After a promising start to his 2017-'18 campaign, Rickie Fowler has gone quiet for a while. But recently, he has still shown signs of recapturing his early season form. The most positive one came on Thursday at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, where Fowler carded a six-under 66, putting him within two strokes of the lead in the rain-delayed first round of the Houston Open.
"Did a good job tee-to-green, it was nice to make some putts, made some longer ones. It was fun with the softer greens, you could definitely play pretty aggressively even if you did miss the fairway," said Fowler, who ranks second in the field in strokes gained/putting. The 29-year-old made three birdie putts from 30 feet, in addition to carding four other birdies and just one bogey on the round.
With an inordinate amount of juicy storylines already lined up for next week's Masters, Fowler's quest for his first major title has been somewhat forgotten. But if he can right the ship this week, there's no doubt he'll be in the mix again.
"I think we did a good job today of getting off to a good start and at least building confidence for the rest of the week and going into next week," Fowler said.
Four players are ahead of Fowler, including PGA Tour rookie Sam Ryder, who got all the way to eight under through 15 holes before the first round was suspended. So far this season, Ryder has missed six of his 11 cuts, finishing no higher than T-50.
At seven under are Kevin Tway and Lucas Glover, who completed their first rounds on Thursday. They are joined by Beau Hossler, who will attempt to finish a bogey-free round when he plays the final two holes on the front nine on Friday.
Also in at six under alongside Fowler are Julian Suri, Rod Pampling and Ryan Armour. Ireland's Paul Dunne sits at six under through 14 holes.
A pair of notable veterans, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington, shot matching five-under 67s and sit three off Ryder's lead. Harrington, 46, and Stricker, 51, are each hoping for a miraculous week, needing a victory to earn an invitation into the Masters. Harrington has teed it up just once at Augusta in the last four seasons, while Stricker has missed just one Masters (2016) since 2007.
Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are four back after posting four-under 68s.