14 July 2021: Rickie Fowler is looking to trigger a return to form after more than two years without a win. Royal St. George’s, where he finished tied-fifth in The Open in 2011, could just be the place to do it.
You won’t hear Rickie Fowler complain if the winds pick up at Royal St. George’s this week in The Open. Actually it could just be what the American needs. Fowler has been struggling to find his rhythm over the past two years, he has not won since the 2019 Phoenix Open and his World Ranking has sunk to 100th for the week of The Open, whereas five years ago he was ranked as high as fourth in the world. Yet Fowler is a proven links golfer and in tempestuous conditions at Royal St. George’s 10 years ago, he finished in a tie for 5th in his second appearance in The Open.
“On the Saturday we had some pretty bad weather,” recalls Fowler, 32, but who was 22 at the time, “yet Tom Watson went out and played some very good golf. My caddie and I agreed to go about our round with the right mindset – we knew it was going to be a tough day – but we set out to relish it, have some fun and keep moving forward. Because of the conditions, it ended up being one of the better rounds of golf I have played.”
In fact Fowler shot 68, two under par, in the rain and wind, and no-one in the field bettered it that day. He came even closer to winning at Royal Liverpool in 2014, finishing two shots behind champion Rory McIlroy in a tied for second place, and Fowler finished sixth at Royal Portrush in the last Open, two years ago.
“I love links golf,” adds Fowler, “Unfortunately over the last year or two it has been a little bit of a tough go but I am starting to see some things turn around.
“Golf is very special in that you can never perfect the game. One day you can feel that you are as close as you can be to playing perfect golf, but you wake up the next day and everything can go the wrong way; missing fairways, missing putts. It is a very humbling game. You can never take it for granted and you never know when it is going to turn around, in a good way or in the wrong way. It is very humbling.”
Fowler is not a golfer who has ever lacked humility, and this week at Royal St. George’s he is concentrating as much practise time as he can on the greens.
“A lot of it is getting the putting back on track,” he admits. “Putting has always been one of my strengths, something I can rely on. If you are
swinging poorly, putting can save you and keep momentum going. That is definitely something over the last couple of years that has not been the same as normal for me.
“Everyone at some point goes through a down point or through a valley, whether it is in golf, other sports or in life in general. A big part of it is to always look forward and to keep working hard.”
Fowler’s first sign of recovery this season came at the PGA Championship in May, where he finished in a tie for eighth for his first top-10 finish since January 2020, and he followed up with a solid 11 th -place result in the Memorial Tournament in June.