Rickie Fowler, who has endured years of major near-misses while his best pals won golf’s biggest prizes, has given himself another chance at Sunday glory or heartbreak at the Masters.
The 29-year-old American, still seeking his first major victory, fired his first bogey-free round at Augusta National, a career Masters-low 7-under par 65, to stand third on 9-under par 207 after 54 holes.
“Definitely a special round,” Fowler said. “We took care of what we needed to take care of and tomorrow’s a chance for us go do something pretty cool.”
It’s a familiar spot. He was third after three rounds last year, having led the Masters for the first time after 36 holes only to shoot 71. He then closed with a 76 and shared 11th.
“Last year I may have gotten too defensive or too aggressive, and you learn from that and move on,” Fowler said. “It wasn’t the finish I wanted.”
Fowler has seven top-5 major finishes with no wins. In 2014, he became the first man to finish in the top-5 at all four majors but not win one, his best showings runner-up at the US and British Opens.
Last year he shared fifth at the US Open and PGA Championship, the latter won by his second-ranked friend Justin Thomas after buddy Jordan Spieth won the British Open.
“It’s fun to see, but it’s also kind of a kick in the butt to get yourself to keep pushing forward,” Fowler said. “You want to be in that position.”
Eight of the last nine major champions were first-time major winners.
But after so many defeats, Fowler knows all too well what it will take to overtake leader Patrick Reed, five strokes ahead, and Rory McIlroy, whom he trails by two.
“It’s going to be a tough task. I’m going to have to play some pretty solid golf,” Fowler said. “The big thing is, I’m not going to be able to make many bogeys, if any.
“I need to continue to kind of cut down on the lead. It’s tough to play a flawless round, especially around this place.
“I’ll need to make some key putts, whether they are for birdie or pars, and to really put ourselves in a position to go win this tournament on the last nine holes.
“All you want is a shot come Sunday at the Masters, so we got that.”
On Saturday, Fowler eagled the par-5 second, added back-to-back birdies at the par-4 fifth and par-3 sixth and another at the par-5 eighth to make the turn in 31, then added birdies at the par-5 15th and par-4 17th. (Agence France-Presse)