Fowler, Day flying high on newfound confidence

By Will GrayAugust 4, 2015, 10:05 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Coming down the stretch of his practice round Tuesday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Rickie Fowler found himself in a familiar position: back against the wall, needing to deliver. Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer had Fowler and Jimmy Walker 1-down after 16 holes, with pride – not to mention some pocket change – on the line.

Needing to come up with the goods, Fowler calmly delivered a birdie on the penultimate hole and another on the final green, a curling 20-footer that drew a wry smile from Spieth, who then poured in a birdie of his own to draw the match.

Fowler’s final putt was center-cut, and he walked it in with the confidence of someone whose game has reached a new level, whether the stakes are a trophy or a friendly wager. The transformation from a player burdened with expectation and untapped potential to one who now regularly delivers in the clutch has been both quick and profound.

While the breakthrough came with his other-worldly finish to win The Players Championship, Fowler quickly followed that up with a victory at the Scottish Open. With a runner-up finish at the Quicken Loans National, he is back to No. 5 in the world rankings, tied for his career best.

After beginning this season with the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship as his lone win in 141 PGA Tour starts, Fowler has quickly vaulted into the game’s upper echelon.

“Really since The Players, my comfort has jumped another level or five or so,” Fowler said. “Just kind of being in that situation the last four, five, however many holes and knowing that I can pull out the good swings and make putts and make stuff happen. So it’s fun to know I have that.”

Like Fowler, Jason Day entered the season in the highly unscientific category of “players who probably should win more,” with two victories in 151 PGA Tour starts. He added a third with a playoff victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in February, then rallied to win the RBC Canadian Open in his most recent start.

Only days removed from heartbreak at the Open Championship, Day birdied each of his final three holes in Canada to finish one shot clear of the pack. While he has been a perennial contender in recent years, the Aussie shared Tuesday that his mindset was different during the final round at Glen Abbey.

“It was funny, that Sunday, I was a lot more calm,” he said. “I just felt different that day compared to any other Sunday where I was in contention, whether it was a major or a normal PGA Tour event. And I just, for some reason, I just knew everything’s OK. No matter what, keep plugging along.”

His explosive celebration after his 72nd-hole birdie evoked comparisons with Tiger Woods, and Day remains eager to build upon the momentum that collecting trophies can create.

“It’s obviously powerful to draw on, but on top of it, you’ve got to go out and execute the shot,” he said. “Doing stuff like that is not easy. It may look easy, but it’s not easy to do.”

Winning begets winning, especially on the highest level. Rory McIlroy had gone nearly a year without a victory since switching to Nike before breaking through at the Australian Open in November 2013, a victory that helped propel him to a four-win season in 2014. Spieth broke a similar victory drought last year in Oz, and he has since reached nearly unprecedented heights.

Whether Fowler or Day ascend to that stratosphere remains to be seen, but the pair is clearly benefiting from one of the game’s most precious commodities – the confidence boost that only comes from a spot in the winner’s circle.

Day narrowly missed out on the playoff at St. Andrews when he left his final birdie putt short, and he flashed back to that stroke when faced with a similar putt in Canada. The weight of the situation was evident, as was his relief when that particular shot found the target after so many prior near-misses.

“To turn around so quick and hole the putt on the 72nd hole at the Canadian Open, I mean it was a good way to turn around,” he said. “Know that I can do it and show people that I can do it, and stomp my foot on the ground and say, ‘No, that’s enough. I can get it done.’”

Day and Fowler have long had the game to contend against the world’s best. But confidence is fickle, and trophies are hard to come by.

Each buoyed from recently “getting it done,” their confidence is at an all-time high – just in time for one of the Tour’s most lucrative fortnights.

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.”