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What’s the #1 thing holding Rickie Fowler back? He thinks he knows.

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Rickie Fowler on Thursday during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

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He said he didn’t look, although he checked his phone a few times. He played golf instead, although Rickie Fowler’s part was, shall we say, relaxed.

“There was no money involved,” Fowler said. “Just a casual ride. I think I had a drink for the back nine.

Through all the ups and downs, tweaks and changes, there’s at least one thing you can bet on with one of golf’s most popular players: Fowler himself remains steady. And that he was last Sunday, even as his work schedule for the next month and another personal low was in other people’s hands.

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Last week’s Wyndham Championship, as the PGA Tour’s final regular season event, was also the last chance to secure a spot among the 125 moving on at the start of the three-week playoffs, and Fowler was among those on the ‘bubble’ and then missed the Wyndham Cup. If you’re reading this with no idea of ​​the 33-year-old’s struggles over the past few years, you’re probably re-reading that previous sentence. Shoot, even if you are aware of his slide, you’ll probably watch it again. Hunter? Not even good enough for the 125, for a second straight year? Yeah.

Then things got even weirder.

As things unfolded on Sunday — and he was on another golf course — Fowler survived. No. 125, in fact.

And wouldn’t you know, given new life, Fowler signed for his lowest round in about 10 months, shooting a five under 65 in Thursday’s opening round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first leg playoffs. But you and Fowler know that a good turn doesn’t make a tournament, nor does it qualify as a bona fide comeback. Barely. And the work continues.

But if you’re a Fowler fan, you should know that your man might know what’s holding him back. An exchange after his turn is notable.

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Journalist: “If someone asked a very simple question – what is your game currently missing – what would be the answer for the past two months?”

“I mean, it would be nice to hit some closer, but that’s probably not the biggest issue,” Fowler said. “One of the biggest problems over the last two years I just don’t put near what I – I’m used to or I know I can. It does a lot with the momentum and the confidence and frees you up the rest of the game, without feeling like you necessarily have to hit it really close to birdie I flew it really well, and so I think the last thing you want to do is see a few putts, I think , something that will really free up the rest of the game to start rolling again.

Journalist: “Do you know why with putting? Can you identify the cause? »

“It goes all over the place,” Fowler said. “I would say a lot of it is based on the reading, but at this point when you don’t trust your readings, the speed is a bit low, so there’s a lot of variables in the bet. If you don’t start it online, it doesn’t matter if you have the right reading or the right speed. I would say one of the biggest was getting proper readings and on top of that, trusting that. So with that, like I said, the speed can get a bit inconsistent depending on confidence, but I think that comes down to the readings.

A reporter then asked how many putters Fowler had played with this year.

” Stakes ? Probably five,” Fowler said.

“And how long have you been using your current one?” asked a reporter.

“The one I played with today was his first round,” Fowler said.

“It was?” asked a reporter.

“Yeah,” Fowler said.

“It went well,” said the reporter.

“No, he did a lot of good things,” Fowler said. “It was a new putter that Scotty [Cameron] had just come out. Drew, one of the reps who was a teammate of mine at Oklahoma State, happened to have it on the green on Tuesday. Hit a few putts with it, everything looked good, felt good. I messed it up a bit more yesterday and decided to give it a shot. There was a lot of good today. In fact, a lot of very good putts. I left a few short ones, but other than that, some of it was just a little off to read.

Fowler has been open in the past about his struggles, and this was no different. He’s also right about his putt – in the 2016-17 season, Fowler was #1 – #1! — on tour in Strokes Gained: Putting; this campaign, he is an awful 179th.

Of course, a new wand – Fowler said it was a newer version of the Newport Plus – doesn’t really Craft putting; it’s still on the drive. But a physical change can sometimes free the mind, and that’s all; that’s at least part of the reason why Fowler, somewhat surprisingly, also broke up with longtime caddy Joe Skovron before this week.

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“It was more about this week not having Joe with me, obviously an amazing partnership over the years, but it would be more about owning myself and putting more work on myself and more responsibility “, said Fowler.

“I still had a lot of his voice and one-liners and stuff in my head so he wasn’t on the bag but he was definitely there.”

This is where we’ll end things by saying that Fowler has been teasing low rounds recently, to end up somewhere where those ranked 125th usually end up – last October at the CJ Cup he tracked rounds of 66, 66 and 63 with a 71; a month later, in Mayakoba, he chained a 66 by a 72; in January at Farmers Insurance, it went 66-76; in May at Wells Fargo, his score looked like this: 66-72-74-68.

Again, a 65 is what the start of a comeback also looks like.

“I have a good job with [swing coach John] Tillery for the past two days,” Fowler said. “I felt like I got some good stuff and somehow got there, nothing to lose. At 125 you obviously have to play well to get to next week, but it would be a big bonus if we could do it and move on. Kind of leave it all there, see what happens.

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is an editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories in the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to clear his score. You can contact him about any of these topics – his stories, his game or his beers – at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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