Fowler overcomes final-round meltdown to claim Phoenix win

Fowler overcomes final-round meltdown to claim Phoenix win

Reid Spencer Editor & Publisher
image (AP Photos/Matt York)
Rickie Fowler blew a four-shot lead with sloppy play and bad luck on the opening holes of the back nine at TPC Scottsdale, but he rallied for a two-shot victory with stellar play over the final four holes.

Rickie Fowler survived a back-nine meltdown and a final tense moment on the 72nd hole at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday to win Waste Management Phoenix Open title that has teased and eluded him in recent years.

After wasting all of the four-shot lead he carried into the final round and falling behind South African Branden Grace in the middle of the final nine, Fowler rallied for a two-shot victory.

It wasn’t easy. Needing bogey on the final hole to win, Fowler pulled his tee shot into the tall grass in the “church pew” bunker beyond the lake to the left of the fairway. Fowler drew a decent lie, hacked out short of the green and got up and down for the win.

“I’ll tell you what—it wasn’t fun,” Fowler said. “Other than two holes, it was a pretty darn good round of golf. I felt like we took care of what we needed to do. A couple of bad swings, a couple of bad breaks, but you’ve got to roll with the punches. I think we did a good job today…

“Finally, we got it done. To finally get a win with my dad and my grandma and grandpa around, I’m happy with that. I’m happy to get this one out of the way. It’s been a long time coming to get the win here.”

Fowler’s closing 74 was the highest final-round score by a tournament winner in the 81-year history of the event.

Fowler survived a double bogey on the fifth hole, with no one mounting a serious early charge, he was still five shots clear after making his first birdie of the day on the par-4 10th.

That’s when his round fell apart. Fowler drove into the right rough on the long par-4 11thand played safe to the right of the green with his second shot. But the chip to the back-left pin proved his undoing. The ball slid past the flagstick, rolled to the edge of the green and caught the slope leading down toward the lake to the left of the green.

After the ball trickled into the hazard, Fowler dropped and, with the ball apparently at rest and in play, he walked up the slope to the edge of the green. That’s when the situation got really bizarre. Fowler and his caddie stared in disbelief as the ball suddenly rolled back into the water, costing him another penalty stroke.

After pitching 25 feet past the hole, Fowler drained a 25-foot putt for triple bogey, but that left him one shot ahead of Grace. When Fowler pulled his tee shot on the par-3 12th into a left greenside bunker and made bogey, they were tied at 156 under.

Playing in the group ahead, Grace took his first lead at 16 under on the par-5 13th, holing a short birdie putt to claim a one-shot edge.

That’s when Fowler rallied. He played a courageous second shot from 252 yards on the par-5 15th and two-putted for a birdie that pulled him even. When Grace chopped his way to a bogey on the drivable par-4 17th—hitting his tee shot into the water to the left and blading his third shot into the back bunker—Fowler had regained a one-shot edge he expanded with a gorgeous drive to the front-left of the 17th green and two putts for a birdie that got him to 17 under.

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