Rickie Fowler took a trip to Ireland with close friends Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas last year.It ended up going viral on Twitter as fans made jokes at Fowler’s expense.
Spieth and Thomas were preparing for The Open Championship at St Andrews, while Fowler had not even qualified.A joke did the rounds on social media, comparing Fowler to a lucky fan who had won a competition to play with two professionals.But fast-forward a year – and the American golfing trio are back on this side of the pond ahead of the Scottish Open at North Berwick and The Open at Royal Liverpool.Fowler was, again, pictured alongside Spieth and Thomas during their pre-tournament shenanigans – but nobody was laughing this time.
That’s because, suddenly, Fowler enters the year’s fourth major ahead of his buddies in the betting stakes.Most bookies have the 34-year-old down as the fifth favourite heading to Hoylake.It comes after a stunning 12 months which saw the American climb from 185th in the world to 21st, while finally returning to the winners’ circle.Fowler claimed his first PGA Tour title since 2019 with a victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic earlier this month.
Before that, Fowler had the 54-hole lead at the US Open, but ultimately lost out to Wyndham Clark.Nevertheless, as golf looks towards Liverpool, it feels like the clocks have turned back nine years.Last time the game’s best players descended onto Hoylake, Rory McIlroy emerged victorious and Fowler finished second.
At the time, it felt like those two rising superstars would rule professional golf for the next two decades.
Nobody would’ve predicted that both would fail to win a major in the nine years that followed.
Fowler’s journey from ‘poster boy’ to near-oblivion was particularly painful.In the 2021/22 season, he missed the cut in nine of 21 PGA Tour events, finished in the top 20 just once and qualified for just one major.He was forced to wait on the range all day at the 2022 US Open, waiting for somebody to drop out – but they never did.
With the top 125 in the FedEx Cup getting to keep their PGA Tour cards, Fowler finished 125th last year.It was this context in which many expected him to join LIV Golf.The breakaway league made Fowler one of its prime targets, given his enduring popularity and likeability.However, despite being offered guaranteed millions regardless of form, Fowler decided to keep his sporting integrity in tact and fight his way back.
Having teamed up with legendary coach Butch Harmon, Fowler has regained his rightful place among the game’s best players.In his prime, the Californian finished third or better in all four majors, but never managed to win one.That is something which still separates him from Spieth and Thomas.But, after years in the wilderness, fans are ready to dream again.It’s why golf loves Fowler – and his bright orange Sunday gear – more than ever.