Los Angeles - Rickie
Fowler survived a nervy back nine on Sunday to shoot a three-over 74,
out-duelling Branden Grace down the stretch to win the Phoenix Open for
his fifth PGA Tour title.
Fowler lost a five-stroke lead on a roller-coaster back nine, and
closed with the highest score by a winner in tournament history, but he
still managed to banish some demons at TPC Scottsdale.
He held the 54-hole lead here twice before, including last year when he finished in a tie for 11th.
"I had to dig deep and fight through. It wasn't easy out there," said Fowler.
"I am happy to get this one out of the way.
"It has been long time to get a win here. There have been plenty of good finishes, but too many second-place finishes."
His 17-under 267 total was good enough to win by two strokes over
South Africa's Grace, who briefly held the lead on Sunday but made a
bogey on 17.
Grace fired his second straight two-under 69 to finish alone in second.
American Justin Thomas was third after a one-over 72 for a 14-under
total to finish three strokes back of his roommate this week Fowler.
Matt Kuchar (75), Bubba Watson (71) and Chez Reavie (68) finished tied for fourth at 12-under.
This is the PGA Tour's lone stop in Arizona and the only event on the
annual west coast swing that's held outside of California.
For a while, it appeared the tournament might even be heading for a
playoff for a fourth straight year as both Fowler and Grace found sand
and water on the back nine.
Playing in a driving rain, Fowler had to survive a shocking triple bogey on the par-four 11th hole.
He chipped his third shot into the water. After his penalty drop, his
ball rolled back into the water resulting in another penalty stroke. He
would eventually sink a 16-foot putt for a wretched seven score.
Determined not to let another title slip through his fingers, Fowler
helped clinch the win with a nice approach shot and then a two-putt
birdie on 17. Fowler now has had seven career 54-hole leads and
converted just two.
On the final hole, Fowler hit his
third shot to three feet and then tapped in the winner for his first
victory since the 2017 Honda Classic.
"I will tell you what, it wasn't fun," said Fowler, who had a
five-shot lead at the tee at No 11. "Couple bad swings, couple of bad
breaks. You have to roll with the punches."
Fowler followed his triple bogey with another bogey on No 12 but
righted the ship with two birdies in the final four holes. Last year he
stumbled to the finish with three straight birdies beginning at No 15.
"No 11 could have turned this tournament the complete opposite way,
and, finally we got it done," said Fowler.
"To finally get a win with my
dad, grandma and grandpa around, happy about that."
Grace vaulted into contention with back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 but lost his title bid with a bogey on the par-four 17.
He drove his tee shot into the water on the left then flew his chip
shot past the hole and into a bunker. He eventually tapped in for bogey.
He then made par on 18.
"He really dug down and pulled it off," said Grace of Fowler.
back next year for sure to hopefully go one better. Huge congrats to
Rickie on the victory."
Grace plays on both the European and PGA Tour and is known as the
first player in history of the European Tour to win his first four
Europe titles in the same year.
Leading final round scores on Sunday in the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale course (par-71; USA unless stated):
267 - Rickie Fowler 64-65-64-74
269 - Branden Grace (RSA) 67-64-69-69
270 - Justin Thomas 64-66-68-72
272 - Chez Reavie 71-69-64-68, Bubba Watson 66-67-68-71, Matt Kuchar 67-65-65-75
273 - Chris Stroud 71-66-67-69, Im Sung-jae (KOR) 69-68-67-69, Gary Woodland 68-67-66-72
274 - Jon Rahm (ESP) 67-68-70-69, Xander Schauffele 67-72-67-68, Russell Knox (SCO) 71-66-69-68, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 70-69-66-69, Harold Varner 64-71-68-71
275 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 66-71-70-68, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 68-69-69-69, Russell Henley 68-68-69-70, Trey Mullinax 67-64-72-72, Cameron Smith (AUS) 67-65-71-72
276 - Scott Piercy 66-71-71-68, Chesson Hadley 71-65-70-70, Webb Simpson 67-69-70-70, Charley Hoffman 66-68-70-72, Jason Kokrak 73-66-65-72, An Byeong-hun (KOR) 66-68-66-76