It was just two weeks ago that Rickie Fowler was on the cusp of his first professional win and that’s as far as it went. Paired with co-leader Nick Watney at AT&T National, the rookie of the year in 2010 shot 74 to Watney’s 66 and finished 13th, 8 shots behind the Watney.
That was then and this is now, Watney missed the cut and Fowler is three shots out of the lead going into the final round of the 140th Open Championship after shooing an outstanding 2-under, 68 in weather not fit for man or beast.
“It was awesome out there,” Fowler said of the best round of the day. “I hit a lot of good shots. Obviously a couple poor ones, but we were able to make up for it and stay away from making big numbers out there.”
Since turning professional after his second year at Oklahoma State University, Fowler was an instantly recognizable. His long hair, colorful outfits and old/new style cap, put Fowler directly in the spotlight, a position he embraces, but has not really lived up to.
In 2010, Fowler had chances to win with seven top 10s and runner-up finishes at Waste Management and the Memorial Tournament. Earning $2,857,108 and finishing 28th in the World Rankings, Fowler made the Ryder Cup team as captains pick.
But 2011 has been a disappointment with only two top 10s and a world ranking falling to 52nd before this week in England.
With a final round scoring average ranked 131st on the PGA Tour, the question is which Fowler will we see on Sunday, the 2010 version or 2011?
“I’d love for my first win to be a major, and I’d love for it to be here,” Fowler said. “I’m playing every tournament to win, be in contention and give it a shot, so I’m in a perfect place going into tomorrow. We’ll see where the guys finish up today, but I felt like I played really well today, and it’s going to give me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.