By Martyn Herman
HOYLAKE, England, July 20 (Reuters) - Four superb rounds in the 60s on an Open course ready punish the smallest errors should have been enough for American Rickie Fowler to have had something bubbly in the old Claret Jug on Sunday.
The 25-year-old with the looks of a Hollywood heart-throb fired a six-under-par fourth round 66 at the Royal Liverpool course alongside the Merseyside coast to complete a collection of cards which included two 69s and a 68.
Sadly for him a certain Northern Irishman named Rory McIlroy was just that little bit better, even if he could only boast three rounds in the 60s.
Only two players, Jesper Parnevik in 1994 and twice Open champion Ernie Els in 1995, have suffered a similar fate.
In the end Fowler had to make do with a share of second place with Spain's Sergio Garcia, two shots adrift, but was not feeling blue in his bright orange garb.
"It's hard to be disappointed about it, because it was such a great week," Fowler, who has now got two second places and a fifth in the year's first three majors, told reporters.
"It's kind of similar to being one of the only guys at the U.S. Open to be under par and not win.
"It feels like I should be here. I'm definitely pleased with it. There's plenty more to come. I'll take 15-under in a lot of majors and sit there and wait in the clubhouse.
"Congratulations to Rory. He played awesome. And it was just kind of fun to throw a few shots at him coming in. To see him win was pretty cool."
McIlroy, the same age as Fowler, has won three majors already as well as numerous prestigious titles on both the PGA Tour and European Tour.
Surprisingly for a man of his talent, Fowler has only a solitary PGA Tour victory to his name, yet watching him tussling with Garcia on Saturday and then McIlroy in the final group on Sunday it was clear he lives for the big stages.
"Rory is obviously doing well with three majors now," he said. "I definitely have some catching up to do.
"But I am getting closer. It's been fun to be in contention at the majors this year.
"I'll definitely be looking next year as to how I want to schedule my way around the year and my main focus going forward will be on the biggest events, and trying to prepare to be where I'm at in majors," he said.
Fowler and McIlroy clearly have a lot of respect for each other's games and will no doubt be walking down the stretch together fighting for many more majors.
The Californian confidently predicts that McIlroy can complete his set of majors, sooner rather than later, by winning the Masters - but not without a fight.
"I really don't have any doubt that he'll win there," he said. "It would be nice if I can get him first there.
"It's hard to say that there's really any course that doesn't suit him when he's on his game. And I've seen him play very well there. It's just a matter of time. Like I said, it would be nice if I can get that one before he does though." (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Tony Goodson)