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Rickie Fowler Wins Honda Classic After a Text From Tiger Woods

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Rickie Fowler joined a murderer’s row of PGA Tour winners in 2017. Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm all preceded him in the winner’s circle this year, but Fowler got his first of the season on Sunday at the Honda Classic by four strokes over Gary Woodland and Morgan Hoffmann.

Fowler struggled mightily with his driver on Sunday but made up for it by hitting monster putt after monster putt. This included an up-and-down on the front nine from 160 yards for birdie and two bombs (23 feet and 39 feet) for birdie on the back nine.

The dagger came on No. 16, though. Fowler faced a 182-yard second shot on the par 4 in the middle of the Bear Trap. He hit a laser to three feet and rolled it in effectively for the win. Even a bogey-bogey finish didn’t come close to derailing him as he finished one stroke off the tournament record score of 267.

“That one was nice,” said Fowler. “This was a hold 5-iron from about 183, I believe. And I mean, it was perfect. It was almost in gimmie range.”

This is one to celebrate for sure. Especially with Augusta on the horizon. Fowler got a win on the European Tour last year at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship but has not won on the PGA Tour since the fall of 2015 when he took the Deutsche Bank Championship.

“I’m a lot happier and tonight’s going to be a lot more fun, being that we have this,” he said. “You know, if I wouldn’t have pulled it off today, it would have been a learning experience. It’s special to be able to pull it off, and it wasn’t the prettiest of ways to do it, but this isn’t an easy golf course and this wasn’t an easy day to go play golf on.

“Just had to fight through it. Mistakes were going to happen. Bad swings were always going to happen. You can’t play a perfect round of golf.”

Fowler did fight. His first three rounds were won by his driver. 66-66-65, and he was top five in the field with the big stick. His 1-over 71 on Sunday included a litany of bad drives but saw him gain three strokes on the field with his putter. He’s tougher than his fancy commercials would have you believe. He can be downright dogged on the course and loves playing in poor conditions.

“I gave myself enough cushion where I could kind of get away a bad nine, which I started with,” said Fowler. (I was) lucky enough, the putter saved me at times and gave me that cushion I needed on 12 and 13, and made a great swing into 16.”

Fowler is part of an easy-to-root-for group of young golf stars that were all ushered in by the greatness of Tiger Woods. Guys like Spieth, McIlroy and Thomas. Fowler note that he got texts from all of them on Saturday night when he held the 54-hole lead.

“It’s great,” said Fowler. “We talked about it for a few years now, and the game is in a great spot. A lot of young players, a lot of great players playing well, a lot of young players winning. It’s fun seeing it. It’s motivating seeing my friends go win.

“So it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun year. I know there is a lot of guys playing well. Looking forward to having Rory back out and see if we can get Tiger back going. He texted me last night, as well, and told me to go get it done. Like I said, it’s great to have the backing of my peers. Like I said, it’s motivating to see them play well, as well.

“Rory did text me, Jordan obviously, Justin who was out on 18 green. It’s great to have the support of guys that I have either looked up to, enjoy watching, love seeing them play well, and I want to see those guys play well. And we all want to beat each other when everyone is at their best.”

Fowler now has four wins in 179 PGA Tour starts which is good, not great. His wins have all been at big boy tournaments, though. Honda, Players Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship and Wells Fargo.

But he knows he has a long way to go to join the Johnson-Day-Spieth group and even farther to go to call Rory a peer on the course. All of those guys win at least 5 percent of the time and have a major. Fowler wins 2 percent of the time and has none.

“I still need to put myself in position, be consistent and win some more golf tournaments,” said Fowler. “Obviously seeing what Hideki was doing end of last year, start of this year; even Justin Thomas going on a run; Dustin’s always been an impressive player. I mean, what is it, ten years now, he’s won on Tour every year at least once. And obviously Rory, Jordan, Jason; I’ll try and sneak in the back end right now.

“But I want to continue to play well and I want to be, whether I’m talked about with those guys or not, I just want to play the best that I can and keep pushing myself and ultimately just keep trying to put myself in position to win and start collecting more of these.”

Fowler will head to Seminole Golf Club for the much-heralded pro-member on Monday before heading to Mexico for the WGC-Mexico Championship which was moved away from Donald Trump’s course at Doral last year.

He will start next week where he spent most of the last two years: In the Official World Golf Rankings top 10.

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