Rickie Fowler has arrived in Lancashire full of confidence and ready to take on the distinct charms and challenges of Royal Birkdale for the first time.
“I love playing links golf so it is fun for me to come over for The Open,” says Fowler in an exclusive interview with ParGolf. “This is my first time to Birkdale. I love playing links and some of the different shots you need, and to use my imagination a bit more.”
Fowler, 28, has top-10 finishes in his last three starts, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in June and a tie for ninth at last week’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
The American also brings Open pedigree, with a pair of top-five finishes in seven starts – including a runner-up finish behind Rory McIlroy at Royal Liverpool in 2014 – which emphasizes his comfort on British links.
“You have to embrace the challenge and understand that you are going to get some funny bounces, some bad bounces on a good shot, but also you might get a couple good bounces that save bad shots,” he says. “That is just the way links golf is. The courses were laid out on the land very naturally and the courses play depending on how that ground lies.
“And coming up the 18th in The Open is definitely one of the coolest walks in golf. They have the grandstands up both sides and that is very special, with the crowd in a horseshoe around the green. It is a bit like walking into an arena. But even with that, nothing beats the walk up 18 on the Old Course at St Andrews. That is the Home of Golf.”
It was on the Old Course that Fowler made his Open debut in 2010, and he emulated Tiger Woods in making his way around the Old Course without his ball dropping into a single bunker over 72 holes. Unlike Woods though – who avoided all sand in storming to a record-setting victory in 2000 – Fowler shot 79 in his first round.
“The key to links golf is staying out of the bunkers,” he says. “I did a very good job of that in my first Open at St Andrews, but 79 is a really high score when you have not even been in a single bunker. I shot 79 the hard way.”
It was windy. I actually played pretty decent until I made a triple and a double coming in, just a couple of mistakes at a bad time. Then I played well in a bit of wind on the Friday to make the cut and I played very well over the last two rounds. In the end it was a nice way to start my Open career.”
Fowler posted 79-67-71-67 that week to finish in a tie for 14th.
“I have had good finishes in the Open, even from the wrong side of the draw,” he adds, “and part of the challenge here is just to fight through that. You just have to cope with what you are dealt. I hope I end up on the good side of the draw and get off to a nice start this week.”
In search of a first major title, Fowler tees off in the late half of the first round on Thursday, at 1:26pm with Adam Scott and Paul Casey.
Rickie Fowler is a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz – an Official Patron and the Official Car of The Open.