2018 British Open: Rickety Fowler again falters on golf's biggest stage

Jul 22, 2018; Carnoustie, Angus, SCT; Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the fourth tee during the final round of The Open Championship golf tournament at Carnoustie Golf Links.Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports Steve Flynn/USA TODAY Sports

2018 British Open: Rickety Fowler again falters on golf's biggest stage

2018 British Open

2018 British Open: Rickety Fowler again falters on golf's biggest stage

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rickie Fowler was right where he wanted to be.

Charging up the iconic yellow leaderboard at 2 under through five holes on moving day and 5 under for the British Open, the touted American had the Scottish gallery buzzing. Dry, wind-free weather made Carnoustie ripe for the taking. Could his major championship breakthrough be in the offing?

Stunningly, painfully, it imploded.

A brutal triple-bogey 8 at the par-5 sixth hole slapped the tag of best player not to win a major firmly on his back. He yanked his tee shot left and out of bounds. His re-tee went 40 yards right. The model of inconsistency, his day included an eagle at 14 to go with three bogeys. A 2-over-par 73 third round left him eight shots off the lead, without any good answers.

“I just didn’t execute through the middle of the front nine, through the middle of the round, and obviously it cost me,” Fowler understated.

A day later, on a sunny, breezy Sunday that saw Italy’s Francesco Molinari claim the Claret Jug, Fowler sported a freshly sculpted Fu Manchu. It didn’t help him hide. He closed with a 1-over-par 72, even for the Open, T-28 and again unsated. Five bogeys. Four birdies. Not even a birdie on damned No. 6 could provide a spark.

At 29, Fowler continues to turn in enigmatic performances at the majors. A weekend surge at Augusta — including a birdie on the last — netted a second-place finish, a shot behind champion Patrick Reed. A T-20 in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock ensued.

Fowler said after the Masters he believed for the first time he could win a major. Starting with rounds of 70 and 69 here, he was confident.

“I would say it just continues to feel more and more comfortable.” Fowler said. “Just like anything, the more you do something over and over, it starts to feel like routine in a way, but in a good way. This is where we all want to be. Everyone wants to perform at their best at the majors, find a way to get in contention and have a chance come Sunday.”

Bloody Saturday squashed that.

Fowler had high hopes coming to the birthplace of the game given his love for links golf, a T-5 finish in 2011 at St. George’s and a T-2 in 2014 at Hoylake. He opened as the third favorite to win the Open, behind World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, at 16-1. Over his career he has eight top-5s in majors.

One of the game’s most marketable personalities, he just can’t seem to cash in for those who bet on him at the biggies.

Pushing 30, Fowler isn’t spent. Phil Mickelson didn’t win his first major until age 33. Sergio Garcia was 37 when he captured the 2017 Masters. Molinari is 35. Fowler gets his next opportunity in August at Bellerive in the PGA Championship.

The world’s seventh-ranked player will again be on watch in steamy St. Louis. The question lingers: Can he handle the heat? Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the August 2018 issue of Golfweek.)

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