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On Wednesday before the 3M Open, Rickie Fowler said his game was “close.”
And after his first round at TPC Twin Cities, he’s even closer.
In Fowler’s first competitive round on the Blaine, Minnesota, layout, he shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 to grab a share of the first-round lead with Troy Merritt.
“So today, I mean, going off of what we did Sunday last week, just needed to tighten a few things up,” said Fowler, who piggybacked off of his final-round 65 at The Open. “This golf course is fairly generous off the tee. There’s a few lakes, ponds that you just need to avoid. Other than that, it’s go attack for the most part. So I think we did a good job of just managing our way around since I haven’t necessarily seen the golf course a whole lot before.”
Fowler has held at least a share of the 18-hole lead six times before on Tour, most recently at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which is also his last win. That was his only Tour win after leading or co-leading after Day 1, but he hasn’t finished worse than T-7 on those six occasions.
The 32-year-old also has been second after 18 holes 13 times on Tour. He’s won once from that position but has as many top-10s (three) as finishes of T-40 or worse (also three).
His last lead on Tour at any time is following the second round at The American Express in January 2020.
For a player desperately trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel, Day 1 in Minnesota was a step toward the old Fowler. He carded seven birdies and no bogeys as he continues to build some momentum, something that was seriously lacking last season. In 2020, he collected two top-10s in 14 starts, and while he did qualify for his 11th straight FedExCup Playoffs, he didn’t advance to the BMW Championship for the first time in his career.
The rest of 2021 hasn’t fared much better for Fowler. Even with a T-8 at the PGA Championship, which he played on a special invite, and a T-11 at the Memorial, he’s in danger of missing the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 2010. He sits 124th in the standings, two spots away from falling out of the playoffs.
Fowler has this week and then the regular-season-ending Wyndham Championship next month to solidify his spot in the playoffs. At No. 104 in the world rankings, he is not eligible for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
But despite time not being on his side, Fowler is not looking too far beyond his current rounds.
“I know where I’m at, what we need to do and stuff like that,” he said. “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, like I said, simple and small, focus on the day-to-day and this week and go from there. Everything will work out.”