MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The best club in Rickie Fowler’s bag is usually his putter, but he’s not complaining that he hasn’t had to use it as much this week. Fowler chipped in for birdie at the last for his second hole out from off the green in as many days en route to shooting 3-under 67 in the second round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Fowler, 31, overcame a double bogey at the par-3 11th to improve to 9-under 131 for 36 holes and trails leader Brendon Todd by two strokes at TPC Southwind.
It doesn’t hurt that the putter has been doing its job so far, too, for Fowler. He holed a 35-foot birdie putt at the eighth hole, his third birdie in a row.
“I was pulling a lot of putts, I was kind of tense with it, so it’s nice to see things kind of pay off,” he said. “The putter’s definitely in a better spot.”
But just when it looked like he may chase down Todd and perhaps claim the 36-hole lead, Fowler rinsed his ball in the water at the 151-yard 11th hole and made double bogey.
“Little 8-iron. I think we had 145 to the hole. We were kind of judging that it was playing about 150 to the hole. So, I made a little bit too soft of a swing, I needed to be hitting maybe a 155 shot to try to fly it a few yards past the hole,” he said. “Probably hit it a little soft, which would have still flown hole high, but on top of that, a couple gusts came up. Bad timing.”
That was the only blemish on Fowler’s card and he finished with birdies on the final two holes, including the chip-in at 18 from 40 feet.
Fowler, a five-time winner on Tour, has been searching for answers after missing back-to-back cuts at the Charles Schwab Challenge and RBC Heritage for the first time since 2016. He’s seeking his first top-10 finish since a T-10 at the American Express Championship in January, a span of 10 events. The last time he played 10 or more consecutive events without a top-10 finish was five tournaments at the end of the 2011 season and the first five of the 2012 season. Fowler, who was ranked No. 9 in the world heading into the 2019 Masters, has fallen to No. 32 in the world during his mini-slump, his lowest ranking since 2013.
“This year hasn’t been my greatest. Been working on a lot of stuff,” said Fowler, who has made swing changes with instructor John Tillery. “I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. I think that’s been my main goal is go through some changes for the better. Sometimes you’ve got to take that step back to take two steps forward. I feel like we already made the step back, I feel like we’ve made a step forward. I’m looking for that next step.”