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Posted February 4, 2019 in "Watts" In The Bag by Trevor Cigich
Article by Sean Fairholm of Global Golf Post – Rickie Fowler came to the 11th tee Sunday at TPC Scottsdale leading the Waste Management Phoenix Open by five strokes and appeared set to close out his fifth PGA Tour victory easily.
He would get there, but only after overcoming a cruel moment of bad luck.
It started near the 11th green when Fowler pitched his ball beyond the flag and watched as it rolled through the green, past a bunker, and into the water. While scouting the green to prepare for his fifth shot from the slope behind the putting surface, the ball he had just placed rolled back into the penalty area to cause an additional one-stroke penalty. Fowler managed to get up and down for a triple bogey but by the time he had reached the 13th green, he trailed hard-charging Branden Grace by one stroke.
For a player who had gone 1-for-6 in converting 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour, Fowler easily could have crumbled. Instead, he regrouped and outplayed Grace down the stretch.
“Standing on 14 tee, (caddie) Joe (Skovron) and I. were talking about how we would have taken this at the beginning of the week,” Fowler said. “So let’s go out and win a golf tournament.”
Fowler took advantage of both risk-reward holes, making birdies at the par-5 15th and par-4 17th whole Grace found the water on No. 17 and settled for bogey. Fowler had a momentary scare on No. 18 when he found tall grass off the tee, but he scrambled for par to post a 3-over 74 and secure a two-stroke victory.
He’s the only player since 1983 to win a PGA Tour event while making triple bogey and a double bogey in the final round.
“It wasn’t really fun out there for a couple of holes,” said Fowler, who finished at 17-under 267. “It will be fun now, and it will be well worth it. It was a good learning experience. But yeah, I don’t want to have to go through that again.”
Sunday drama aside, Fowler put on a clinic the first three days of the tournament. One noticeable improvement was a clear increase in driving power, a change Fowler credits to his recent shift in golf balls.
During the past three seasons, Fowler’s rank in the strokes gained off the tee category had fallen. From 2016 (18th) to 2017 (35th) to 2018 (55th), Fowler was heading in the wrong direction. Last season, the top 15 players in the category accounted for 18 PGA Tour victories and 85 top-10s.
At TPC Scottsdale, Fowler looked like a reinvigorated player off the tee, finishing the tournament third in strokes gained off the tee (5.6 shots on the field) and 11th in driving distance (318.7 yards).
For as good a putter as Fowler has been, his lack of power relative to the game’s biggest stars has often meant his margin for error is smaller. That margin seemed to expand a little more in Phoenix, and he could be in for one of the better years of his career if the trend continues.
Driver: Cobra King F9 Speedback (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD IZ-7 X
3-4 wood: Cobra King F8+ (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Synergy 70 X
Wedges: Cobra King V-Grind Prototypes (52-10B, 56-10F, 60F)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Newport 2
Grip: Standard Scotty Cameron Pistol
Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align
Golf ball: 2019 TaylorMade TP5x (No. 15)
Republished with permission from Global Golf Post.