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never breaking through and winning

  • 28 May
    SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Rickie Fowler couldnt resist smiling Thursday when a reporter tried to artfully phrase a potentially prickly question about his midseason struggles this year.Hed just shot a 2-under 68 in the first round of the PGA Championship, so it was an odd time to talk about why he has been a hot mess in all the majors this season, but the reporter tap-danced around it anyway: Is it fair to say the middle part of your year wasnt quite what you wanted it to be?The middle part was terrible, Fowler said. You dont have to sugar coat it. It wasnt very good.It was a nice bit of candor from one of golfs typically reserved personalities, and it spoke to just how lost Fowler was for a stretch of 2016. After starting the year with four top-10s in his first five starts -- including a near miss at the Waste Management Phoenix Open -- he found himself mired in a tailspin in which he missed cuts at four of the most important tournaments: The Masters, The Players, The Memorial and The Open Championship.Missing cuts is definitely not fun, and definitely not whats planned, Fowler said. Swing wise, its just fundamentals. At the highest level, if you are off just a little bit, especially in a major, it picks you apart.Six years into Fowlers career, its still hard to project what kind of player hell go down as. An overhyped, streaky fan favorite? Hes likely better than that, especially after retooling his swing under Butch Harmon and finding more consistency. He has won three times since rebuilding his swing, including earlier this year in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Championship.An all-time great? Might be a stretch, but its still possible. Hes only 27 years old, and Phil Mickelson didnt win his first major until he was 33. Five out of the past six major winners have been first-timers, which suggests he has karma on his side. When hes playing well, Fowler hits it so pure, its hard to imagine him never breaking through and winning a major. He doesnt have any glaring weaknesses. Hes currently sixth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green, 13th in total driving distance, and 48th in strokes gained putting.But in a way, playing so well in 2014, when he became only the third player in history (joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods) to finish in the top five in all four majors in one season, may have raised expectations to unrealistic levels. Winning the Players in a playoff in 2015 only fueled the hype even more. Touted at the start of the year as a potential member of The Big Four, with Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Fowler now isnt even a lock to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Hes 10th in points, and might need Davis Love III to make him a captains pick without a strong showing over the final month of qualifying.All of which is why Fowlers first-round 68 at Baltusrol was a positive sign. In the opening round of the past seven majors, Fowler had been a combined 25-over par. And after starting with a bogey on the 10th hole, his first of the day, he then made four birdies on the back nine to finish the day 3 strokes behind Round 1 leader Jimmy Walker, who shot 65.Definitely happy with todays round, Fowler said. Anything in red numbers is always nice to start off a major. ... I like my chances. Ive been swinging well and heading in the right direction. Anything can happen this week.Fowlers youth, his embrace of social media, and his unique sense of style can create the impression (at least among some fans) that he doesnt care enough -- that he isnt as focused on winning tournaments the way Spieth, Day and McIlroy are.Its an unfair characterization, and Fowler put some of it to rest earlier this year when he choked up in his post-round media conference after losing in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It was obvious, in both his words and how his voice broke several times, how badly he wanted to win in front of his father and grandfather, who were in attendance.With how good Im playing, I know I can win. Thats what hurts, Fowler said at the time.After a frustrating couple of months, Fowler may finally be back there again. Wholesale Custom Jerseys . 8 Iowa State on Saturday, sending the Cyclones to their third consecutive loss. 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