5 Things: Fowler wins first Tour title in playoff
Here are 5 Things to take away from Rickie Fowler's first PGA Tour victory, a dramatic win over Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points on the first hole of a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship:
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1. IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE: Rickie Fowler ended speculation about when he might earn his first PGA Tour victory by making birdie on the Wells Fargo Championship’s first playoff hole. Fowler made a 4-foot birdie putt at Quail Hollow’s 18th hole to defeat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points.
“It's a good feeling right now,” Fowler said. “Definitely some relief, satisfaction. I'm definitely happy. It's not a bad thing, winning. It's kind of fun.”
Fowler, one of the game’s most colorful characters, now has a trophy to go with the high expectations. The Wells Fargo was his 72nd PGA Tour start. Fowler earned his first professional victory in late 2011 at the Korea Open, where McIlroy was the runner-up. Fowler shot a final-round 69 in Charlotte to finish at 14-under 274.
“I'm probably the one that sticks out most with color,” Fowler said. “Now I'm a PGA Tour winner. So I've got some credibility.”
Fowler tied the lead with an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 12, then took a one-shot advantage by two-putting from the fringe for birdie on the par-5 15th. He bogeyed the next hole after finding fairway and greenside bunkers, but parred the final two holes to get into the playoff.
Fowler, who turned pro in September 2009, had lost in two previous playoffs, at the 2009 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational as an amateur and the 2009 Frys.Com Open. He has four career runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
• Editor's note: At the outset of 2012, we previewed the upcoming season focusing on Rickie Fowler and whether he would break through with a win. He obviously answered that today. Check out our extensive look at Fowler's background and how he grew into the player he is today.
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2. NO SECOND CHANCE: McIlroy had one consolation prize: he returned to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, continuing the back-and-forth between the Northern Irishman and England's Luke Donald. McIlroy was seeking to become the first repeat champion in the Wells Fargo Championship’s 10-year history. His first victory at Quail Hollow came after a riveting Sunday 62 in 2010. A 71st-hole bogey kept McIlroy from winning this year. He hit his tee shot well right on the 217-yard, par-3 17th, then missed a delicate 5-foot putt.
“I didn't play the hole that badly,” he said. “I hit a good chip shot, and it just came up a little short and left myself a tricky putt.”
McIlroy missed a 16-foot birdie putt on 18 in regulation that also would’ve given him the victory. He shot 70 Sunday.
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3. OFF POINT: Points hit 80.6 (58 of 72) percent of the greens this week, tied for most in the field. He hit 15 greens Sunday to shoot 71. Struggles with the putter kept him from winning the event, though. He was 65th in strokes gained-putting among the 74 players who made the cut.
Points bogeyed the 18th after driving into the right rough and hitting his approach from 165 yards into a right greenside bunker. His third shot rolled some 15 feet left of the hole. He missed the putt, allowing McIlroy and Fowler to join him in a playoff.
“The ball was on a severe downhill lie, and I just slid a little bit ahead of it, got ahead of it, and it went out to the right,” Points said. “It wasn't my best swing, but it was also not that easy of a shot.”
The bogey on 18 was Points’ first of the weekend and only his fourth of the week, tied for the fewest in the field. Points’ first PGA Tour victory came at last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He started working with instructor Kevin Smeltz at the end of last year. Points said his ballstriking has improved as they’ve worked on hitting a consistent fade.
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4. CHARLOTTE’S WEBB: Quail Hollow member Webb Simpson almost pulled off the hometown victory. He finished at 13-under 275, one shot out of the playoff. Simpson, the 54-hole leader, shot 73 on Sunday. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the 16th hole and failed to birdie 18 to join the playoff. Simpson had a 24-foot birdie putt on the final hole, but ran it some 7 feet by the hole. He made the comebacker.
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5. CURTIS KEEPS GOING: Lee Westwood and Ben Curtis tied for fifth at 11-under 277. Westwood made the cut on the number, including birdies on two of his final four holes in the second round. He rallied with 68-66 on the weekend, opening with a 6-under 30 on Sunday. Curtis, the 2003 Open Championship winner, started the season on the European Tour after finishing 149th on last year's PGA Tour money list. Now he’s on one of the strongest streaks of his career. He won the Valero Texas Open, was 13th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and fifth this week. It’s the first time in his career that he’s had three consecutive top-15 finishes. For more on Westwood and Curtis, read our notebook.