The Loop

Rickie Fowler hopes to put Sunday demons to bed at Honda Classic

February 25, 2017

Sam Greenwood

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Rickie Fowler said earlier this week that he needs to finish off more tournaments when he has an opportunity to win.

Sunday he’ll have a chance to do just that. Again.

After a pair of 66s the first two days at PGA National, Fowler made five birdies and no bogeys Saturday en route to a 65 to take a four-shot lead into the final round of the Honda Classic.

Tyrell Hatton, who shot 66, is alone in second at nine under par, while five others, including two-time major champion and former World No. 1 Martin Kaymer, are tied for third at seven under.

“[Winning] this tournament would be special,” Fowler said. “I've had some good finishes but ultimately, yeah, I would like to be getting the trophy tomorrow on the 18th green. But there is a lot of golf to be played.”

He only needs to remember back to last year’s tournament to know that.

Leading by one going into the weekend, Fowler shot 74-71 the final two rounds. He ended up in a tie for sixth.

There have been plenty of other chances, too, in the 13 months since his last victory, in Abu Dhabi.

At last year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, Fowler led by two with two holes to play when he hit driver through the green and into the water on the reachable par-4 17th. He made bogey and eventually lost in a playoff.

A few months later at Quail Hollow, Fowler was up by one heading into Sunday. He shot 74 to finish two back.

Then at the Barclays in August, he again led by one going into the final round before carding a 74 to lose by three.


Cliff Hawkins

There’s also this stat: Four times in his PGA Tour career, Fowler has held the outright lead going into the last round without converting any of them (though his victory in Abu Dhabi was from out in front).

“I definitely need to put myself in this position more often, which is just going to lead to me winning more often,” Fowler said. “I'm not going to be able to take a 36- or 54-hole lead every time and win, but the more times you put yourself there, the more trophies I get to hold on Sunday.”

It helps to have a cushion, particularly with windy conditions expected for Sunday’s final round.

In each of the last two weeks, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson padded their respective leads in the third round. Both coasted to victory, at Pebble Beach and Riviera.

Saturday, Fowler -- who began the day one shot back -- added to his down the stretch, too, knocking in a nervy six-footer for par on the difficult par-3 15th before draining a 10-footer for birdie at 16 and two-putting for another on the par-5 18th.

“I've enjoyed watching those guys come out and play some good golf, consistent golf,” Fowler said of Spieth and Johnson. “It's definitely motivating.

“A four-shot lead is nice. That can obviously go away very quickly, too. But I think [my caddie] and I have talked about it before, and the way things went in Abu Dhabi; when you do have that cushion, it gives you the opportunity to accept mistakes. If you're playing from three, four shots behind, you can't make a mistake. You can't give up another shot to be four or five or six behind. When you're out front, four shots, I make mistake, make a bogey; OK, we're still up. Let's keep moving forward and put that behind us.

“There's obviously different perspectives but being able to be out front and be in control and with the way I feel about the game, the way I've been swinging, I'm looking forward to it.”