With his customary tradition of wearing orange on Sundays, the colours of Oklahoma State University where he went to college, Rickie Fowler has become one of the most popular, recognizable and approachable figures in the game.
But that orange wasn’t seen as much as fans would have hoped during a bleak 2022 for the American, who missed nine of 22 cuts last season and only qualified for one Major Championship, the PGA Championship.
In a bid to turn things around, Fowler split with his swing coach and ditched caddy Joe Skovron before returning to the tutelage of Butch Harmon, who had overseen six of Fowler’s worldwide wins.
Since then, the 2015 Players Championship winner has enjoyed quite a turnaround with six top tens in last 14 starts, which included an end to his four-year trophy drought with victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
That run of form has seen him surge back into the top 25 of the Official World Golf Ranking, having been as low as 185th last year.
“You hope the struggles don’t last, but sometimes they last longer than you would hope for,” said Fowler, who shot the first 62 in U.S. Open history last month.
“Being that I’ve been one of the best players in the world, plenty of good finishes and wins, I knew what I was capable of, but it’s tough when you’re struggling for that long of a period of time.
“But I knew it wasn’t far off and just kind of had to keep putting the time in, keep grinding, keep pushing. Then started to see some positive results and starting to build some confidence and momentum last fall.”
After securing a first win in 1610 days, the 34-year-old has vastly improved his chances of attaining another goal of his — making his first Ryder Cup team since 2018.
Having only been part of the winning side just once from his four outings, Fowler hopes his recent return to golf’s top table can help Team USA secure a first win on foreign soil in 30 years when the biennial contest visits Marco Simone Golf & Country Cub in Rome this September.
“One of the main goals this year was to win,” said Fowler, who moved from 16th to 12th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with his victory.
“Outside of that was obviously playing well and doing what I’ve been doing to make it to the Tour Championship. One of the end goals was to be a part of the Ryder Cup team and that’s still what we’re focusing on right now. I’ve been a part of a handful and they’re very special weeks, so that’s where I have kind of my eyes”.
The fan favourite can make further progress up the Ryder Cup standings this month at an event he’s enjoyed prior success at – the dual-sanctioned Genesis Scottish Open.
Fowler secured his first win outside of the U.S. in 2015 after producing birdies on three of the last four holes to seal a one-stroke win over fellow countryman Matt Kuchar and France’s Raphael Jacquelin.
“I love links golf – the golf course can play so differently each day and it’s always such an interesting challenge,” said Fowler, who has recorded three further top tens in six appearances.
“It’s also good preparation for The Open. You often see guys who have played in the Scottish Open doing well the following week, so I’m looking forward to two good weeks on the links.”
While a perfect finish at one of the game’s Majors is still missing from Fowler’s CV, he has been knocking on the door on many occasions, with nine top five finishes across the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship.
One of those just so happened to come at Royal Liverpool in 2014 when he finished runner-up behind Rory McIlroy. With the Claret Jug up for grabs at the same course this month, another solid outing in Scotland could pave the way for a run at becoming Champion Golf of the Year for the first time. If he were to lift the prestigious trophy, you would be hard-pressed to find a player or a fan who didn’t think he’d earned it.