Golf: Fowler stumbles again but gets job done at last

Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES • Rickie Fowler survived a nerve-racking back nine on Sunday to shoot a three-over 74, outduelling Branden Grace down the stretch to win the Phoenix Open for his fifth PGA Tour title.

He closed with the highest score by a winner in tournament history but still managed to banish some demons at TPC Scottsdale.

He had held the 54-hole lead twice before, including last year when he finished in a tie for 11th.

"I had to dig deep and fight through. It wasn't easy out there," said the American. "I am happy to get this one out of the way.

"It has been a long time to get a win here. There have been plenty of good finishes, but too many second-place finishes."

His 17-under 267 total was good enough for a two-shot win over Grace, who held the lead briefly but bogeyed the 17th. The South African eventually closed with a second straight 69.

American Justin Thomas was third after a 72 to finish three strokes back of his buddy Fowler.

For a while, it appeared the tournament might be heading for a play-off for a fourth straight year as both Fowler and Grace found sand and water on the back nine.

Playing in driving rain, Fowler had to survive a shocking triple-bogey on the par-four 11th.

His third shot, a pitch from 35 yards, skidded through the green, and rolled down a slope into a lake. He took a penalty stroke before walking up to the green to assess how he would execute what would have been his fifth shot.

However, while he was doing so, the ball rolled back into the water, and Fowler had to summon a rules official to ascertain his options. According to Rule 9-3, there was no penalty for the ball moving, but he had to play it from where it lay and he had no option but to take another penalty stroke.

He eventually sank a 15-footer and walked off the green not even sure what score he had recorded.

He then followed his triple-bogey with another bogey on No. 12.

But he regained his poise, and his reputation, with two birdies down the stretch, including one on the 17th where he had a nice approach shot and then a two-putt birdie.

On the final hole, he hit his third shot to within three feet of the hole and then tapped in for his first victory since the 2017 Honda Classic.

"It wasn't fun," said Fowler, who had a five-shot lead at the 11th tee before a mix of poor decision-making, poor execution and bad luck cost him. "Couple of bad swings, couple of bad breaks. You have to roll with the punches."

"Number 11 could have turned this tournament the complete opposite way, and, finally we got it done," added Fowler, who has had seven career 54-hole leads and converted just two. "To finally get a win with my dad, grandma and grandpa around, happy about that."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2019, with the headline 'Fowler stumbles again but gets job done at last'. Print Edition | Subscribe