Fowler embraces major failures to lead way at U.S. Open
ERIN, Wis. – It’s an age-old discussion in golf… who is the best player without a major? Rickie Fowler seems to have inherited the tag after the likes of Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jason Day jettisoned themselves from the conversation recently. But rather than take it negatively Fowler decided to take it as a badge of honor. He turned it into a confidence booster. Besides, the last six major winners have been first time winners so why can’t the trend continue? And he certainly looked like a major winner of the future on Thursday at Erin Hills, opening the U.S. Open with a sublime 7-under 65. “I take it as a compliment. There are a lot of really good players out here that haven't won a major,” Fowler said. “So it would be nice to get rid of that at some point. I'm not saying that this is the week or isn't the week. But I like the way this golf course suits me, and we're off to a good start.” Longtime caddie Joe Skovron has certainly seen a change in his man over the last few seasons as he matures toward better results. While he says Fowler wants majors in his pocket, Skovron said the focus is really as simple as trying to win more in general. “We only have four PGA TOUR wins,” Skovron said. “Obviously he wants majors, he’s made that clear, but it is a process to get there. Because we haven’t won 10-12-15 times we are still just trying to get wins and it would be great if a major was one of those. “But look, some guys take a little bit longer, look at how long it took Phil Mickelson and he still has five of them.” The 28-year-old Fowler has certainly knocked on the door before. In 2014 he finished in the top 5 of all four majors, including runner-up results at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. He won THE PLAYERS Championship in 2015 and sat just one shot off the lead through 54 holes at the Masters earlier this year. Each experience is getting him closer to the desired result. His good friend Day had nine top-10s in majors before winning the 2015 PGA Championship. “I'm ready to be up there (on Sunday),” Fowler admitted. “Having a win this year at The Honda Classic, being in contention at majors in the past, and having THE PLAYERS win has definitely done a lot for me.” It was his demeanor that impressed most Thursday as he appeared in complete control throughout his opening round on the way to his seven birdies. Fowler tied the best opening round in relation to par in U.S. Open history, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf (both 7-under 63 at Baltusrol in 1980). “It was nice. You don't get many rounds at the U.S. Open that are stress-free,” he said. “It's a lot easier said than done. Still missed some putts that I had opportunities out there, but it's just nice to go out and actually execute the game plan.” He attributed the calmness to his play this season which sees him sitting eighth in the FedExCup standings and ranking first on the PGA TOUR in Total Driving, Sand Saves and All-Around. Fowler is also one of just three players with a season scoring average below 69.50 with Garcia and Jordan Spieth. With good play comes great confidence. “I feel like I'm better throughout my whole game. I've been able to tighten things up,” Fowler adds. “I used to not be a very good bunker player, and now I feel like I have a lot of confidence, and stats show I'm one of the best. That's definitely been something that's been nice to have on days where you're not exactly on and just understanding and freeing yourself up because you know if you might miss something, okay, I'll just get it up-and-down. “ I've also been driving it well. Driving stats have gone up. Just hitting the fairways has made it a little easier and that's definitely something that makes a difference out here.” As he left the course Fowler was made aware of the record he tied and was proud but quipped, “I'd rather be remembered for something that's done on Sunday.” Perhaps this time he will.
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