Rickie Fowler, after his first round at the 3M Open, was asked for his “overall reaction.” This is usually an icebreaker, and players respond in kind, but Fowler answered rather accurately.
“Coming off Sunday at the Open, a lot of good stuff there, drove it a lot better,” he said. “That was something that was kind of holding me back from making birdies, moving forward last week. I drove it very poorly Friday and Saturday.
“It was not my driver’s fault.”
His overall reaction? He cued up a playful dig at Bryson DeChambeau, who, as you remember, did fault that club last week at the Open Championship.
“Had to,” Fowler said.
This, of course, has nothing to do with DeChambeau. And everything to do with Fowler. Fowler made seven birdies, shot a 64 and would share the lead after 18 holes at TPC Twin Cities. It follows a recent uptick in play, too. As the popular pro searches for his first victory in over two years, Thursday’s round was the fifth over his past 26 in which he’s gone bogey free, according to the PGA Tour; before that this season, he had 47 rounds with at least one dropped shot. And on Sunday, at the Open Championship, he tied for the final round’s low round with a 65.
In short, Fowler’s having fun. From tee to green to clubhouse interview.
“So today, I mean, going off of what we did Sunday last week, just needed to tighten a few things up,” Fowler said. “This golf course is fairly generous off the tee. There’s a few lakes, ponds that you just need to avoid. Other than that, it’s go attack for the most part.
“So I think we did a good job of just managing our way around since I haven’t necessarily seen the golf course a whole lot before. Played 18 Tuesday and nine yesterday, but yeah, just felt good, kept it simple. It was nice to see some putts go in on top of it because that’s been another part of the game that really hasn’t helped me a whole lot the last couple years.”
He’s not wrong. In 2017, Fowler was the No. 1 player on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. From there, as he’s also tinkered with his swing, his putting collapsed — he finished 43rd in 2018, 13th in 2019 and 60th last year, and this year, he’s 143rd. Thursday? Second. Six of his seven made birdie putts were six feet or longer, including a 29-footer on the 1st.
“Yeah, it wasn’t that putting wasn’t getting the attention,” Fowler said. “There’s time where you go, kind of get hot and cold and I was in too long of a cold spell, and putting’s something I’ve always been able to rely on. Felt like I was hitting good putts, sometimes it was either a little bit off on the read or speed was a little off.
“There’s so many variables out there. Trying to eliminate as much as possible and think more about making it and not focusing about too much on line and stuff like that. I’ve been hitting good putts, but it’s nice to see the result of the ball disappearing or not lipping out or sliding on by.”
Can it continue? Ahead of the 3M, Fowler said he was “close.” Then came Thursday, which would suggest closer.
Should he close on Sunday? Well, how fun would that be?
“Like I was talking about earlier, day to day, keep things simple and small and take care of what we need to do here, things will all fall into place and work out,” Fowler said.