You might not immediately recognize it in the rush to crown Rory McIlroy, now just 18 holes away from a third dominant major championship win. But right behind him, Rickie Fowler is showing every day that he’s more than just flash and style, he’s got all the game in the world to go with it.
That isn’t to say that Fowler’s troubles are over and forgotten. He’s missed seven cuts this year, including two as recently as late May and early June. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll quickly realize that many of his tournament struggles this year have just been building blocks towards performances like this one at Royal Liverpool.
Fowler has been working with Butch Harmon, the swing guru who also currently coaches Phil Mickelson, since December, and undergoing a massive change in the way he approaches each tournament was sure to lead to some growing pains. That’s an acceptable trade-off for someone who has all the talent to win a major, possibly several.
The simple fact is that players are judged by wins, and there have been countless players who had talent to spare and never fully realized it. While it hasn’t always been pretty, ties for fifth and second at the Masters and U.S. Open, respectively, don’t just happen by accident. Fowler is preparing himself nearly flawlessly to peak at majors, and he appears poised to at least earn another top-five tomorrow.
Fowler has taken this Open by storm, with only McIlroy’s out-of-this-world run eclipsing him. Now the two will be paired together on Sunday, and while it may indeed turn into a coronation march for McIlroy at some point, it would be wrong to ignore the growth the orange-clad fan favorite has made to earn his way into this position. Now that Fowler is starting to get used to the top of the leaderboards, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him finding his way there much more often.