Fowler's British Open run earns Ryder Cup points

Rickie Fowler claimed his third top-five finish at a major championship in 2014 on Sunday at the British Open.

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Open Championship

Royal Liverpool GC, Hoylake, England

7/17/2014 - 7/20/2014

Pos Name Thru Today Overall
1 Rory McIlroy $1,665,788 600 -17
2 Rickie Fowler $785,910 270 -15
2 Sergio Garcia $785,910 270 -15
4 Jim Furyk $478,380 150 -13
5 Marc Leishman $359,639 115 -12
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HOYLAKE, England – Rickie Fowler has two words to sum up his week at the Open Championship: Ryder Cup.

The orangeman is primed for another big stage and he piled on the points this week to prove it. Fowler’s joint runner-up finish with Sergio Garcia matches his performance at the U.S. Open, where he also played in the final group. While Rory McIlroy didn’t distance himself in Martin Kaymer-like fashion, he had enough of a cushion to keep any late runs from spoiling the Northern Irishman’s coronation.

On the eve of the final round, Fowler had this to say about McIlroy at his best: “When his driver is on, he's almost unstoppable.”

McIlroy led the field in driving distance with a 328-yard average and tied for 20th in driving accuracy, hitting 66 percent of the fairways.

It’s easy to lose sight of Fowler’s flawless 5-under 67 in the shadow of McIlroy’s brilliance. But remember that Fowler birdied three of the last four holes. He finished 15 under at a major and fell two shots shy of McIlroy’s standard. The confidence Fowler takes away from his experience will serve him well.

“It doesn’t feel like a big stage,” Fowler said. “It feels like I should be here. I’m definitely pleased with it. There’s plenty more to come.”

Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson likes a lot of things about 25-year-old Fowler. He likes his attitude, his work with Butch Harmon and the pressure that’s been lifted as a result of their progress with his swing.

“He’s about ready to run the table,” Watson said.

Fowler’s primary focus in 2014 was the majors. While he’s missed the cut in seven PGA Tour events this season, the easygoing former Oklahoma State Cowboy has hit the mark so far with the majors. He’s the only Tour player to have finished in the top five in the season’s first three majors. Tiger Woods was the last person to record top-10 finishes in the first three majors, in 2005.

Fowler made clutch par saves on Nos. 12-14 that kept him within striking distance of McIlroy. Six-foot par saves on the 12th and 14th holes were particularly impressive.

Joe Skovron, Fowler’s affable caddie, called Sunday another step forward.

“The way he finished, I was really proud of him,” Skovron said. “He didn’t back down at all."

Fowler now has played in the Open Championship five times and has two top-five finishes. He tied for fifth in 2011 at Royal St. George’s.

Skovron said the changes Fowler has made with Butch have allowed his boss to be more consistent with his ballstriking, which in turn allows the two to “strategically play golf courses differently.”

Harmon, he said, built Fowler’s swing for the majors and tougher golf courses.

“He was always very good under the gun,” Skovron said. “It’s just at times maybe the golf swing had a lot of things going on. Sometimes in those big moments he didn’t produce the shots he wanted.”

Royal Liverpool showed us otherwise.

“My swing is a lot more efficient than it's ever been,” Fowler said. “It's less effort. It's more based on body rotation than timing and hands.”

Nick Faldo, the three-time Open champion, said Fowler’s changes are very similar to those he made in the 1980s, and soon after he started winning majors.

“Tempo is the glue that sticks it together,” Faldo said. “On the Sunday of a major, you’ve got to have that.”

The result for Fowler is a new comfort level at the majors that’s “not even close” to the last few years.

Fowler and McIlroy first met at the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. McIlroy turned pro two years before Fowler and was off and running. And while Fowler still has plenty of catching up to do, he certainly has made a statement this season.

Is a changing of the guard on the horizon? Fowler quickly dismissed the notion.

“I don’t see Tiger and Phil and some of those guys running off anywhere,” he said. “We’re ready to go to battle against them, though.”

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