If you didn’t see yesterday’s final round of the Honda Classic and just saw the final leader board, you would think that Rickie Fowler cruised through his final round en route to a four shot victory. In reality though, the final 18 holes were anything but an afternoon stroll for Fowler.
While Fowler won in a somewhat dominating fashion, winning by four shots, he did it playing his worst golf of the week. While the course finally showed its teeth for arguably the first time all week, thanks in large part to the constant 15-20 mph winds throughout the day, Rickie limped home firing a 1-over 71 that included four bogeys and a double bogey.
“It was special to pull it off,” Fowler said. “It wasn’t the prettiest, but this isn’t an easy golf course and this wasn’t an easy day to go play golf. I just had to fight through it. Mistakes were going to happen. Bad swings were always going to happen. You can’t play a perfect round of golf.”
For all his struggles throughout the day, Rickie continued to be resilient. After an unlucky break at the 4th with a sprinkler head that resulted in a bogey and hitting his tee ball in the water on the 6th that resulted in his lone double, Fowler found his lead dwindle all the way down to 2. It would have been real easy for Rickie to get down and lose the lead, something he had done in his previous four times he has had the 54-hole lead. Instead, Fowler shook it off and drained a 30 footer for birdie at the 8th to re-gain a little separation.
Even when Gary Woodland got hot on the back nine, getting as close as one shot after a birdie at the 13th, Fowler didn’t get phased. He responded with a 38-footer for birdie at the 12th and a 23-footer for birdie at the 13th to get the cushion right back.
“My putting saved me,” Fowler said. “It was tough out there, and I fought as hard as I could.”
While he bogeyed 17 and 18 coming home, the tournament was already all but wrapped up.
This win for Fowler might have been the most meaningful because he finally held onto a lead on Sunday and won. The relief on his face when the final putt sank said all you needed to know about how much the win meant. Even fellow Tour pro and friend Justin Thomas knew that the win meant. Having missed the cut, he went to the course Sunday afternoon to support his friend.
“I think Rickie needed it, maybe, to get people off his back a little bit,” Thomas said. “It’s just, when you’re at that high level, or that high caliber of a player, people expect so much of you. He’s been playing great golf, and he just hasn’t had that win for year and a half, or whatever it is. So, this is definitely big for him.”
(Photo courtesy of LinksNation)
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