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SAN DIEGO – In times of struggle, Rickie Fowler turns to an ideal cure-all.
A little bundle of joy named Maya.
That would be Fowler’s newborn daughter, who is on the second week of her first PGA Tour road trip. Last week, she was the perfect remedy for Fowler, who missed the cut in the annual birdie-fest known as the American Express.
Now, it should be noted that Fowler and his optimistic ways have always weathered lean times, but his daughter now adds an extra layer of relief.
And there have been plenty of lean times since the start of 2020 for Fowler, 33. The winner of five PGA Tour titles, including the 2015 Players Championship, and two on the DP World Tour hasn’t won since the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open and has just four-tops 10s in his last 43 starts. Once ranked as high as No. 5 in the world, he’s fallen to 101st.
But Fowler keeps working, keeps moving forward, keeps seeing light at the end of the tunnel. And now, he gets to see his wife, Allison, and Maya, who was born November 18.
“It doesn’t matter what happens out here, win, lose, whatever, you feel the same when you go home. See a little smile from her, it doesn’t matter what happened previous to that,” Fowler said Wednesday after his first-round, 6-under-par 66 on the North Course at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open. “For the most part I feel like I’m very patient. My wife says I’m maybe the most impatient with her, I’m patient with everyone else. So I’m sorry to her about that.
“I’m just right now enjoying life. Obviously in a really good place to get to play golf for a living. There are rough days in the office out here, but when you kind of put things into perspective and look at the big picture, it’s all right.”
It was better than all right on Wednesday. After a slow start, he birdied six of his last 14 holes and trails pace-setter Michael Thompson, who shot 64 on the North, which played three strokes easier than the South. The best round on the South (with players still on the course) was a 67 turned in by Luke List.
“Definitely pleased,” Fowler said. “I would say I struggled to get out of the gate a little bit. Did a good job of kind of focusing on the things that we’re working on, being deliberate swing‑wise and staying patient out there.
“I feel like I did a good job mentally. Just continue to move forward out there. The North Course is one that you should play a little bit better on, but it’s also one that can jump up and bite you pretty quickly if you’re out of position.”
He was out of position more than a few times last week in the American Express. But three days of good work after missing the cut got his swing back in the right positions. Fowler and swing coach John Tillery have been working on Fowler being more deliberate with his swing.
“I felt like I was swinging at about 60 percent and took about three hours to get to the top of my backswing,” Fowler joked. “That would roughly be the feelings of it. Just tried to be a lot more deliberate, not trying to rush things. I got a little quick on a couple transitions out there, lost a couple to the right, but other than that I felt like I did a good job.”
And he’s doing a better job on the greens.
“Trying to trust a little bit more stuff on the greens,” he said. “Putting, sometimes when I’m looking up at the hole you can kind of start working one way or the other because it looks or feels a certain way, so trying to trust the line a little bit more and roll than versus letting my eyes dictate what it may feel like once you’re over the ball.
“Produced a lot of good shots today. Last week I drove it fairly well. I had a couple that were a little offline, but for the most part it was my iron play that really kind of killed me. And a place like that out in the desert, it’s not really good to be putting for par; you’ve got to be making birdies out there. I think we turned it around all right and off to a little better start this week.”