NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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Less than a year after saying he was seriously considering an offer to join LIV Golf, Rickie Fowler is trying to reignite his career the hard way on the PGA Tour.
Fowler had been stranded in a crisis of confidence during the past three years, dropping as low as No. 185 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was a beacon of consistency from 2014-19 – a stretch that included seven worldwide victories – but he quickly lost his place among the game’s elite.
From 2020-2222, Fowler missed 24 cuts and finished consecutive tour seasons no better than No. 98 in strokes gained total. Of particular concern was an uncharacteristic run of abhorrent iron play that left him Nos. 157 and 150 in strokes gained approach the past two seasons. Before that point, he had been well above tour average in approach play throughout his career.
Our Ron Green Jr. chronicled Fowler’s immense struggles in a March 2022 column, and Fowler remained mostly dormant throughout the rest of the year until equipment, caddie and coaching changes that he made last fall seemed to spark a string of positive results.
Fowler finished T6 at the Fortinet Championship and T2 at the Zozo Championship before continuing that momentum into the new year. He now has three consecutive top-20 finishes: T11 at the Farmers Insurance Open, T10 at the WM Phoenix Open and T20 at the Genesis Invitational.
With his recent strong play and the addition of designated events, Fowler didn’t play last week’s Honda Classic for the first time since turning pro in 2009. Not only has he ascended to No. 72 in the world – up more than 100 spots in five months – but Fowler’s underlying stats are encouraging.
He ranks ninth in strokes gained approach, which is a 180-degree turn from where he was the last two seasons, and is 14th in strokes gained tee-to-green. Fowler’s driver and putter stats are only slightly above tour average, but even that is a significant improvement upon his marks last season when both areas were major liabilities.
Fowler has been unafraid to switch equipment throughout his struggles, but the results haven’t followed until this latest run.
The Californian is gaming a new 9-degree Cobra Aerojet LS driver, a move that led to his No. 8 ranking in strokes gained off-the-tee during the Genesis Invitational. A Cobra staffer since 2012, Fowler also came to Riviera with a 15-degree Titleist TSR3 3-wood, a fairly surprising move. He has the flexibility to add a couple of non-Cobra clubs to his bag; it appears the TSR3 could rotate in and out of the lineup depending on the course.
Although Fowler has stuck with the cavity-back Cobra King Tour set that he put into play last fall, he has recently changed wedges and putters. Fowler is using three Cobra King Versatile wedges instead of three Cobra King wedges plus a Titleist Vokey lob wedge. Taking out a fourth wedge has allowed him to tinker with the top of his bag, sometimes adding a 5-wood into the mix.
And on the putter side, he is in an Odyssey O-Works Proto, a black-and-white-striped mallet that is quite a departure from where he was with the Scotty Cameron Newport Plus. Fowler typically has played a blade throughout his career.
The changes have worked to this point. Whether Fowler continues to rise will be one of the exciting storylines to watch in 2023.