ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | Might as well get right to it.
Rickie Fowler, who’s as popular as free ice cream, shot 5-under-par 65 Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship at Bellerive, getting out before the spike marks accumulated and the bumps got bumpier, and thrusting himself to the front here in the land of the Clydesdales.
Fowler’s fast start naturally led to the question of whether this is the week he changes forever the line of questioning he faces at major championships. This is his 36th major and the eight top-five finishes he’s stacked up are impressive but lead to the question of when he might win a big one. (To be fair, his Players Championship win counts as a mini-major.)
“I always have hope,” Fowler said Thursday when asked if he took inspiration from players such as Phil Mickelson and Ben Crenshaw whose major wins were slow in arriving.
“Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have plenty of runner-ups (three). Jack (Nicklaus) had a lot of runner-ups, we’ll just keep beating down that door.”
One kick at a time.
— PGA of America (@PGA) August 9, 2018
Last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, Fowler opened with 63 then followed it with 74. A Saturday 65 preceded a Sunday 73. That didn’t work at Firestone and won’t work at Bellerive where the fairways are wider and softer.
The game plan – everybody has one of those these days – is succinct: Fairways and greens.
The secret to success, Fowler suggested, may be in not trying to do anything extra special.
Regular special is good. Extra special may not be required.
“You can’t force the issue,” Fowler said. “I don’t have to play special to win. Wear out fairways, wear out greens, keep it as stress-free as possible and keep picking apart this golf course.”
Why can this week be different than last week?
Bellerive is an easier driving course than Firestone and Fowler is intent on saving the shots he wasted last week.
For all of Fowler’s flash, he’s built to be steady and sturdy. He rarely takes unnecessary chances on the course and his wardrobe tends to be flashier than his playing style. Both work for him.
“Really, all we can do is take care of each day,” Fowler said. “It sounds cliché, hole by hole, shot by shot but Thursday you can check the success box and move to Friday.”
Sunday remains three days away.