poised to make it a two-man game.

Even the most cynical observer had to concede after his win in Abu Dhabi that Fowler had transformed himself, both on the golf course and in the public eye, into a player with much more substance than style.

That was not always the case.

It’s a striking juxtaposition considering that at this point last season an anonymous player poll dubbed Fowler the Tour’s most overrated.

The 27-year-old said the right things when asked about the poll, dismissing the slight with an easy smile and a disarming shrug, but deep down he burned.

If he began 2015 wanting to be known for more then just his flat-brimmed hats, he was now driven by one of sports most powerful motivators – a desire to prove others wrong.

Similarly, the building notion that golf was on the brink of a new “Big 3” era that sometimes overlooked Fowler – despite his regular successes – gave him a tangible benchmark beyond the more standard goals such as “improved wedge play and better game management.”

“He loved it, because all the talk was about them,” Harmon said. “You’re damn right he wants to be No. 1, but I don’t think it consumes him.”

It isn’t jealousy nor a sense of slight that drives Fowler to be considered among the game’s top players of Spieth, Day and Rory McIlroy, so much as it is wanting his turn at the trough.

Within the context of the current competitive landscape it’s simply addition by subtraction, if he beats the perceived Big 3 regularly Fowler will ascend to his seat at the table naturally, without questions or quantifiers.

“They are the three best or three highest-ranked players in the world. There’s no way around that and the three of them have played amazing,” Fowler said. “Yeah, I want to be a part of that crew. It would be a pretty good foursome.”

Sunday’s show in Abu Dhabi certainly sent a clear message. With Spieth fresh off an eight-stroke mauling of the field in Maui and McIlroy showing flashes of mid-season form on his way to a tie for third place, there was nothing subtle about Fowler’s intentions.

For his part, Spieth has largely dismissed the concept of a Big 3 as an overly broad simplification. Time, not trends, will ultimately decide if the game is poised on the precipice of a new golden age where a handful of charismatic champions regularly trade titles.

The world No. 1 was equally clear that Fowler’s place among the game’s best, however exclusive that group may be, is not up for debate.

“What Rickie is doing is fantastic. It's not surprising whatsoever,” Spieth said. “Rickie is going to win multiple events each year, I believe; so will Rory, so will Jason and hopefully I will do the same and there will be a few others. If that happens, then I believe the talk [about a Big 3 or 4] can start.”

For Fowler, however, there is only one way to gain membership to that club. Beating the world’s best at Abu Dhabi Golf Club or TPC Boston makes for a good season; doing it at Augusta National or Royal Troon makes for a great career.

Although Fowler followed his Grand Slam performance in 2014 with a pair of top-five finishes last year in the majors, there is still work to be done.

To Rickie, being mentioned in the same breath as Spieth, Day and Fowler, and ascending to world No. 1 (he climbed to fourth on Monday, his highest ranking), all hinges on filling that major void.

“Not being in the conversation motivated him just like the overrated part motivated him. He knows he hasn’t won a major and we’ve been working on that this year,” Harmon said.

It’s Fowler’s desire not to be satisfied, more so than a more consistent game or his burgeoning reputation as a closer, that transformed him into a four-time winner around the world in the last nine months. And it’s that drive that he’s confident will take him the rest of the way.

Getty Images

Rose's Saturday 64 matches Carnoustie Open record

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 1:03 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose needed to sink a 14-foot putt on the final hole Friday just to make the cut on the number at The Open.

Freewheeling when he came to the course Saturday, Rose tied the lowest score ever recorded in an Open at Carnoustie.

Entering the weekend nine shots off the lead, the world No. 3 carded a bogey-free, 7-under 64 to at least make things interesting. It won’t be known for several hours how many shots Rose will be behind, but his back-nine 30 gives him an opportunity, if the wind blows 25 mph Sunday as forecast, to challenge the leaders.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After all, Paul Lawrie was 10 shots back entering the final round here in 1999.

“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning,” said Rose, who is at 4-under 209. “So that might have been part of the shift in mindset today. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”

Rose’s 64 matched Steve Stricker and Richard Green’s record score at Carnoustie (2007).

It also was Rose’s career-low round in a major.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 12:45 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.

Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (