UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) — Rickie Fowler knows the blueprint he would like to follow for the U.S. Open.
Martin Kaymer laid it out a year ago when he won The Players Championship in May and followed up with a U.S. Open title a month later.
”I’d love to go do the same as he did last year. And I really feel comfortable on this golf course,” Fowler said on Tuesday. ”I love playing links golf. I’ve played well in the British Open overseas. And being that I have played well in the U.S. Open, I feel like putting the two together with the links style and U.S. Open setup could turn out to be a great week.”
A year after being the perpetual runner-up in the four major championships, the 26-year-old Fowler arrived at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay this week as a favorite in part due to his stirring comeback at TPC Sawgrass in early May, the greatest finish in the 34-year history of the event.
Fowler was five shots down with six holes to play and rallied his way into a playoff where he outlasted Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner over three holes.
The Players isn’t officially a major championship. But the competition in the field, coupled with the setting and the way Fowler rallied made the feeling of winning at Sawgrass just as sweet.
”The four majors were solid weeks. They were solid finishes. I managed to put myself in contention and put together four great rounds and end up making history with four great finishes,” Fowler said. ”But there’s a difference between a top-five and getting the job done and being the guy last standing holding the trophy at the end. I definitely feel like the win at The Players was kind of the next step to holding the trophy at a major.”
The Players victory was a breakthrough for Fowler, who had not won since 2012, but was lingering on the leaderboard of all four majors last year.
It became the year of near-misses for Fowler in 2014. He finished tied for fifth at the Masters, tied for second at the U.S. and British Opens and a tie for third at the PGA Championship.
While some might be left frustrated with four finishes in the top-five, Fowler was pragmatic. In the U.S. Open, Fowler went to the final day five shots behind Kaymer. He was six shots back of Rory McIlroy entering the final day at Royal Liverpool.
If there was one opportunity that sticks with Fowler, it was the PGA. Fowler jumped in front of McIlroy on the front nine of the final round at Valhalla, only to watch McIlroy rally to win his second straight major.
”With two of the events, two guys kind of distanced themselves from the field and made it almost to where they were completely in control. They were the ones that had to move back for us to have a chance,” Fowler said. ”The PGA is where I was the closest and actually had a chance of going out and taking the tournament.
”But looking back on that, and then with what I did at The Players, I think I’m very much ready to go get in contention in a major and get the job done.”
On Tuesday, Fowler played his practice round with Phil Mickelson. While the gallery was busy wishing Mickelson a happy birthday at every turn, Fowler was met with booming chants of ”Rickie” when he would step to the tee.
How loud will they could those be on the weekend if Fowler is in contention again?
”Being in the winner’s circle just a few weeks back, I’d really like to have that chance come Sunday here,” Fowler said. ”I really like the golf course. I’ve had a lot of fun playing it the past few days. It would be nice to put a major on the resume.”