GARDENS OF PALM BEACH, FLORIDA — Rickie Fowler is in great shape.
His golf game is still a work in progress, but he stays upbeat despite a 2-over 72 on Thursday at the Honda Classic, which puts him in risk of making the cut for the fourth time in five outings. Despite recent troubles on the golf course, the first-time father is loose, comfortable, and enjoying time with his family.
Before his first round, the Jupiter resident stated, “I’ve always been good at looking at things as far as… there’s a lot more to life than just playing golf and what occurs out here.”
“It makes things a lot easier when you’re playing well, but just because you’re not playing well doesn’t imply you’re miserable or that things at home are horrible.”
On Nov. 18, Fowler and his wife, Allison Stokke, brought their first child, daughter Maya Fowler, into the world. Rickie took a two-month hiatus before returning to the road and pursuing the game that had him at No. 4 in the world.
But that didn’t absolve him of his parental responsibilities. The entire family was in tow as Fowler resumed the Tour on the West Coast. Rickie and Allison packed their belongings, as well as Maya’s, for their first road trip, which began in La Quinta, Calif., and included stops in San Diego, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pacific Palisades.
“Having them on the road for that five and a half weeks with all of us together was really lovely,” Rickie added. “It’s not easy traveling with a small child, jumping from house to house to hotels and all that.”
“It’s a significant shift.” “I need to be more effective with my time and how I use it, when, how, and where.”
Fowler has dropped to his lowest world ranking (121) in 12 years as a result of his slump. His most recent victory came at the Phoenix Open three years ago. He has 20 top 25 finishes and 21 missed cuts since then.
And Thursday was a microcosm of Fowler’s recent performance. Fowler was 3-under par going into the ninth hole after birdies on Nos. 3, 4, and 6. On the following three holes, he gave it all back and then some, with a double-bogey on No. 9 and back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11.
After a birdie on No. 14, he was back on par, but a double on the par-5 No. 18 ruined the round.
Fowler missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open a month ago after shooting a 66 in the first round.
He remarked Thursday, “It was really simply a couple of swings and this golf course.” “A couple of shots that go the wrong way on the wrong hole, and they bite you very soon,” says the player.
On Nos. 9 and 18, those swings occurred. Fowler’s tee shot on No. 9 was blocked by water, and his second shot on No. 18 ended up in a watery grave short of the green.
“There’s no way you’re going to get around 72 holes totally clean,” Fowler admitted. “At the same time, you don’t want to be overly protective in order to avoid making mistakes.” You still have to be bold, go out and play golf, take some calculated chances, and accept the consequences if you make a horrible swing.”
Through a precipitous plummet, Fowler’s optimism is admirable. He was in the top ten in the world not long ago, winning the Players Championship, coming second in the Masters, playing on Ryder Cup teams, and competing in the FedExCup Playoffs.
He missed the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in his career last year, failed to qualify for the Masters or the US Open, and needed a special exemption to play in the PGA Championship.
A support group that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Patrick Cantlay, as well as late-night chats that sometimes develop into therapeutic therapy sessions on the road, helps him stay hopeful.
“We all chat about different things and how guys are doing,” Fowler added. “As he was starting to come out, I was kind of going (into his slump).” It’s all part of the game of golf. It’s also a part of life in certain ways. Everyone who has ever played at a high level has experienced ups and downs. No one has ever managed to stay at the top. It’s a part of the package.”
Spieth was ranked No. 1 in the world at the start of the 2016 season and as low as No. 92 early in the 2021 season. The descent has been just as quick. By the summer of 2021, Spieth had risen to No. 12 and is now ranked No. 14 in the world.
Fowler remarked, “I’m clawing my way out.” “I had hoped it would happen a little sooner than it has.” But having people who have gone through it or are going through it with me assures me that they have my back. I’ve always stood by them. When you have people on your side, it makes things a lot easier.”
And he has a newborn who reminds him to stay in perspective.