Rickie Fowler, the No. 2 player in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Amateur Rankings, is playing his second U.S. Open this week at Bethpage Black. He’ll speak with Golfweek.com daily to give an inside-the-ropes view of our national championship.
Fowler tied for 60th in last year’s Open at Torrey Pines, including a first-round 70 that had him in the top 10 after Day 1.
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Fowler shot 68 in his second round, finishing the tournament at 6-over 146, two shots off the cut line. He’ll play on the PGA Tour again next week at the Travelers Championship, where he has received a sponsor exemption.
• It definitely played a lot easier today than it did Thursday, but you can’t really focus too much on that. I hit the ball a little better today, and hit some more fairways. It was nice to play out of the short grass. I hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdies. I made a few. It was a good, solid round. I wish we could’ve played in some decent weather Thursday.
• We obviously did (get bad luck with the draw). You kind of have to go with what you get. You’re going to get good breaks and bad breaks. We just got the short end of the stick this week.
• Today played easier than last year (at Torrey Pines). Thursday played harder than last year. The soft conditions, it’s perfect for scoring right now. The greens are decent, we had a few spike marks and a few footprints here and there, but the greens were rolling good. I didn’t really get any mud balls; I think the mud isn’t sticking to the ball at all.
• I got a bit of practice in. I did some more thinking after the round on Thursday, and then came out and hit a few shots before the round Friday morning. I was kind of working on stuff actually on the course, and then got about an hour of practice in after wards, so I felt pretty good going into today. So I hit it a lot better and drove it a lot better.
• I think I hit 10 fairways and 13 greens. The first day I hit four fairways and maybe 10 or 11 greens. I was able to hit it a little closer just because I was in the fairway.
• I played pretty solid today, and I’m ready to go to next week. I’m going to Travelers next week, so another week with these guys. Then I’ll get some time off.
• I’m still not sure (if I’m going to return to Oklahoma State).
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Fowler’s day started with a 20-minute wait on the 12th tee as he resumed his rain-delayed first day. He continued to struggle with the driver. He hit just 1 of 7 fairways Friday morning, and 4 of 14 for the round. He made a birdie on 18 for 78.
• We started on 12. We had to wait because there was a little backup yesterday. There were three groups on the tee. We had to wait about 20 minutes. It’s a par-4, 505 yards.
• It was a lot better than yesterday with driver, but I still missed the fairway. I think I only hit one fairway coming in today, four for the round. That’s not enough. Driver’s usually one of the best clubs in my bag. That explains the score right there.
• I’m going to hit a few and straighten things out. I’m working on a couple things. I feel like I’m onto something good. I was getting some things going in the morning. I’m going to figure it out and get it ready for tomorrow.
• I caught a bunker shot a little thin on 17, and made bogey there. I hit it in the rough on 15 and chopped it into the front bunker, and hit that to 6 feet, and missed that. I shouldn’t have missed that. The bogey on 17, it’s going to happen if you hit one thin out of the bunkers.
• I finally got a birdie on the last hole, and that was the only one for the day. Since I started to feel a little more comfortable with driver, I could fly the bunkers on the right. I hit it in the left rough, hit it out to about 20 feet and made a good putt. I had 101 to the hole.
• Surprisingly, (the condition) is pretty good. The maintenance crew and everyone, I don’t know how they did it, but they did an awesome job getting it playable. I know we’d never play lift, clean and place in a USGA event. There was no real time where we got bad mud, even yesterday. I think Bo (Van Pelt) had casual water on 18, and that was it. It was surprising how good the golf course was with how much rain it’s had.
• Welcome to college golf. We get some weather. We played in snow in Georgia. We play in rain quite a bit. Definitely, a lot easier with a caddie in the rain. College golf, your umbrella is in the bag, your rain gear, it gets tough with that, let alone playing in the rain. The course is definitely a million times harder than a college golf course.
• The strategy is still the same. Fairways, greens and try and make some birdies, but birdies are few and far between out here, so I have to work on hitting those fairways more so I can actually hit some greens.
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Fowler hit the first tee shot of the U.S. Open, but missed well left, a harbinger of things to come. He struggled with the driver and was 7 over through 11 holes.
• Starting out the day, it was pretty wet. The course wasn’t playing bad if you were keeping the ball in the fairway. That was my problem. I didn’t know where driver was going. It may have been a good thing they got me off the course.
• I’m basically playing par-5s all day, trying to chop it out from the rough and then kind of going from there with a mid- to short-iron, to possibly a wedge in.
