October 7, 2020 - 5:30 pm
Rickie Fowler has had plenty of success during his 10 years on the PGA Tour. He is confident that will continue in the coming years, even as the game itself is undergoing a transformation.
Bryson DeChambeau may have overpowered Winged Foot to win the U.S. Open last month, but don’t expect Fowler to copy his model for success.
“I don’t have the frame to do something like that,” Fowler said of DeChambeau’s bulked up body. “I wouldn’t mind having a little more distance, but right now I’m trying to take what I have and make it better, more efficient, more consistent.”
It wasn’t long ago that Fowler was one of the young guns on tour, part of the next generation of golfers following Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the next great American players.
But after five wins and many close calls in major championships, Fowler now finds himself 31 years old, struggling with his game for an extended period of time for the first time and watching younger players win major championships.
He has seen signs of swing changes starting to take hold in recent weeks and hopes things will come together this week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.
“Anyone who has gone through changes or struggles, it happens at some point to everyone,” Fowler said.
He hasn’t had a top-10 finish since January and finished 97th on last season’s money list, the first time in his career he has been outside the top 40. He has slipped to 41st in the world rankings after being in the top 10 for most of the latter half of the past decade.
“It’s just part of golf,” he said of his struggles. “It’s the most humbling game out there.”
As Fowler has worked to find his form, he’s watched younger players DeChambeau, 27, and Collin Morikawa, 23, win major championships. Those results, he said, are serving as motivation.
“They’ve helped kick me in the butt a little bit,” Fowler said.
DeChambeau’s huge distance advantage is not something Fowler expects to close, so he has to work with the tools he has.
“It makes you work harder and be on top of things,” said Fowler. “I’ve got to wear out fairways, wear out greens. I can’t play the bomb and gouge game.”
Fowler begins his quest for a title at TPC Summerlin on Thursday at 12:05 p.m. when he plays with defending champion Kevin Na and 2017 winner Patrick Cantlay.
Count Na among those in admiration of DeChambeau. But like Fowler, it’s not a style of golf he can play, particularly on courses where the rough is thick and distance is at a premium.
“I feel like I’m at such a disadvantage, and it’s hard to overcome that disadvantage,” Na said. “We’re seeing that every year with these bombers overpowering these courses.”
And while distance is an advantage, Na said the overlooked part of DeChambeau’s game is his short game.
“People forget how good of a putter he is,” Na said. “Not only does he bit bombs, he makes bombs.”
But like Fowler, Na isn’t ready to concede anything to the bombers when it comes to events like the Shriners, where he has two wins and a runner-up finish over the years.
“If I play my game at the right places, I’m going to get my share of wins,” he said.
Fowler agrees, noting that distance isn’t everything, especially on a course like TPC Summerlin.
“I know I can compete against any of these guys out here,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of golf to be played after you tee off.”
Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org