124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

Memorial Tournament

Rickie Fowler has work to do before U.S. Open after blowing up with 82 at Muirfield


Rickie Fowler chips from behind a tree on fifth hole during the second round of the Memorial.

Icon Sportswire

DUBLIN, Ohio — Rickie Fowler headed straight to the driving range at Muirfield Village Golf Club Friday afternoon. He actually was smiling. Which tells you a lot about Rickie Fowler. The guy has a way about him.

On a tricky, blustery day, Fowler had just bogeyed his final two holes in the second round of the Memorial Tournament, leaving him with a rather ignominious 10-over-par 82. So practice was utmost on his agenda.

Ranked 46th in the world, the six-time PGA Tour winner has had his struggles at Muirfield Village. You might say he's been your basic Star Trek extra—destined to become a casualty. He opened the 2020 edition with an 81 and took 84 swipes in the final round in 2012 playing with eventual winner Tiger Woods, who went on to his fifth Memorial title.

Asked if he was hurt at all or just merely struggling with his game, Fowler, who opened the tournament with a 76, grinned. “No, I’m fine. It’s just golf. I didn’t have it,” he said.

No excuses. Didn’t have it. And if you don’t have it at the Memorial, well 82 happens.

Billy Horschel butchered Jack Nicklaus’ course for an 84 last year as the defending champion and was absolutely distraught. Tiger didn’t have it in the third round in 2015. The great one shot 85. Muirfield Village features 14 holes with water hazards—we refuse to call them “penalty areas”—so a little off can lead to more than a few double boxes (signifying double bogeys or worse) on the scorecard. Fowler had three of them.

Muirfield Village was fearsome on Friday with winds gusting wildly and greens firming up (with help from a sub-air system). Fowler wasn’t alone in going into snowman territory.

Canada’s Adam Hadwin followed up a 66 with a decent 72 and was clinging to the clubhouse lead when he finished. And he was elated to be finished. “It’s a tricky place to play,” said Hadwin, coming off a missed cut at the Canadian Open. “There are so many shots where you have to be spot on.

“Honestly, I'll be shocked if any other player said it was anything other than a guess [hitting the right club]. I mean, that's all we're doing, it's just educated guessing, really,” he added.

Add guessing about club selection to guessing about club implementation and there’s a better-than-average chance you’re not guessing about your prospects for monetary gain.

Rickie, a commercial rock, ain’t hurting. But no one wants to leave Jack’s place early, as Fowler will do with a 14-over total. That's two full days without milkshakes. Fowler, 35, wasn’t certain of his departure time, but his arrival in Pinehurst for the 124th U.S. Open was going to be earlier than he wanted.

If it was any consolation, Fowler missed the cut in the 2014 Memorial, which was two weeks before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst that year. He ended up finishing T-2. So there’s that. “Yeah, we’ll see if that matters,” he said.

After signing his scorecard, Fowler encountered a throng of young fans waiting to get his autograph. He hustled by them to get to the practice area. Before he reached the ropes, he turned around and told the kids who were fast on his heels, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back to sign.” He smiled at them.

More than an hour later, after going through a couple of bags of balls, he signed autographs.