• They announced, ‘Starting the ‘09 U.S. Open here at Bethpage,’ and called my name. That was actually pretty cool, and a good experience, but unfortunately I hit it left and missed the fairway by quite a bit.
• It felt like I was making good swings, but the ball was coming off in the wrong direction. I don’t know if I’ve hit one solid drive all week, to where it’s hit solid, and a good ball flight and landing in the fairway. It’s a little bit of a mystery to me.
• I think they called it about the right time. It would’ve been unplayable really fast. They were already out there squeegeeing our greens on our second hole. If they didn’t have any guys out there doing the greens, we probably wouldn’t have been able to play after hole 3. They probably had three or four guys per green.
• Everyone was just hanging out (in the clubhouse during the delay), eating free food. I think they had to call it a little early just because they were running out of food for us. I actually went over to the kids buffet. They had chicken fingers, tater tots and Uncrustables.
• I just need to get my driver figured out in the morning and hopefully start hitting them straight. From there, I feel like I can play even or make some birdies. I had a rough 11 holes. Tomorrow is like a fresh start.
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Today is the last day to get ready for the U.S. Open. Fowler played nine holes and practiced to get ready for the first round. He’ll hit the first tee shot of the tournament at 7 a.m.
• I teed off at 1:15. I hit balls before (the round) and then ate lunch. Then we went out and played, and afterward went back and hit balls for 30 minutes. I was just working on hitting the ball solid and getting the flight I wanted.
• I played with Dustin Johnson again, and Stuart Appleby was with us. On the back nine, we just went out and messed around for a few holes. We played the last six, we were trying to actually play a bit, and I think I played the last six even. I made a birdie and a bogey. I felt good about that. Hopefully, we can keep that going tomorrow.
• I’ve been playing really well coming into this week. It was a little rough Monday and Tuesday just because the first time out I didn’t really know my lines or anything. I was just kind of swinging away and moving it forward. I’m good to go.
• I’ll probably wake up around 5 (on Thursday). I try and get everything in. I usually won’t go to the chipping green or anything. I usually go to the range and then I’ll hit some chips on the range and some pitch shots out there, then get into warming up. From there, I’ll go to the putting green and get that down, and head to the tee.
• I feel like you have to hit the ball pretty solid when it’s bad weather. I feel like I’m a pretty good ballstriker, so we’ll see how it ends up in the morning.
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Fowler played his first full practice round at Bethpage alongside Justin Leonard, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. He also received some odd autograph requests.
• I got (to the course) around 6 a.m. I wanted to try to get into Tiger’s group, but we didn’t see him out there.
• I usually don’t do too much hitting, or grinding after (a practice round). I like to get a lot of my work done on the course and figure stuff out as if it were a tournament round.
• (The fans) are pretty into it, and it’s pretty cool. They like getting their autographs, and they’re hollering to get your attention to come over and sign. I’ve tried to sign as much as I can, especially with the kids around, because I know when I was a little kid, autographs meant a lot.
• I signed a wedding picture. I guess they got married at Bethpage, and they were having everyone sign the frame. I signed that, and I signed someone’s check in their checkbook. Those are two things I’ve never signed before.
It’s a little surprising that that many people actually know who I am, since not a bunch of people follow college golf or amateur golf. There’s been a few that recognize me, and then there’s a few who I’ll sign something and they’ll have to ask who I am.
• I think it’s harder (than Torrey Pines). Torrey felt like there were a couple holes where you had a short iron in, and you had a chance of hitting it close and making birdie.
It just seems like every hole out here you’re grinding to have a good look at par, and if you make birdie, great. There’s not many holes where you get a short- or mid-iron. I had to hit three hybrids into par-4s on the first 10 holes.
• The sun really didn’t come out enough for (the course) to dry out. Today was supposed to be fairly sunny, but it stayed overcast most of the day. I think tomorrow we’re supposed to have a little sun, but I don’t think it’ll dry out too much. I think the course is going to play pretty slow and long.
• I was a bit tired when we got back to the house today, so I’ll probably sleep in a little (Wednesday) and then go out and practice for about an hour, eat lunch and then play. I’m just going to play nine. I’m scheduled to go off at 12:40 off of 10. I’ve almost played the front twice now, since we played six on Monday, so I feel pretty comfortable (on the front).
I like to spend some time the last day before (a tournament) getting the putting and short game ready.
