Posted 04 February 2019 - 10:51 AM
There have been many "closers" in baseball over the years who were stellar with a man on 2nd. The crazy part was the closer put the man on 2nd! The light-out closer often flirting with disaster and walking the first batter faced as they extend their warm-up. Still confident, can still bring the nasty stuff, and as a fan, while nervous, you felt the game was in hand. Any baseball fan has seen this a lot.
While I wouldn't quite call Rickie the guy who oozes confidence going into the back 9 Sunday with a slim lead, he made huge strides yesterday. At times he did look nervous yesterday, every tour player would be, even Tiger, but some are just better at hiding it than others. Any serious golfer knows those putts he was facing were nerve wracking, but Rickie could put that away for a moment, laser in his focus, and drain the key ones.
His ball striking yesterday was not off by much, but enough that on a very wet day funny things can happen. Anyone notice they were not playing lift, clean, and cheat? Hitting a ball out of the rough with water all over the ball and the grass is not anything close to predictable like a dry, sunny day. Is Matt Kuchar that much of a chop? He was all over the place yesterday, so was Thomas. Were they choking? They were definitely feeling the pressure and it showed in their putting.
But not Fowler. He arguably hit one really bad shot, the darn near shank that the day before would be in the dry desert, but after rain it is unplayable in water and he drops on the cart path. With Kuchar looking at an eagle putt, Fowler gets up and down from 50 yards draining a tricky putt. Perhaps it was a bit of a brain cramp to drop where he did on 11, but it was still a bad break when he thought the ball was at rest, but a minute later it is in the water. But consider he hit the shot before the same way he has hit it a thousand times and it took an unpredictable skid to barely go off the green, barely miss the bunker, and find the water, so not a surprise he doesn't want to hit that shot again when he would rather hit something with more loft.
And Grace, unlucky??? Ridiculous. Without the drama from Fowler, he is not even in the conversation. And Azinger, who is getting killed in another thread, pointed it out dead on as a player, it is a different mindset when just a couple of hours before you are 7 shots back then all of the sudden you are in the lead. He didn't charge up the leaderboard with great golf. The leaders came back. Grace sank a 50 footer to get in the conversation, and on 17 he did what he was doing pretty much all day, missing fairways! Grace hit 4 fairways all day...that's unlucky???
It doesn't matter if both wins with 54 hole lead are over par. Put it in perspective. R4 at the Honda is a tough round of golf, for nearly everyone, and playing a wet ball most of the day is no bargain either. Overall, 2 out of 7 is not such a great stat, but he's young.
There was another guy who won at a decent clip as a young player, then had a long stretch of not closing leads, especially in majors, then won all his majors at age 34 and later, his career looks really good now, unquestioned...but it was not always that way. Fowler has plenty of time; it's a process.