Rickie Fowler came into the Wells Fargo Championship off a bit of a break.
For the first time after 10 consecutive years participating in the Masters, Fowler didn’t qualify. It was the first time he missed a major championship since the 2010 U.S. Open, and he’s ranked 111th in the world with his struggles well documented.
Fowler’s last victory came at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. While he didn’t get the opportunity to compete in Augusta, he did watch the event with a pretty famous friend.
“I did go over and watch a little bit with Tiger (Woods), so it was fun to be able to do that, talk about the course,” Fowler said. “Thursday, we were watching (the first round) and just how firm and fast and kind of such a fine line how Augusta can be. We were kind of — we were definitely both very disappointed that we couldn’t be out there to experience it because it’s very few times where you do get to see Augusta that firm and fast.”
Woods, of course, missed the Masters for different reasons after suffering major injuries to his right leg in a February car accident. Fowler said that he thinks Woods is in a good place, considering what he’s going through.
“(We were) both disappointed that we’re not out there playing,” Fowler said. “But he’s not lacking any fire in there right now. He never has.”
The opportunity for Fowler, 32, to watch the event on television with Woods, someone he has looked up to, is something that he doesn’t take for granted.
“Whether you’re younger, older, whatever, just to see what he was able to accomplish, especially through those early 2000s, even after coming back from different injuries, winning on a broken leg to coming back after a big layoff and winning the Masters a couple years ago. Yeah, we all pull for him,” Fowler said.
It was recently revealed that Fowler received a controversial special invitation to the PGA Championship despite being outside the top 100 based on his and John Catlin’s “performances, playing records and (world golf ranking) position.”
Fowler returned to play at Quail Hollow in Charlotte on Thursday, where he won his first of five PGA Tour wins back in 2012. He was doing well in the second half of the first round Thursday, and was 3 under par through 16 holes. However, he ended the day with two consecutive bogeys, including his ball finding water on the final hole. He shot a 1-under-par 70 for the round.
“I felt good about a lot of things out there, felt like I left some shots out there, but to get 3 under on a morning that wasn’t playing that easy necessarily. Unfortunate to give a couple away on the last two coming in,” Fowler said. “Red numbers on Thursday are good. I’ve had some struggles getting off to decent starts over the last year or so. Step in a right direction, but still got some work to do.”