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In all the uproar of Justin Thomas’s Ryder Cup pick, Rickie Fowler managed to slip under the radar of controversy.
With his game deserting him in the years following the pandemic-forced break, Fowler’s world ranking plummeted into the triple digits. And while a return to form, and the winners’ circle, wasn’t quite enough to get Fowler into the automatic qualification spots, it was enough to convince captain Zach Johnson to book him a ticket to Rome.
It was a choice – whether due to Fowler’s popularity or the fact he had managed to sneak a first PGA Tour victory in more than four years – that largely went unquestioned.
But there was no hiding from the Californian’s horrendous record in the competition. He landed in Italy having won just three of 15 matches across his four Ryder Cup appearances. He returned to the airport a week later having added nothing to his team’s cause and a record that now reads 3-9-5.
So how does Fowler erase it from his memory and move on?
“I don’t think you ever really erase it,” he said ahead of the Zozo Championship in Japan, where he will make his first start since that ill-fated week at Marco Simone.
“We like to put the losing memories behind us, try and learn from mistakes.”
There’s an argument to be had that Fowler has been incredibly unfortunate in his Ryder Cup career. Three of his five appearances have been in Europe –where the visiting team hasn’t won since 1993, when Fowler was four years old.
“They’re always special weeks to be a part of,” he continued. “They just happen to be a lot more fun when you’re on the winning side. Unfortunately, there’s been very few of those for the past 30 years, especially when you talk about overseas.
“It’s motivation that all of us needed to play a bit better. We have a few guys that did play well that week, but not enough. It seemed like all 12 of the European guys stepped up and played some darn good golf.”
He puffed his shoulders and smiled.
“They’re still amazing weeks,” he added. “Just not fun being on the wrong side of it.
“Win or lose, they’re still some of the best weeks of your career being on those teams with some of the best players in the world, especially from your country, just to be able to be in that situation. The memories we have with teammates and captains and the overall week, it’s something it’s still fun to look back on.
“There’s a lot of goals and accomplishments that you have to achieve to be there.”
There was talk of Fowler picking up a virus ahead of the match, which goes some way to explaining why he played on the Friday morning before being benched until Sunday’s singles.
“It was unfortunate,” he said. “Myself and a couple other guys weren’t feeling very well, so I’m happy to be in a healthy spot and excited to play some better golf than I did in Rome.
“I’d had a great year up until that point and there’s a lot of things that I can look back on to pick back up where we were and play some good golf for the few events I have this fall and going into next year.”
He was also keen to note he is rested and recuperated ahead of his next challenge.
“I spent some time with our little one since she wasn’t in Rome with us and she’s not here,” he said. “I fished a little bit and played golf. Even when I’m not on the road, golf’s our job and what I love to do, so that takes up a decent amount of our time even when we’re home on an off week.”
And having worked hard to get back into form, Fowler is now focused on his next target.
“The Ryder Cup was the ultimate goal, because I needed to check off a few other goals to make that happen,” he explained. “So I have a lot of work to do to make the Olympic team.
“If I were to do that, I would have accomplished a lot of things that I want to and there would be a lot of good golf. I’d love to be able to represent the US again in the Olympics, but we’ll see if we can take care of other things to make that happen.”
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