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February 26, 2017 – Rickie Fowler, Honda Classic

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Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 11.26.48 AMRickie Fowler converted a 54-hole lead for the first time in his PGA Tour career, winning his seventh professional title and his first since the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship more than a year ago.

Sunday afternoons had been unkind to Fowler when chances arose last season; a late breakdown at the Barclays, a squandered opportunity at the Wells Fargo Championship and a frustrating playoff defeat at the Waste Management Phoenix Open made up a trend of disappointing endings with titles on the line.

He did enough to comfortably hold on at the Honda Classic.

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 11.26.32 AMThe difference was twofold. Fowler switched to a shorter driver and put on a clinic, hitting nearly 70 percent of his fairways while still ranking 12th in driving distance for the tournament. It allowed the popular 28-year-old to attack a soft PGA National layout that had received two inches of rain on Wednesday, helping him build the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

The second difference for Fowler was a strong putting performance, particularly on Sunday. When other parts of his game let him down, he made up for it by draining long putts on Nos. 8, 12 and 13 to keep chasers at bay. He did not three-putt a hole for the entire tournament and was 57-of-57 inside of 7 feet.

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 11.27.58 AM“I would have liked to have a little bit cleaner card today,” said Fowler, who shot 1-over 71 Sunday. “But just to be in the position and going out and getting the job done and finding a way no matter how it is; a win is a win.”

While Fowler won, fellow former Oklahoma State golfer Morgan Hoffmann (closing 68) tied for second with Gary Woodland (69).

World No. 18 Tyrrell Hatton, a 25-year-old Englishman who was paired in the final group with Fowler, struggled to a final-round 72 and finished in a six-way tie for fourth, five strokes back.