Honda Classic never a doubt for Rickie Fowler despite schedule challenges

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Honda Classic never a doubt for Rickie Fowler despite schedule challenges

PGA Tour

Honda Classic never a doubt for Rickie Fowler despite schedule challenges

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The PGA Tour’s new condensed schedule put a few big-name players in tough spots, most notably for this week’s Honda Classic.

Placed one week after a no-cut WGC event in Mexico City and right before the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship, tough decisions were made and PGA National was the odd tournament out for big names including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed.

It was never a question for 2017 champion Rickie Fowler.

“It was more just figuring out how I was going to make things work,” Fowler said. “I’ve played a lot here, been a past winner and I enjoy the golf course. It wasn’t really a question that it would be on or off. It was always on the schedule.”

Fowler is in demand wherever he goes and this week is no different. He signed autographs at the kids-only section until no eligible recipients remained after Wednesday’s pro-am. He popped over to the all-ages throng and signed some more, did an interview for local TV and finally sat down on a lounge chair in the locker room at 5:30 p.m. following an 11:55 a.m. tee time.

Three weeks removed from his fifth career Tour win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one wonders if Fowler has time to celebrate.

“To be honest, I’ve always had a tough time celebrating a win,” Fowler said. “I had a couple drinks after Phoenix on Sunday night. (Justin Thomas) and I were splitting a house that week. … I think JT put it best when I won here at Honda (in 2017). We all went out that night, had a great dinner. Couple drinks, nothing crazy. It’s almost more fun celebrating other friends’ wins because you’re not in that grind necessarily, unless you were going back-and-forth. It’s hard to explain.”

The roles were reversed when Thomas won last year’s Honda Classic in a playoff, and the two are paired together along with Billy Horschel for a 12:45 p.m. tee time Thursday in Round 1.

Thomas is skipping next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill as part of the new schedule, and both he and Fowler will sit out the final event of the Florida swing at the Valspar Championship.

“It’s a shame because this is such a great stretch of golf tournaments, and it’s not possible to play them all,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, although we may have respect for that tournament director, that tournament, that course, city, whatever it may be, we have to think about ourselves and our body and what is going to produce our best golf. That’s what everyone is doing when they’re thinking of the schedule.”

The fact that PGA National is one of the most difficult non-major courses players will see all year might have made it an easier decision for some.

“Some guys don’t really like it because it is very hard and demanding,” Fowler said. “It can get windy. It can almost take some of your confidence away. That’s everyone’s personal decision and a lot of that is just based on time management and trying to make sure guys are rested for the Players Championship with there being a big event every month.”

Fowler had photo shoots on the Tuesday and Wednesday following his win at TPC Scottsdale. He spent much of the following week hanging out with fiancée Allison Stokke, enjoying good wine and home-cooked meals.

It was a low-key approach for Fowler entering a tournament that’s still worth enjoying, albeit in more subdued fashion.

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