Like a world-class sprinter roaring out of the blocks, Rickie Fowler has learned early on in his career how to get hot early in golf tournaments. Since he joined the PGA Tour in 2010, Fowler has found himself in contention on multiple occasions on Thursday and Friday afternoon.
Heck, he's even found himself in contention on the weekend. But much like most sprinters, Fowler's game just doesn't seem to be built for long distance or, in his case, 72 holes.
Following a 6-under 64 on Friday, which included a hole-out for eagle on the par-4 third hole, Fowler finds himself right in the middle of the action once again, playing late on Saturday afternoon with a chance to get rid of the "can't close" tag that's currently hanging around his neck.
For the longest time people chalked up the lack of closing ability to inexperience, but following his rookie year in 2010, the trend continued. He had trouble keeping things together at the Phoenix Open, and at AT&T National, he slipped on Sunday with a poor final round.
You have to give the kid credit for putting himself in this position time and time again at big events -- especially since he's only 22 years old. But at some point or another, you have to wonder when, if ever, he's going to break through the door and start winning tournaments in bunches.
Fowler has some sky-high expectations to live up to, and if he's ever going to start making good on those expectations, he's going to need to log his first win. Once again, he finds himself with the perfect chance to let people know there's more to his game than flashy colors and birdie binges.
He's got game, no doubt about, but sooner or later, we're going to need to see him go toe-to-toe with the best players in the game and actually close the deal. If he can't do that, he doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with Matteo Manassero, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa, who are some of the best young players in the game.
Win and everything changes. It's as simple as that. Rickie already knows that; he just needs to go out there this weekend, execute, and make it happen.
- Rickie Fowler