SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – The wind that sounded like a drum line whipping off U.S. Open concessions tents and rattled players’ confidence all day Thursday?
Rickie Fowler will take some more of that, thank you.
“I love playing here,” Fowler said. “I’m kind of hoping that the wind picks up a little bit. It was nice that we got it kind of calm this afternoon, but I’d like to see this place dry out a little bit and start separating the field a little bit more. At least making it a little bit more, you know, where you have to hit the proper shots on the greens. They’re still a little receptive right now.”
That’s the sound of a guy who knows he’s striking the ball better than most of the field and doesn’t want to let the opportunity slip away. Fowler ranks T-6 in driving accuracy and T-8 in greens in regulation entering the weekend at Shinnecock, and he’s six shots behind 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson at 2 over for the week.
With Tiger Woods missing the cut and Phil Mickelson 10 shots off the lead, he’s also the realistic fan favorite in Southampton and once again in position to make a run at his first career major win.
“(Johnson is) obviously playing well,” Fowler said. “No. 1 player in the world. It’s going to be tough, but I definitely feel like the way I’ve played the last two days, tee-to-green, I should be with him right now. I just haven’t made anything.”
Fowler opened with a 3-over 73 and shot 1-under 69 Friday, moving to T-9 alongside Russell Henley. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in Round 2, but the putts just haven’t dropped this week.
A popular pick in the best player without a major debate, the newly-engaged 29-year-old has nine top-10 finishes and three runner-ups, including a solo second two months ago at Augusta National.
“Coming off the finish we had at the Masters, the way we played there, especially on the weekend, I’m looking forward to it,” Fowler said. “Definitely very comfortable on this golf course. I love playing here. I feel like it suits my game, it fits my eye. I have fun with it. You get to hit different shots out here.”
Fowler has all the shots, which is why some consider him the best American wind player. He also has more confidence after making a must-have birdie putt on 18 in the final round of the Masters, albeit one that didn’t pay off when Patrick Reed sealed the win with a par.
Fowler recently said he thinks Shinnecock represents his best chance at a major this year. He’s familiar with the course and likely knew the tough conditions would eliminate much of the field.
Another major is within his grasp, but he’s going to have to step up and take it.
“I knew I needed to play well after (Thursday), at least getting off to a good start,” Fowler said. “I left a lot out there on the greens. Had a lot of good looks and just couldn’t get them to go. So hopefully that means we’re just saving them for the weekend.”