U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

U.S. Open

U.S. Open 2023: The (extremely) small equipment change that may have led to Rickie Fowler's record-setting round


Richard Heathcote

While he hasn't had an official "comeback" win, Rickie Fowler is putting together one of the more resurgent seasons in recent memory, with 12 top 25s and six top 10s to his name. It's not a stretch that suggested Fowler was in need of any sort of equipment change.

If he wanted to nitpick, though, Fowler's mid-range putting, formerly a strength, was leaving a bit to be desired. The 10-to-15 foot range, specifically, has been a weak spot, which could very well be the difference between a T-6 and a W depending on the week.

Fowler had no such issues with the flat stick on Thursday at the U.S. Open, making almost everything he saw en route to an eight-under 62, the first 62 shot in U.S. Open history. Xander Schauffele matched him a few minutes later. The five-time PGA Tour winner gained a ridiculous 4.52 strokes putting, currently first in the field, and we'd imagine it would stay that way by day's end.

How did Fowler finally flip the script? According to his good buddy Smylie Kaufman, a former tour pro turned NBC on-course commentator, it was an ever-so-slight change to his putter, and a fresh grip, that may have propelled him to a record-setting round:

In a game of inches, sometimes a fractional change makes all the difference. We're not suggesting you go out and cut your putter down by a fraction of an inch, or that that was the sole reason Fowler shot 62, but it sure seems like it helped. And not a moment too soon.

"The first few days this week I wasn't feeling very comfortable swinging and wasn't making many putts or hitting very good putts," he said afterward. "So continue to get work in on the course as well as in the practice area, and finally a couple things clicked a bit yesterday. Then it was more just go out, trust it, and let things happen.

"I knew there was birdies to be made out here," Fowler added. "But you have to drive it well and get the ball in position first. Did that, and from there just managed our way around really well."

Fowler's (and Schauffele's) 62 also matches the lowest round in major championship history, a record first set by Branden Grace in the third round of the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He made 10 birdies, another U.S. Open first, and two bogeys. And, per Justin Ray, Fowler also became the first player in U.S. Open history to have multiple rounds of seven under or better. His first came in 2017 on Thursday at Erin Hills when he shot a 65. He followed that up with a one-over 73 and eventually tied for fifth.

He's not getting ahead of himself.

"There's still plenty of golf to be played," he said. "It's going to be tough tomorrow afternoon. But at least got out of the gate and we're off to, like I said, a good start."