AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Three years ago, on the Sunday of the PGA Championship, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy traded messages on Twitter congratulating each other for their respective breakthroughs. McIlroy had just won the British Open and PGA back to back. Fowler had just finished in the top five in a major for the fourth straight time.
"Your day is coming, and very soon," McIroy wrote.
It was heartwarming stuff between two of the game's young stars, and three years later, Fowler has continued a steady climb. He won the Players the following spring, and has won two more times on tour. But his "day," -- or at least in the sense that McIlroy meant -- is still to come.
Perhaps it comes this weekend, because Fowler has a share of the lead in a major for the first time, his 67 in stiff conditions putting him in a tie with Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, and Thomas Pieters halfway through the Masters. Although Fowler has contended in majors before -- including in that PGA at Valhalla against McIlroy -- he has yet to experience the dynamic of trying to hold a lead when he steps to the first tee. Given the option, he said that's precisely where he wants to be.
"It's like having a ball at the end of the game," said Fowler, who will be in the penultimate group alongside Pieters. "I like that position."
While all of the four co-leaders are in search of a first major -- including Garcia, who is 0-for-73 in his career -- six of the nine next players on the leader board have at least one. But Fowler rarely looks intimidated among the game's elite, whether it's trading barbs on Twitter with McIlroy, goofing around on vacation with Jordan Spieth, or playing money matches against Phil Mickelson. Perhaps that's why oddsmaker Bovada has placed him as the Masters favorite at the halfway mark at 4/1 (Garcia is 6/1).
And while he's flourished so far in challenging conditions, he realizes the landscape will change with a more accessible golf course expected on the weekend.
"It's going to be fun," Fowler said. "It's going to be a real golf tournament this weekend."