Rickie Fowler has hit a new low - quite literally - and it's happy Sundays for Bez in South Africa. Alex Perry wraps up the week's talking points on tour
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Rickie Fowler near his home in Miami at the end of last year as part of a media day for one of his sponsors. “He’s not in a good mood,” one of his team told me as I prepared to chat to him before adding an almost sarcastic “good luck”. And they were right. He turned it on once the record button was hit, but the rest of the time you could tell he wanted to be anywhere else.
It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed Fowler in this kind of mood. At the Open in 2017 I stood by in the baking Birkdale sun as he posed for what felt like several thousand photographs for another sponsor.
It’s easy to suggest that if he – or, indeed, any athlete – wants to get paid the big bucks by these corporations then he has to put in the time they demand. But at what cost? Fowler, you might remember, revealed recently that he puts in “25 to 30 days a year” with his sponsors. You’ve already done the maths, I’m sure.
But today Fowler finds himself at his lowest point for some time. Quite literally, in the case of the world rankings.
Few could have predicted that, having got his breakthrough win at Quail Hollow in 2012, Fowler would only have four further PGA Tour wins to his name almost nine years later. Even fewer could have predicted that he would still be without a major after the ‘Top Five Grand Slam‘ in 2014.
But 2020 has been a peculiar year for Fowler. He started it with a tie for 5th in Hawaii followed by a top 10 at the American Express. Since then it’s been seven missed cuts in 17 starts – including most recently at the Mayakoba Classic, which means he’ll drop outside the world’s top 50 for the first time since February 2014. He was in the top 10 as recently as May last year.
And his latest outing included an opening round that just about sums up the 31-year-old’s 2020 – a 1-under-par 70 at the Mayakoba Classic that included a eight birdies, a bogey, a double bogey, and a quadruple bogey.
Fowler is not one to shy away from talking about his issues, and his antics at the par-4 12th, which included two penalty drops, was the hot topic of his post-round interview.
“I made an eight – there’s no way around it,” he told reporters. “I made a decent swing with the driver, just got it a little bit on the toe and it started moving and got on the other side of the wind.
“I think I did a really good job of just not worrying about what happened, just accepted that balls getting a little off-line were going to happen with how windy it is.
“I’m glad we were able to keep the attitude in check, keep moving forward and take what could have been a really bad day and salvage a decent day.”
How so many of us can learn from that. And how so many of us would like to see Fowler back contending in 2021. While we’re all prepared to put it down to a change in swing coach for now, we all know those excuses are never allowed to fly for too long.
See also: Spieth, Jordan.
Who won on tour this week?
As the Fowlers and the Spieths of the world struggle to find their game, it’s been some year for the young guns coming through. In particular, the exciting trio of Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa – already a major champion – and Viktor Hovland, the latter of whom dropped a birdie on the 18th to win his second PGA Tour title at the Mayakoba Classic.
And just for a treat, here is the winning putt with Norwegian commentary…
Not only that, he’s become the first player to get rid of the so-called curse as he becomes the first player to win a PGA Tour event after winning the Puerto Rico Open – something even Tony Finau hasn’t managed to shake.
There is so much to like about Hovland – especially as he’s European. Roll on September.
Meanwhile on the European Tour there were two events as they tried to go for a semi-final feel ahead of this week’s season finale at the DP World Tour Championship.
In the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship, Antoine Rozner edged Andy Sullivan – who was looking for his second win of the season having won the English Championship in the summer – for his maiden title.
Twenty-four hours later and 4,000 miles away, Christiaan Bezuidenhout picked up the South African Open to become the first player to win back-to-back European Tour events since Justin Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open a little over three years ago.
Here’s the moment you sensed it might just be Bezuidenhout’s day…
I said it last week and I’ll say it again – if you haven’t read Bezuidenhout’s fascinating back story, it’s well worth five minutes of your time.
And on the LPGA Tour veteran Angela Stanford won the Volunteers of America Classic.
It was the 43-year-old’s seventh LPGA title and first since making her major breakthrough at the Evian two years ago.
I can’t go without a mention of the great Peter Alliss, who sadly died on Sunday at the age of 89. He was one of a kind and you can read my tribute here.
In the meantime, don’t forget to…