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Golf's Longest Day

Rickie Fowler takes the right attitude into his rare trip to U.S. Open Final Qualifying

June 06, 2021

Rickie Fowler is playing in U.S. Open Final Qualifying for the first time since 2010.

Sam Greenwood

DUBLIN, Ohio — Rickie Fowler came to the Memorial Tournament with a mission of avoiding an extra 36 holes of golf the day after its conclusion. No such luck.

Ranked 101st in the world entering the Memorial, Fowler needed to finish first or second at Muirfield Village Golf Club to climb into the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking and earn an exemption into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines near San Diego two weeks hence. But after sitting in seventh place after two rounds, Fowler slipped backwards with a third-round 75. He closed on Sunday with a 70 to end up T-11 at four-under 284.

In order to keep his streak alive of U.S. Open starts, he’ll have to play in the 36-hole final qualifier on Monday at two Columbus-area courses, Brookside G. & C.C. and The Lakes G. & C.C. He has played in the last 10 U.S. Opens, with a T-2 in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2 his best showing. He finished T-49 last fall at Winged Foot.

“I’ve done this a couple of times now, so I know what I need to do,” Fowler, 32, said Sunday. “It’s happened before. … The two courses are scorable. You don’t have to go out there and play great. It’s about not making many mistakes.”

Fowler has been enduring a slump of sorts for more than a year. Until his T-8 at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he hadn’t finished in the top-10 in a tournament since The American Express in January 2020. He had slipped to 128th in the world before finding a spark at the PGA. Earlier in the year he missed his first Masters—and first major—since 2010.

The popular California native isn’t the only player of note preparing for golf’s longest day. Major champions Padraig Harrington, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Charl Schwartzel also are vying for a berth in Columbus. Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, is rushing back from Ohio to play his home course in Jupiter, Fla., The Bear’s Club—another Nicklaus layout. Former World No. 1 Luke Donald also is in the field there, while former Ryder Cup players Ian Poulter and Brandt Snedeker are in the field in Hilton Head, S.C.

This will be Fowler’s fourth spin through the sectionals in Columbus, where he has had mixed success. As an amateur in 2008, when the U.S. Open was first held at Torrey Pines, he lost out in a playoff that involved nine players for seven spots after shooting 66 at Brookside and 73 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course. He later got into the field as the first alternate. That playoff included Rocco Mediate, the eventual runner-up to Tiger Woods, and Dustin Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open.

In 2009, Fowler again was successful, shooting 70-65—135 at Brookside and The Lakes. The following year he came up well short, however, when he posted 143 at the same two layouts.

Fowler said he sent his caddie, Joe Skovron, to the two qualifying sites early last week for a little extra reconnaissance. The rest is up to him.

“Just go get some good food tonight, get some good sleep, rest up. It will be a long day,” Fowler said of his final preparations. “Hopefully we can dodge some rain and storms in the afternoon. Other than that, it’s about kind of just move forward. I did a pretty good job of that this week. A few mistakes; it's bound to happen at this place. But tomorrow we're playing at golf courses that are maybe a little less demanding than a place like Muirfield.

“It’s mainly don’t go out there and trip over your shoelaces,” he added. “We’ll see what we can go do tomorrow. It would be a bonus if we get to go play Torrey Pines.”