All through a down interval in his profession that’s now approaching three years, Rickie Fowler managed to take care of an air of positivity, sprinkled with some self-deprecation, whereas seemingly by no means permitting for any type of darkish moments to devour him.
He approached his droop with arduous work, did not get impatient by transferring on from his coach, John Tillery, talked a superb sport and easily anticipated his golf to someday cooperate.
Three tournaments into a brand new season and there are actually loads of positives for Fowler to construct on, but additionally a slap of actuality that performed out over the weekend in Japan, the place he was unable to make the most of a small subject and the prospect to enhance his world rating.
Fowler actually had loads of time for reflection over current months. He did not qualify for both the Masters or the U.S. Open, firsts for him in 10 years. He did not make the FedEx Cup playoffs, which means he was exterior of the highest 125 and never but certified for the 2022 Gamers Championship — a match he received with a surprising flourish in 2015.
The six-week break noticed him go to work. He returned to competitors and promptly missed the lower on the Shriner’s match in Las Vegas. However with a weekend off, he used the chance to go to his outdated coach, Butch Harmon, to ensure what he was engaged on bought a stamp of approval.
With Harmon’s blessing and the following confidence, Fowler took the 54-hole lead on the CJ Cup and ended up ending tied for third behind winner Rory McIlroy. A victory would have solved quite a lot of issues, however provided that Fowler’s final victory got here on the Waste Administration Phoenix Open in 2019, a robust displaying was welcome.
“[It] was an excellent week for me, particularly after the final couple years,” Fowler stated on the Zozo Championship in Japan. “I performed very properly tee to inexperienced. Sadly, I did not have an excellent really feel on the greens with pace, so that’s the place I struggled a little bit bit, however very pleased with the ballstriking.
“That is one thing we have been placing quite a lot of work in on the final couple years, particularly the final couple of months — very long time coming.”
Fowler’s lengthy sport was a problem for a lot of final season, when he ranked 89th in strokes gained tee to inexperienced on the PGA Tour. He ranked first on the CJ Cup, though his as soon as extraordinarily dependable placing stroke has price him at instances.
He hoped to take that momentum to Japan, nevertheless it did not materialize, which highlights the problem Fowler faces in returning to an elite stage. He had slipped to 128th on the planet after lacking the lower in Las Vegas, jumped to 82nd along with his tie for third on the CJ Cup, then misplaced three spots after a tie for forty fourth on the Zozo. Fowler by no means broke par within the limited-field occasion and now must resolve how a lot to tee it up within the remaining occasions of 2021.
After this week’s Bermuda Championship, there are simply three tournaments — Mayakoba in Mexico, the Houston Open and the RSM Basic.
The highest 50 on the planet on the finish of 2021 obtain a Masters invite, and that is motive sufficient for Fowler so as to add a few these tournaments — though it does him no good to complete properly down the listing. Prime-10 finishes are the one significant option to transfer up. In need of that, Fowler will head into 2022 with quite a lot of doubts about his enjoying schedule.
With a view to make the Masters subject, he might want to both win a PGA Tour occasion or be among the many high 50 on the planet two weeks previous to the primary main championship. Profitable would additionally get him within the Gamers, as would being among the many high 50 on the planet or high 10 in FedEx Cup factors.
“Everybody’s gone via ups and downs in golf,” he stated. “If you’re in these low factors, there’s instances once you marvel like ‘Am I ever going to be again in that place?’ Clearly you consider you could, however there’s these ideas [that] golf is clearly one of the humbling sports activities there’s and you’ll by no means take it as a right.
“So being in these positions, the place you wish to be, you will be there, you have been there earlier than, nevertheless it looks like a protracted uphill battle. It is positively been humbling. We have been affected person, nevertheless it’s good to see some stuff begin paying off.”
Hideki Matsuyama capped off a historic 12 months with a victory in his residence nation, the one PGA Tour occasion to be staged in Japan. But it surely was removed from simple. Whereas the 5-shot margin of victory may seem routine, Matsuyama trailed Cameron Tringale by a shot via 10 holes on Sunday after which produced three birdies over the following six holes to take the lead.
Even standing on the 18th tee, after bogeying the seventeenth gap, Matsuyama led by simply 2 pictures.
However from greater than 240 yards, he powered his second shot onto the par-5 inexperienced after which made the eagle putt. And for one of many uncommon instances, Matsuyama let free some emotion and a giant smile.
The 2021 Masters champion added a second victory this 12 months after lacking out on a medal on the Olympics, additionally in his residence nation. It was his seventh PGA Tour win.
Previous to the match, Matsuyama had stated his kind was nowhere close to what it was when he received the Masters.
“I might fee my efficiency as a 2 or 3,” Matsuyama stated afterward. “From the outcomes perspective, it went to about 8, however I feel it is as a result of all of the power that I used to be getting from the followers and I used to be very shocked how a lot power I used to be feeding off of them.”
Matsuyama, 29, who as soon as was ranked as excessive as second on the planet, has climbed again to twelfth.
It is going to be fascinating to see how the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan resolve to proceed with a number of gamers in search of releases to play within the Saudi Worldwide match early subsequent 12 months.
Golfweek reported final week that eight gamers, together with defending champion Dustin Johnson, sought the releases — that are required to play in a conflicting occasion reverse the AT&T Pebble Seaside Nationwide Professional-Am. Sometimes this isn’t an issue, and the tour has granted quite a few such releases previously.
However final 12 months the European Tour dropped its sanctioning of the occasion, and the PGA Tour stated it will not give releases to gamers wishing to play in an unsanctioned match. The Asian Tour has sanctioned the match — after appreciable backing from Saudi Golf, which made a $100 million funding.
The PGA Tour final 12 months shaped a strategic alliance with the European Tour and is attempting to boost its choices to fend off discuss of a rival tour supported by the Saudi authorities generally known as the Tremendous Golf League.
Among the many different gamers who Golfweek reported sought releases had been Graeme McDowell, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson performed within the occasion every of the previous two years.
At concern is the tour’s potential to limit its members, who’re unbiased contractors. The tour has guidelines that require releases to play in competing occasions.
Bernhard Langer received his first PGA Tour Champions occasion in 2007. Fourteen years later, he’s nonetheless going sturdy. His victory on Sunday on the Dominion Vitality Charity Basic gave him a win in 15 straight years. At age 64, he’s the oldest champion within the Tour’s historical past.
The 2-time Masters champion and European Ryder Cup star had not received since early 2020. He defeated Doug Barron in a sudden-death playoff.
Langer is considered one of only a handful of gamers to win of their 60s and surpassed Scott Hoch, who was 63 when he received in 2019. When Langer received the 2020 Cologuard Basic, he was the fifth-oldest winner in tour historical past. He now has 42 Champions wins, three behind the document held by Hale Irwin.
Langer additionally gathered 42 victories on the European Tour, the primary in 1980 on the Dunlop Masters.