ST. LOUIS – Rickie Fowler is on a leaderboard at a major again.
Fowler posted a 5-under 65 in his first round at the PGA Championship on Thursday. The round put him, at the time, alone in first place by two shots and brought him into the media center.
When Fowler entered, he likely knew what the dominant topic of conversation was going to be. While he’s been a constant leaderboard presence at major tournaments over the last five years, he hasn’t won one. And yes, the topic of being winless at majors was a recurring theme once Fowler started taking questions.
“I’m definitely happy but Thursday you can’t go win the golf tournament, you can definitely take yourself out of it and lose it, so we took care of what we needed to take care of today and we move on to Friday and go do what we need to go do tomorrow,” Fowler said.
That milquetoast answer was about as revealing as Fowler was going to get regarding his quest for a major. The 29-year-old has finished in the top three at every major at some point in his career and he was second at the Masters in April.
“The back nine I executed nearly perfect,” Fowler said of his final round at Augusta National. “After I birdied 12, I really thought I could birdie in. And maybe looking back it’s why didn’t I birdie everything coming in. But I hit the shots that I wanted to and needed to, the only one really being 16 where I hit it in the bunker I ended up getting up-and-down. But the swings that I made, I left everything out there. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
The Masters finish came after a spectacular weekend that saw him force eventual champion Patrick Reed to par the final hole to avoid a playoff. Fowler hasn’t been a guy — like Reed was until April — who hasn’t been a consistent contender at majors. There’s just always been a foil.
Fowler’s constant presence on major leaderboards is a reason why those questions about winning a major kept coming. He’s already won the Players’ Championship and was on the United States’ winning Ryder Cup team in 2016. But as much as the Players’ Championship wants to be a major, it isn’t. So Fowler is one of the few people in golf who can lay claim to the “best player who hasn’t won a major” label.
“I always have hope,” Fowler said of winning a major. “I know Phil [Mickelson] didn’t win until his 30s. [Mickelson won his first of five majors at 33.] I don’t know the exact numbers, but it’s not something I necessarily worry about. Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have had plenty of runner-ups, Jack [Nicklaus] had a lot of runner-ups, we’ll just keep beating down that door.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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