PGA Tour

Fowler keep glass half-full at the majors

2017-06-21 13:36
Rickie Fowler (AP)

Erin - In pursuit of his first major championship, Phil Mickelson never saw the glass as anything but half-full.

Close calls didn't change that.

He was runner-up in the PGA Championship at Atlanta in 2001, third in the Masters the following year and then gave Tiger Woods a stiff challenge at Bethpage Black in finishing runner-up at the US Open.

"I think that it would be much more difficult to handle had I not even been in contention," Mickelson said. "I love to compete for these championships. ... And to be part of it, to be able to have a shot, compete in the end was a wonderful experience, even though I didn't win."

Fast forward 15 years to Rickie Fowler, who would appear to have the same positive outlook.

Fowler had arguably his best chance yet at a major in the US Open, mainly because of his experience. He was two shots out of the lead at Erin Hills. He was one shot out of the lead at the Masters two months ago. He was in the final group at Royal Liverpool and in the penultimate group at Valhalla in 2014.

Sunday wasn't his best day off the tee on the front nine and holing putts on the back nine. It resulted in a 72, and what figured to be his biggest disappointment yet.

But it sure didn't sound like one.

"If you look at the negatives too much, I mean, you're going to be stuck doing that the whole time," Fowler said.

"You have to measure success in different ways, not just by winning, just because that doesn't happen a whole lot. I think Tiger had the best winning percentage of all time at 30 percent, and you're lucky to even sniff close to 10. You have to say, 'Hey, it's a major. We played well this week.'

"Even though the scores were somewhat lower than a normal US Open, to finish in double digits under par at a major, especially the Open, it was a good week."

Mickelson didn't win his first major until he was 33.

Sergio Garcia, who didn't cope with losing nearly as well as Mickelson or Fowler, broke through this year at the Masters when he was 37.

OPEN SEASON

Now that the US Open is over, it's open season on players trying to find their way to Royal Birkdale for the Open Championship.

The Travelers Championship and the BMW International Open in Germany are the first steps.

After this week, the R&A will take the leading five players from the top 20 on the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai who are not already eligible.

Only four players from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup are not already in the Open - Brian Harman, Brendan Steele, Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes. The issue facing Hughes, and Wesley Bryan right behind him at No 22, is that they have to be within the top 20.

Also in the mix are Hudson Swafford (No 26) and Charley Hoffman (No 30).

Over in Germany, David Lipsky is in the same spot as Hughes.

He is No 20 in the Race to Dubai and playing the BMW International Open. Also needing a good week to secure their spots at Royal Birkdale are Fabrizio Zanotti at No 14, Pablo Larrazabal at No 16 and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli at No 17.

And that's just the start.

More qualifying spots are available over the next few weeks through tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic. The Quicken Loans National and the Greenbrier Classic each offer four British Open spots to leading players, provided they finish among the top 12. Only one spot is available at the John Deere Classic from among the top 5.

On the European Tour, three spots among the top 10 will be available at the French Open, Irish Open and Scottish Open.

FINDING HIS GAME

Russell Knox had the best season of his life last year, with two victories, No 10 in the FedEx Cup (with a $500,000 bonus) and No 18 in the world.

He started the next season with three straight top 10s, and then played reasonably well in Hawaii.

Since then, however, the game hasn't come as easily.

He has missed the cut in seven of his last 12 events, and his only finish in the top 30 was a tie for 11th at Hilton Head. He wonders if the problem might have been playing too much late last year and taking too much time off this year.

"When I did take time off and then I played, I struggled a little bit. So I wasn't able to get in any rhythm. I just kind of lost my confidence," said Knox, who defends his title this week in the Travelers Championship.

"This game is all about confidence. If you're starting on the tee kind of worried about your game, you have no chance."

The solution for Knox? Play more.

The Travelers Championship is his fifth straight week, and then he heads to Europe to play three out of four - the French Open, Scottish Open and British Open.

"I've got to try to play my way out of this little funk," he said, "and I think I will or have done already."

LOCAL QUALIFYING

The R&A received so many entries into its Final Qualifying that it has added another links course to the rotation and offered three more spots into the British Open.

Among those who have signed up for the July 4 qualifiers are Vijay Singh, Ian Poulter and South Africa's Retief Goosen.

That means 15 spots from five courses will be available. The additional course is Notts. The others are Gailes Links, Hillside, Royal Cinque Ports and Woburn.

"We have received an unprecedented number of entries for Final Qualifying ... and have expanded the format to accommodate the record field," said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the executive director of championships at the R&A.

Read more on:    pga tour  |  rickie fowler  |  golf
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