Rickie Fowler: What Could Have Been
By Merf under British Open

You know the old golf cliche: You can’t win a tournament on the first day, but you can lose it? Rickie Fowler tried as hard as he could to disprove that golf axiom after a disastrous first-round 79. He hauled ass to make the cut on the number with a 5-under 67 Friday, and then shot 71-67 on the weekend to reach 4-under for the championship and tie for 14th — an incredible turnaround.

Yes, he had a favorable draw Friday, and then got morning tee times Saturday and Sunday as he worked his way up from the back of the pack. But did you know that his 11-under the final three rounds of the British Open was tops out of anyone in the field? (Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen only shot 9-under.)

Fowler closed out his final-round 67 with four birdies in the last six holes, including a monstrous 100-plus foot bomb on the Road Hole. (There’s video buried in this highlight package, although you have to wade through all the obligatory Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson shots, and put up with a clueless sportscaster. Right after the Fowler putt — which happens at the 1:43 mark — there’s also Graeme McDowell doinking his drive off the pin on the 18th hole.)

After watching Fowler finish, I’ve got to wonder: Was his slow start preventable? Fowler was a nice guy and all for sticking with his commitment to the John Deere Classic, but playing there might have submarined his chances to seriously contend this week. Fowler found out the Sunday before the John Deere that he had received an exemption to the British Open, the very thing he was trying to earn at that tournament in the first place.

Instead of bailing early and prepping for his first British Open, Fowler did the John Deere a favor by playing, bumping up the percentage of teenage girls in the gallery before taking the courtesy charter Sunday night, meaning didn’t get to St. Andrews until Monday afternoon. So he had that jet-lagged half day, plus Tuesday, and then there was a monsoon Wednesday. Not much prep.

I know Fowler is only 21, and this looks like the first of what should be many British Opens for him. I’m sure it was a tough decision. But it certainly would have been understandable if Fowler put a major first — especially his first British Open.

[AP Photo/Tim Hales]