PGA Tour Inc.

10/16/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/16/2021 20:01

Rickie Fowler faces fireworks from McIlroy and co to end drought

The five-time PGA TOUR winner was able to hold on to win almost 1000 days ago at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open but since then Fowler has been a shadow of the player who remains one of the most popular to ever play the sport.

He celebrated just two top 10s in season 2019-20 and just one in season 2020-21 as he recalibrated his swing and game with coach John Tillery. Last season he failed to make the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time since joining the TOUR in 2010.

Last weekend after missing the cut at the Shriners Children's Open, he visited his former coach in Vegas based Butch Harmon and took some positives out of the sessions. But it is his Ted Lasso style positive outlook on life that have been critical throughout his long drought.

"When you're in those low points, there's times when you wonder like am I ever going to be back in that position," Fowler said. "Obviously, you believe that you can, but there's those thoughts of like golf is obviously one of the most humbling sports there is and you can never take it for granted.

"It's there, it's going to happen. It's not so much how you deal with when you're playing well or bad, it's just more so just kind of staying who you are and not letting it affect you as a person, keep kind of moving forward."

Moving forward at the Summit Club is a must. With birdies and eagles raining down through three rounds any stagnating can see a player swallowed up on the leaderboard. Just ask Mitchell who went from five in front to four behind.

Impressively Fowler was able to keep his foot on the gas pedal over the last seven holes after he saw himself in the lead on a large leaderboard. As the old competitive juices began flowing, he added four more birdies. He hit all 18 greens in regulation for the third time in his career.

"It was a big thing for me was seeing that and some guys obviously say don't look at leaderboards... but I've always found it fun because you're chasing guys and then you get there and then it obviously becomes almost sometimes a different feeling," he said.

"Just kept telling myself, hey, keep pushing, keep executing, nothing changes. Feelings do change a little bit inside and it's trying to make sure you kind of settle those a little bit, but still playing the same way and tried to make sure that I kept thinking the same way and staying aggressive."

Scott, Fowler's playing partner on Saturday, has lived through a similar slump in 2009. He saw enough to believe the American is coming out of it.

"It's perseverance and the character-building stuff. We all have too much talent to play poorly forever, but if this is the turning point (for him), he'll take a lot out of it, and he played beautifully today," Scott said.

"You've just got to get your head down and do it and it shows his character. It doesn't matter how long it takes, but once you do it, it shows what's really in there. Then that was the turning point for my entire career. Although he's had a wonderful career, it could be the same for him."

Fowler is certainly hopeful it can be.

"I'm not surprised, this has been coming… but we're not done yet. This is just three days and golf tournaments are typically 72 holes, so we've got 18 more of them. It's definitely going to be a challenge tomorrow. It's a tight leaderboard."

The first man standing in his way is McIlroy.

"It's an exciting day for me (tomorrow). I'm working on a few things in my game not necessarily swing related, but more mental stuff, routine, visualization, things that I've done pretty well this week for three days, but it's exciting to try to do those things when you're under a little more pressure tomorrow and you're trying to win a golf tournament," McIlroy enthused.

And Scott isn't about to lay down either. His last win came in early 2020 at The Genesis Invitational, nearly two years ago. The Australian is keen to atone for a short missed putt in a playoff at last season's Wyndham Championship that cost him victory.

"I'm not handing over wins. I've handed away enough in my time," Scott said.

They won't be the only contenders. The field has birdied every hole on the Summit Club layout and eagled every par-5 plus the par-4 12th. In fact the par-5 14th has given up an albatross to Ancer leaving a best ball score of 24-under 48!

Streb played the opening six holes in seven under on Thursday, Scott played the final seven in eight under on Friday. The tough stretch comes around the turn with holes 8-11 playing slightly over par.

Fowler was six back starting the third round so those sleeping back there overnight will no doubt have dreams of making a similar run.

"It's possible, but I've got to say Rickie and Rory being up there, it's going to be an exciting day for sure for everyone in the golf world tomorrow to watch. There's tons of great players who can shoot a low one, including those guys," Scott said.

"If you get off to a slow start, you've got to stay patient, you're not out of it. You can come home on fire."