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Rickie Fowler ‘back on the horse,’ opens with 71 at PGA Championship

May 20, 2021; Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA; Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 9th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 20, 2021; Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA; Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 9th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rickie Fowler said he accepted a special invitation to this week’s PGA Championship “in a heartbeat,” and he took advantage of it with an opening-round 71 on Thursday.

Fowler said he assumed he would be in the 156-player field at Kiawah Island in South Carolina this week, but his steady fall down the Official World Golf Rankings saw him drop out of the top 100 early this month.

Following a pair of missed cuts, Fowler is now ranked 128th. But he put together a solid opening round at the very difficult Ocean Course on Thursday, rolling in three birdies to help offset a pair of bogeys.

“As everyone says, you can’t win it, but you can take yourself out of it on Thursday,” he said. “Definitely happy about it. I feel like we managed our way around quite well.”

Fowler is four shots off the lead of Corey Conners entering Friday, when he will play in the afternoon wave. Before Fowler can be considered a threat this weekend, he must first prove he can put together consecutive solid rounds.

That has been a challenge with his last top-10 finish coming 16 months ago. Fowler didn’t qualify for this year’s Masters and has missed five of his past nine cuts.

“It’s time to jump back on the horse” he said. “First get back inside the top 50 and keep on moving.”

Fowler said the work on his swing changes is closer to where it needs to be than his results indicate, and that it has been his trusty putter that has been the real issue of late. He spent hours practicing on the greens around Kiawah Island.

Commentator Nick Faldo has been among those to question Fowler’s commitment, but the 32-year-old insists he “definitely” wants more out of his career. Fowler acknowledged the extended struggles have been difficult, but has maintained a positive outlook.

“At the end of the day, we get to play an amazing game for a living,” he said. “So kind of just putting things into perspective and understanding we have it pretty darn good out here, and we have fun.

“I’m out here and upright and playing golf for a living, so things could be a lot worse.”

–Field Level Media