Article

Nearly man Fowler falls short again on biggest stage

19 June 2017 03:17

As Brooks Koepka celebrated his U.S. Open triumph at Erin Hills on Sunday, Rickie Fowler was left to reflect on another missed opportunity to take out one of golf's premier events.

A four-time victor on the PGA Tour, former winner of the Players Championship and a key member of the United States' victorious Ryder Cup team in 2016, Fowler is certainly no stranger to success.

Yet the biggest prizes continue to elude the popular 28-year-old, who now boasts six top-five finishes in majors without a title to show for his efforts.

Time certainly remains on Fowler's side. Phil Mickelson was 33 when he finally broke his duck at the 2004 Masters and now has five majors to his name, while Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia have all shed their own nearly-man tags in the last 12 months, at the respective ages of 31, 40 and 37.

However, with every chance that goes begging, it surely becomes tougher for Fowler to get the job done. Just ask Colin Montgomerie or Lee Westwood.

Fowler is an immensely talented player who could and perhaps should go on to win multiple majors. Yet, for the moment, it is a harsh reality that he has consistently failed to find his very best form when it matters most.

In 2014, it appeared inevitable that the American would break through at the highest level as he recorded successive top-five finishes in the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship - tying for second in the middle two events.

It was not until April of this year that Fowler found himself in the major mix again, one off the pace heading into the final round at Augusta. On that occasion, Fowler shot 76 on Sunday and finished eight behind eventual champion Garcia.

This week, Fowler stormed out of the gates at Erin Hills, carding a sublime 65 to lead at the end of day one.

He could not kick on thereafter, though, and a closing 72 ensured he finished six shots off the pace as the powerful Koepka - 17 months Fowler's junior - went round in 67 to become the seventh successive first-time major champion.

"I feel like golf-wise I'm playing at the highest level. If you look at the negatives too much, you're going to be stuck doing that the whole time," said an upbeat Fowler in a news conference.

"You have to measure success in different ways, not just by winning, just because that doesn't happen a whole lot. I think Tiger [Woods] had the best winning percentage of all time at 30 per cent, and you're lucky to even sniff close to 10.

"I felt like I did a lot of good things, especially in the first round, executing my game plan. It was a good week."

A good week, undoubtedly, but not a great one. And the year's first two majors have only added to doubts over Fowler's capacity to join golf's elite.

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