RICKIE FOWLER answered his “overrated” tag critics in the best possible way with a stirring victory at the prestigious The Players Championship.
Fowler shot one of the best Sunday back nines ever at the iconic TPC Sawgrass in Florida going six under in the final six holes to set the clubhouse lead at 12-under, then emphatically won a three man playoff.
Fowler’s second US PGA Tour victory at what is generally regarded as golf’s unofficial fifth major came after a recent survey of his peers found he and Ian Poulter were the game’s most overrated players.
It must have stung, with Fowler admitting he used the story as a motivator.
“It’s amazing,” Fowler said. “We obviously look at this tournament as one of the biggest that we play up against the Majors. This is a special week.”
With a congested upper leaderboard the 26 year looked out of the championship after the turn but then birdied 13; then had an unprecedented birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie finish over the tough final stretch, reputedly the best finish in the event’s 41 year history.
His final round 6-under 67 eventually put him in a three hole aggregate playoff with former champion Sergio Garcia (68) and Kevin Kisner (69), a 31 year old American still after his first tour win.
As so often seems to happen in this championship, the par three 17th hole with its island green and raucous amphitheatre atmosphere stepped in to again play a crucial role. This hole surely now challenges as the tour’s most famous.
The tournament playoff format was changed in 2013 going from a sudden death starting at 17 to a three hole aggregate covering 16 – 17 – 18.
Garcia was knocked out after three holes when he failed to join his playoff competitors in birdieing 17.
The remaining pair again returned to 17 for sudden death with Fowler amazingly putting in for a two for the third time on the day. That made it five birdies in six trips for the week. (In contrast, Australia’s Aaron Baddeley unfortunately has the tour’s worst record on the hole. He added to his “in the water” tally in the second round, finding the water off the tee, then again from the drop zone to finish with an eight. Ouch!)
Fowler was ecstatic with what, in the circumstances, will be a legend building win.
His only previous victory was at the 2012 Wells Fargo, but has many other career highlights, particularly his performances in the four majors in 2014 when he finished T2 at the US and British Opens, T3 at the PGA Championship and T5 at the US Masters.
Senden’s top 10 leads Aussies
John Senden finished the best of the Aussies with his final round 2-under 70 seeing him end the weekend at 8-under tied for 8th.
Marc Leishman (69) and Geoff Ogilvy (70) closed at 5-under tied for 24th while Adam Scott blew out with a final round 75 to finish on 3-under at T38.
Jason Day was among those to miss the cut.
Rickie Fowler Birdies 17th to Win The PLayers: VideoThe Players Championship Leaderboard