Rickie Fowler birdied his first hole on Sunday to get to four under and within one shot of tournament leaders Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth early on Sunday.
He quickly gave back his progress with a bogey at No. 2 and never gained any momentum the rest of his day and closed with a one over 73, finishing in a tie for with Matt Kuchar with Matt Kuchar at two under.
The good news? It’s progress.
“It’s a big step forward for me, especially after all these missed cuts,” Fowler said. “I’ve had to kind of grind it out and get on top of my game here. Not to have my best and to kind of find my way around and salvage a good tournament, I’m definitely happy with it.”
Fowler’s last three trips to Augusta ended with 38th, 27th and 28th-place finishes. He can now add a fifth-place finish to his resume — his third top-10 in 17 major championship appearances.
PHOTOS: Best shots of Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler from the final round of the 2014 Masters
Throughout the week, Fowler’s flashy and color-coordinated driver let him down. He only hit 32 of 56 fairways — including a tournament low four in the short grass on Sunday — good enough for next to last in the field. But ranking dead last was Masters runner-up Jonas Blixt, so maybe playing from the fairway is overrated. Who knows.
“It was a rough driving day for me,” Fowler said. “I got off to a nice start and I definitely got a lot out of the round with how poorly I got it off the tee. I got off to a nice start and had a good look on 2, and had a tough break with a lip-out. I walked away with a bogey. That’s kind of a tough way to start. I just drove it poorly today, so that kind of kept me from being able to attack the golf course.”
The former OSU Cowboy’s swing looks perfect to the untrained eye, but he is incorporating major changes to his game. He began working with swing genie Butch Harmon in December 2013, and the results weren’t immediate. He finished 33rd in the Humana Challenge, then missed three-straight cuts. A deep run at the Match Play proved Fowler was going in the right direction with Harmon, but the end product wasn’t a consistent one — yet. 24th, then 44th, then a missed cut, then a tie for sixth.
“For the most part, it’s just mental, it’s between the ears,” Fowler said. “I feel really good with the swing. I’ve been hitting a lot of good golf shots and making a lot of really good golf swings. So the biggest thing is just going out and trusting it and making it happen.”
During the week, whether it be on the range or on the 2nd hole on Sunday at the Masters, Fowler is conscious of his takeaway position and rehearses several times before he takes a cut at the ball.