BLAINE, Minn. – Rickie Fowler got even closer.
Ahead of Thursday’s start of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, Fowler said he was close to putting all the pieces of the puzzle that has been his swing overhaul in place and getting back to playing golf the way he wants to.
“It’s just not all coming together just yet,” is how he put it.
Looked quite complete in the first round as Fowler, who has gone 50 starts on the PGA Tour since his fifth title coming in the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, shared the clubhouse lead with a bogey-free, 7-under-par 64. This came on the heels of his final-round 65 in last week’s British Open at Royal St. George’s.
Fowler’s game has been on the uptick of late; in his first 47 rounds this season he had zero bogey-free rounds but in his last 26, he’s had five.
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“I’m happy about it,” Fowler said. “Going off what we did Sunday last week, just needed to tighten a few things up. This golf course is fairly generous off the tee. There are a few lakes/ponds that you just need to avoid. Other than that, it’s go and attack for the most part.
“Really just focusing on things we’ve been working on, playing more consistent good golf. More days like today and things will be fine. Kind of keep things simple and small, focus on the day-to-day and this week and go from there.”
His putting was especially on point. Through his nearly two years of struggles, Fowler’s bread-and-butter putter was uncooperative. Recently, he’s been able to focus more on his putting now that he’s not consumed with swing thoughts.
“It was nice to see some putts go in because that’s been another part of the game that really hasn’t helped me a whole lot the last couple years,” said Fowler, who needed just 26 putts and ranked second in Strokes Gaines: Putting midway through the round that was delayed by threatening weather for 2 hours, 24 minutes. “It wasn’t that putting wasn’t getting the attention. There are times where you kind of get hot and cold and I was in too long of a cold spell. Putting’s something I’ve always been able to rely on. Felt like I was hitting good putts, sometimes it was either a little bit off on the read or speed was a little off. There are so many variables out there.
“Trying to eliminate as much as possible and think more about making it and not focusing about too much on the line and stuff like that. I’ve been hitting good putts, but it’s nice to see the result of the ball disappearing and not lipping out or sliding on by.”
Fowler shared the lead with Troy Merritt, who closed with two birdies. Merritt went to Spring Lake Park High School six miles from TPC Twin Cities.
“I’ve seen this golf course now for about 20 years,” he said. “Came to watch
the seniors play when I was in high school and got to play it once or twice. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s great for the players, it’s great for the fans, you can make a lot of birdies, the scoring’s usually really low.
“So, if you like shootouts, this is the golf course for you and you’re
going to get another one this week.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 22, 2021
At 65 was Adam Schenk and Scott Stallings, who made nine birdies but double-bogeyed the par-5 18th when his second shot with a 4-iron crashed off rocks fronting the green and ended up in the water.
“It’s golf, man. You can’t do this as long as I’ve done it and just hang
on one shot,” Stallings said. “We hit thousands of shots. It stings now because it was five minutes ago, but at the end of the day I’m going to (know I) put myself in great position after the first round and go out there and try and continue to do that the rest of the week.”
Louis Oosthuizen, who finished in a tie for third in last week’s British Open after finishing runner-up in the previous two majors, shot 68.