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Rickie Fowler is backing “bulldog” Justin Thomas to emerge from his chastening slump in time for the looming Ryder Cup.
Thomas’ desperate plight is a growing problem for US captain Zach Johnson with the biennial contest against Europe in Rome now just over two months away.
The travails of Thomas have seen the former world number one post back-to-back major championship rounds in the 80s, missing cuts at both the US Open and at The Open.
His nadir came here at Royal Liverpool on Thursday with a gut-wrenching quadruple bogey nine on the 18th that saw him sign for an 11-over-par 82.
Fowler, who has returned from a much longer period than Thomas in the wilderness with his recent Rocket Mortgage Classic victory, emphasises with his close friend’s dramatic decline in form.
“He’s nowhere close to how long I went through but everyone goes through it at some point,” he told bunkered.co.uk after posting a four-under 67 to surge up the Open leaderboard on moving day.
“I don’t expect to see him going through it for very long at all. I have a lot of belief in him and his game. He’s someone that’s obviously very tough on himself.
“He’s got plenty of people around him that are always there to help out, guys to lean on, myself, Jordan [Spieth], and plenty of others. I’m not too worried about him.”
Fowler may not be fretting about Thomas but his struggles are creating serious issues for Johnson, who has shared a house with the 30-year-old this week near Hoylake.
Thomas is 13th in the American Ryder Cup standings and needs to find some inspiration unless he will be relying on one of six captains picks, and perhaps a brave show of faith from his fellow two-time major winner.
“As a friend and roommate, I’m concerned just because he’s my buddy and I know what he’s capable of,” Johnson conceded on Friday.
Thomas will head to the 3M Open in Minnesota next week searching for answers but a stellar record in team events will certainly work in his favour if he does indeed find that elusive spark.
He has collected six-and-half points from nine Ryder Cup matches and 17.5 from a possible 24 in his three imperious Presidents Cup outings.
And Fowler knows just how important his former teammate could still be in helping the American team triumph on European soil for the first time in 30 years.
When asked what Thomas brings to the Ryder Cup, Fowler asserted: “A lot. He’s someone that – I wouldn’t say turns into a different person, but he kind of does in a team event. He loves that atmosphere.
“When we’ve played together as partners, I kind of let him be in control as far as giving putts and stuff like that. I’m kind of the silent guy off to the side.
“He’s a bit more of the bulldog and wants to go right into the middle of the fight. He loves the setting, the kind of atmosphere and everything. I’d love to see him turn some things around to have a chance to be there.”
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