Rickie Fowler’s PGA Tour season is over. And he’s not particularly impressed with the way it ended.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was a little bit short, it was a lot of bit short,” Fowler said after a second consecutive over-par round at the Wyndham Championship. His good humor remains intact. As does his candor.
“Yeah, it’s obviously very disappointing,” he acknowledged. “I’m looking forward to getting back and getting some work in. If anything, just motivated at this point.”
Fowler shot 72 at the par-70 Sedgefield Country Club a day after shooting 71. With near-perfect conditions, the cut hovered at three under par, with Fowler well outside it. That was hardly the plan entering the week; he hoped to improve on his FedEx Cup rank of No. 130 and make a run through the playoffs. Instead he’ll miss the final three events of the season for the first time in his PGA Tour career.
So — now what?
“I mean, really start playing some better golf,” Fowler deadpanned. “No, probably hop on a call here with everyone that’s part of the team and figure out, hey, like let’s figure out a way to make the most of the next few weeks, what exactly needs to be done, what I want to do.”
The good news for Fowler is that he’s exempt through the 2022-23 season thanks to his 2015 Players Championship win (which carried a five-year exemption) and subsequent victories in 2017 and 2019, which added a year each to his status. We won’t see him until at least September, but he’s not going away. Still, he is looking to recharge.
There’s no one problem with his game, but Fowler’s deficiencies have been most obvious with his irons and his putter. Fowler has been known for years as a wizard with the flatstick, gaining strokes on the green every year from 2013-2020, including ranking first overall in 2017. But he finishes the 2020-21 season below average with the putter, 131st on Tour.
“That’s been something I’ve been able to rely on throughout my career and growing up: I’ve always been a really good putter,” he said. “Yeah, over the last couple years I haven’t been able to rely on that.”
His iron play has been discouraging, too, ranking a career-worst 150th on Tour as he’s tried to work in a post-quarantine swing change. Middling performance off the tee hasn’t helped his cause. Instead Fowler has spent far too much time scrambling and putting undue pressure on a hot-and-cold putter.
“Yeah, it sucks,” he said succinctly. “I mean, I know what I’m capable of. I’ve been up there and played against the best in the world and been a top-five, top-10 player in the world for a number of years in my career. I’m not in a position where I’m comfortable or where I want to be. Like I said, with the season ending now for me, it’s kind of just added motivation; hey, let’s figure out what we need to go do and let’s go do it.”
That’s not to say Fowler’s season was all bad. He finished T8 at the PGA and T11 at Memorial in back-to-back starts, showing encouraging signs in certain rounds but not always across entire tournaments.
Credit to Fowler for his attitude, and for his honesty, and for facing the media after what must have felt like a long year. He seems to be saying all the right things. Will the results follow?
“It’s a bummer and I don’t want to be in this position,” he said. “Never been here. I’m used to being in contention, ready to go to East Lake and go have some fun through the Playoffs. That’s not the case this year.
“It’s a little kick in the butt. I’ll go home and get ready to go.”