2018 PGA Championship: Rickie Fowler in no major rush as he races to front

ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 09: Rickie Fowler of the United States plays his second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the 100th PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club on August 9, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

2018 PGA Championship: Rickie Fowler in no major rush as he races to front

PGA Tour

2018 PGA Championship: Rickie Fowler in no major rush as he races to front

ST. LOUIS — There are two Grand Slams in play at the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive. Jordan Spieth is vying to capture the only major title missing from his resume. But Rickie Fowler isn’t as keen on completing his potential “slam.” The PGA is the only major tournament in which he has not finished second.

With a sublime opening-round 65, Fowler made a strong opening statement Thursday that he might finally be serving celebratory drinks from his own major trophy rather than joining his victorious friends as they sip from theirs.

“I’m definitely happy but Thursday you can’t go win the golf tournament,” he said. “You can definitely take yourself out of it and lose it, so we took care of what we needed to take care of today and we move on to Friday.”

Fowler knows that he won’t win anything for playing well in a major on Thursday. He knows that sometimes he doesn’t even win anything playing well on Sunday in a major.

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At this year’s Masters, he mounted an electrifying back-nine charge with six birdies in his last 11 holes to shoot 67, but ultimately fell one agonizing stroke shy of Patrick Reed.

“It wasn’t something that I needed to get over,” the World No. 9 said of that near miss at Augusta National. “I left everything out there on the golf course so it wasn’t necessarily like, ‘Oh man, what if I had hit this shot instead of this shot?’ The back nine I executed nearly perfect.”

The Masters was Fowler’s third runner-up finish in the majors, and the eighth top 5 of his career. Those numbers could be interpreted as evidence that he struggles to finish when it matters. A more realistic reading may see those finishes as a testament to how frequently he puts himself in the mix on Sunday at the game’s biggest events.

“I always have hope. I know Phil [Mickelson] didn’t win until his 30s,” he said. “It’s not something I necessarily worry about. Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention. We have had plenty of runner-ups. Jack had a lot of runner-ups. We’ll just keep beating down that door.”

Another significant number looms for the proto-millenial: in December he leaves behind his 20s. Yet Fowler doesn’t give the impression of a man who sees the hourglass running down. Rather he comes across as someone confident that every lesson, even the painful ones, will stand him in good stead in his quest for one major win, not a fourth wooden spoon.

“You can’t force the issue and it kind of relates to some of our game plan and how we’re going about this week as far as trying to play within ourselves and not do anything special,” he said. ‘I don’t have to play special to win.”

The knowledge that winning doesn’t always demand his best is invaluable perspective for a man in his spikes. He had a lot of that after Thursday’s round, which he didn’t even rank as his most impressive in the majors.

That would be his 67 to make the cut on the number in high winds at St. Andrews in 2010.  A low score on a soft course in benign weather doesn’t mean as much. Not on Thursday, at least.

“Like I said, wear out the fairways, wear out greens and keep it as stress free as possible,” he said. “Thursday you can check the success box and move on to Friday.”

One down. Three to go.

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