Wells Fargo Championship: Can Rickie Fowler get ‘the monkey off his back’ at Quail Hollow again?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rickie Fowler chased a Masters berth to the finish line but came up short, marking the second straight year he’s had to watch the first men’s major of the year on TV from home.

“I ended up watching a decent amount as I think everyone does. I was out playing golf and I watched some of the live streaming stuff on my phone, but that was some motivation to be back,” Fowler said on Wedensday ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship. “We were close, but I put myself in a little bit too big of a hole to get back there.”

Fowler, 34, has climbed from No. 103 at the end of last year to No. 53 in the Official World Golf Ranking entering this week at Quail Hollow, one of his favorite hunting grounds, and has recorded seven top 20s in his last eight starts on the PGA Tour. He’s locked up a berth to the PGA Championship in two weeks and is on track to qualify for the U.S. Open in June if he can remain inside the top 60.

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Fowler, who resumed working with instructor Butch Harmon late last year, said the struggle was real but he feels he has turned the corner and he actually benefited from persevering through his dark period.

“I wish it was shorter,” he said. “But it’s fun to see the reward of OK, we’re going to battle through this, keeping working on whatever it may be to ultimately be in this position.”

Could this be the week when all the pieces in the puzzle fit and Fowler returns to the winner’s circle for the first time since the 2019 WM Phoenix Open? Fowler returns to a place where he won his first PGA Tour title in 2012. He faced off with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a three-way playoff. Having already overcome a three-shot deficit on the final day by firing a 3-under 69 to join a playoff when Points bogeyed the final hole of regulation, Fowler, then 23, returned to No. 18 and attacked a dicey pin with a creek hugging the green’s left side. Fowler’s gamble paid off as he stuffed the shot to four feet and made the birdie putt to claim his first of what has grown to five Tour wins.

Rickie Fowler holds the trophy after winning the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, May 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

“It was great to finally get the monkey off my back,” he said, noting that he was scheduled to share a flight to the Players Championship in Florida with Ben Curtis and Geoff Ogilvy, who sat and waited on the tarmac for Fowler to do his winner’s duties. “I think I ended up picking up the flight.”

How sweet will that next ‘W’ feel? “Nothing ever replaces the first but the next will be pretty special,” he said, “but I don’t think it will ever touch the first.”