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Fowler used the day to rest up for the Open. He did some light practicing, played six holes at Bethpage Black and caught up with friends on the practice area.
• I was up and back to sleep for a few hours there, but rolled out of bed about 10. We went over to the course about 11:30 or 12. Tonight, we’re going to go get some dinner and come back and get some sleep. I’m playing early in the morning, at 7:44 tomorrow with Gary Woodland, Dustin Johnson and Justin Leonard. It’ll be a good time.
• Today, I got all my practice-round tee times, courtesy car, credentials and then ate lunch (at Bethpage). Then I hit a few balls and putted for a bit. We had a college reunion out there on the putting green. It was me, Drew Kittleson, Tyson Alexander, Kyle Stanley, Ben Martin, Drew Weaver. We were all hanging out having a good time.
• It’s a good feeling, seeing the college guys and being out there with all the tour players. It’s pretty cool having that group of guys (college players) out there. It just makes me feel a little bit more at home.
• We were supposed to play nine, but we got stopped because of weather. We only got six holes in, me and Ben Crane.
• It’s playing pretty long because it’s really wet right now. But it’s in perfect shape. The greens are awesome. They’re a little soft, but the ball is still able to skip forward, so if we do get some sun, and if the rain passes by and doesn’t drop on us, we could see some firm conditions. But from what I saw it was pretty soft and pretty long.
• The rough was pretty thick. Not terrible. You’re not going to be able to advance it too far, but it looked like it was playing really fair. I hit a 7-iron out of the rough. I might have been able to hit it 160, and that was out of a pretty good lie. If it sits down, you’re just going to be hacking it out with a wedge.
• On 1, I hit 7-iron in. I had a 6-iron (into No. 2). I hit a hybrid into the par-3 (No. 3). On 6, I took my ball back to where I was going to lay up to because it gets pretty narrow. It’s like a hybrid and a 6-iron. On 5, I hit one in the left rough, but threw it out where my drive would be and probably hit about a 6-iron in, and on the par-5 (No. 4), it’s only 520, but it was uphill and into the wind, so I had to hit driver, 3-wood.
• Today was just relaxed. I wasn’t hitting the ball very well today, so I kind of just kept moving forward and tried not to worry about it too much. Tomorrow I’ll get on it a little bit more and try to figure some stuff out and get it going from there.
• I haven’t seen any of the big boys yet, but I’m sure they’re out there.
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Fowler’s week started with 36 holes of U.S. Open sectional qualifying Monday in Columbus, Ohio. It ended with a 68 Sunday to finish third at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa. Fowler was the tournament’s two-time defending champion.
He left Pennsylvania after the round to make the 350-mile drive to New York with his father, Rod. After leaving Johnstown about 3 p.m., he was expected to get to Long Island around 9 p.m.
• I didn’t win Sunnehanna, but I feel like I’m hitting the ball better than I was last year. I just had a little bit of trouble getting the ball in the hole.
I think the big thing for me is to get a little more confident with my stroke and get the speed down for this week, because I’m definitely hitting the ball pretty well.
• Tomorrow I’m going to get some sleep because I’ve been playing for the past four days. My dad and I might head to the course (in the afternoon) to check in and possibly play nine, or probably putt and chip and get some practice in.
I’m not going to go at it too hard the next couple of days, that way I’m rested up for Thursday and Friday, and hopefully for the weekend.
• Graeme Courts is caddying for me this week. He normally caddies for Loren Roberts. He caddied for me at the FBR Open (where Fowler tied for 58th).
• It’s the U.S. Open. It’s a major. (I’m looking forward to) just getting a little more experience playing on some good, tough conditions and being patient and hopefully playing well.
• I’ve never been out there (to Bethpage). I’ve heard it’s just long and hard.
• I’ve known Ben Crane for a few years, and I guess he knows (Yankees first baseman) Mark Teixeira, so he was talking about going to a Yankees game, so we might go do that. I’ll probably try to get in the City with my family. We’ll definitely be spending some time off the course sightseeing.
• I learned to be a lot more patient this past year in college golf, especially after having a really good freshman year. I can’t force things. I have to just let things happen. At first it was tough for me to do that. I think part of that was in the Open.
I played well the first day, and the second day I just kind of made a few mistakes, and that led to me trying to force things, and that led to a quick 79. I think this year I’m a lot better player between the ears, which has led to me being able to put up better, more consistent scores. I’m trying to be more patient, play stress-free golf.
– As told to Sean Martin