Rickie Fowler has newfound fond memories of TPC Boston, the scene of his clutch, one-stroke win over Henrik Stenson in last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship. He will return to the venue starting Friday hoping to put last week’s stunning collapse at The Barclays as far in the rear-view mirror as possible and prove to captain Davis Love III that he deserves a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“I hadn’t had a good tournament here until last year, so I finally started to like this place more,” Fowler, who enters the second of four stages of the FedEx Cup series in 16th place in the playoff standings, said during media day earlier this month. “There’s nothing really bad to say about it other than the fact that I hadn’t played well up until last year. So we’ve got that out of the way, and I love this place now.”
Better late than never for the Ryder Cup wannabe, since this week’s event on the 7,214-yard, par-71 track could be its last. The title sponsor has yet to renew its contract beyond 2016, and if the PGA Tour decides to drop one tourney from the playoff rotation, the DBC — a New England Labor Day weekend tradition since 2003 (and a FedEx Cup destination since 2007) — could be the odd contest out.
The top 99 FEC players (No. 86 Danny Willett chose instead to defend his title in the European Masters) will play in what could be the DBC swan song. It’s a strong field, with the 10 best golfers in the world rankings in attendance, if Stenson can overcome the knee injury that forced him to withdraw from The Barclays after carding a first-round 74. Only 70 will advance to Crooked Stick next week for the BMW Championship.
Fowler comes in as No. 8 in the world and with good vibes from 2015, though he arrives in New England knowing he let the lead and an opportunity to earn an automatic Ryder Cup slot slip away down the stretch at The Barclays.
.@RickieFowler makes the turn as a co-leader.
— Charlie Kane (@PGATOURKane) August 28, 2016
Unfortunately for his team chances, Fowler’s closing 3-over 74 at Bethpage Black, which included three bogeys and a double, garnered just his second top-10 finish in his last nine tour events.
Rickie Fowler went from 4th in the Ryder Cup standings to 11th in 8 holes.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 28, 2016
With a title defense, as well as a ticket to Hazeltine, on the line, Fowler has plenty of incentive to put up good numbers this week, though he certainly remains in the skipper’s good graces.
“Rickie is trending up” – DL3 on who may be captain’s pick for US #RyderCup2016 team. Sure sounds like Fowler will be at Hazeltine
— Emily Kay (@golfexaminer) August 29, 2016
“Disappointing finish,” Fowler said after finishing T7 at Bethpage, three shots back of winner Patrick Reed. “I mean, it will hurt, but it’s only going to make it better for next week. I’ll be in a good spot.”
Which is not to say the three-time tour winner would turn down a mulligan for his back nine at Bethpage. Was he more frustrated with his inability to nail down the Barclays win or his failure to make it into the top eight automatic Ryder Cup qualifiers, inquiring minds wanted to know.
“Not closing out the tournament,” he said, “because that would have taken care of both.”
Fowler looks for a solid start when he pegs it up at 1:16 p.m. ET on tee No. 1 on Friday with Hideki Matsuyama and William McGirt.