During Thursday’s press conference at Kapalua for the PGA Tour’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Rickie Fowler didn’t waste any time revealing a minor detail about his health last year. Starting around the 2012 U.S. Open, Fowler’s lower back started to bother him. Turned out his SI joints, along with his L-4 and L-5 (low back and hips), were inflamed.
“They were pissed off at me,” said the 24-year-old golfer with a smile.
The pain started at the U.S. Open and then he had a month off before the British Open. “It was not fun with how I felt,” said Fowler, who enjoys playing across the pond and links style golf.
Fowler continued to play hurt because he wasn’t in danger of exacerbating the injury, so he took some pills and played through the pain.
How did he hurt himself, anyway? The inflamed joints were caused by poor posture in his set-up and bad habits developed over time.
“If you look at your posture when you set up and when I was getting into my backswing — two years ago, my back bend went forward at the top of my backswing and I was actually going the other way. It was only a difference in like five degrees, but it was more that it had gone from either staying in posture or forward to kind of bending backwards, which doesn’t really work well in the low back.”
To ameliorate the problem, Fowler went back to the good ol’ fundamentals of the swing and didn’t change anything mechanically, but just made sure he wasn’t using his lower back as much.
Listen up, amateur golfers, fundamentals are more important than some may think.
“If you don’t work on your alignment on a day-to-day basis or week-to-week basis, your eyes start to go one way and you start to compensate, and two weeks, there weeks down the road, you’re aimed left but it feels like you’re aimed right,” said Fowler, who notched his maiden victory on the PGA Tour at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, earning him a spot in the Tournament of Champions. “So it’s just the little things, but we’ll definitely be on top of checkups going forward.”
From the end of April through May last year, Fowler posted four top-tens in a row, including his win.
“I had some really good finishes and got my first win which was awesome,” he said when asked to recap the 2012 season. “Then it may have looked kind of funny after that, I was keeping a secret for a while playing injured. I was trying to do my best to get through. I wanted to make it through the Tour Championship, which I did. Then was obviously working toward the Ryder Cup, but fell a little short there.”
He was finally about to take some time off and rehabilitate in time for the World Challenge, aka Tiger Woods’ member-guest, where Fowler said he felt like he was swinging well despite not being 100% healthy. In fact, Fowler still isn’t quite there yet, but he’s always had some low back problems because of the way he swings — he puts a lot of stress on his body. Hence, he’s worked with longtime trainer Coach Noss on injury prevention.
Fowler brought his family with him to Maui, and he’s been enjoying some of the island activities.
Asked if he’s been partaking in activities which *could* potentially lead to injuries — less we forget Geoff Ogilvy’s fall while “playing in the ocean” in 2011 and Lucas Glover’s freak paddleboarding accident in 2012 — he grinned and said, “Of course, why not? Well, I’m holding off on surfing until next week. Ian (Walsh) is going to take me out and put me on some mellow stuff.”
Fowler has been hanging out with several of his Red Bull buddies, Walsh and Kyle Lenny, who live just outside Pe-ahi, the home of “Jaws” — often the biggest wave surfed all year in the world and a spectacular show.
What else has Rickie been doing since arriving in Maui?
“Jumping off a cliff house (a 30-foot jump), mountain bike riding, ” he said. “Nothing I don’t do on a daily basis, though.”
Don’t worry, no need to fret over a last minute roster change in your Fantasy Golf line-up.