KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Whereas making an attempt to work his approach by way of a irritating droop that has seen him drop to 128th on the planet rankings, Rickie Fowler has discovered motivation from an unlikely golf rival: Michael Jordan.
The basketball Corridor of Famer and golf nut has his personal course in Hobe Sound, Florida, the place Fowler places in a majority of follow time — together with an ever-growing variety of matches towards Jordan.
Definitely nowhere close to Fowler’s degree on the subject of golf prowess, Jordan nonetheless serves as a worthy adversary. In accordance with Fowler, the over/beneath on Jordan’s rounds is 77. And since Fowler should give Jordan 10 photographs of their numerous difficult matches, it forces him to push exhausting and go low.
“I used to be 7-under par by way of 17 holes [recently] and misplaced,” Fowler mentioned. “And he isn’t quiet about it. [But] taking part in towards MJ is nearly as good because it will get for prep.”
Fowler, 32, opened the PGA Championship on Thursday with a 1-under-par 71 at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Which may not appear so spectacular however given the place Fowler has been, any under-par rating is one thing to attempt to construct on. When Fowler completed his spherical early Thursday afternoon, he was within the prime 10 and simply two photographs behind clubhouse leaders Brooks Koepka, Keegan Bradley and Viktor Hovland.
Fowler has not completed higher than a tie for twentieth within the 11 occasions he is performed in 2021. He is seen his world rating — which was twenty third on the finish of 2019 — fall to 53 on the finish of 2020, and it’s now 128. He is missed the lower at his previous two begins, did not play within the Masters for the primary time since 2010 after which acquired a controversial exemption to play within the PGA Championship.
“Yeah, it has been robust,” mentioned Fowler, a five-time PGA Tour winner who in 2014 completed within the prime 5 in all 4 main championships however did not win any. “Particularly figuring out that at occasions, tee to inexperienced, it has been lots higher than what issues could present or look. Partly due to issues not placing nicely or simply not having the ball go in.
“A whole lot of it’s simply you begin to see some putts go in, and the opening begins to look lots greater, however as quickly as you miss a couple of, it begins to shrink up on you. That is at present the place issues have been. It is good to at the least make some putts right now. I hit some good putts, and I type of attribute that to the work we put in earlier this week.”
Fowler mentioned that as his struggles along with his sport elevated, his placing left him, making it that rather more troublesome when he started to seek out some type along with his swing.
“I am beginning to really feel fairly darn good,” he mentioned. “The previous few months, it has been much more simply go play golf and never play golf swing. Put quite a lot of time in previous to the previous few months of engaged on swing and doing the stuff we type of wanted to work on and achieve. Now it is simply go play golf.
“Sadly, by way of that point, the putter has gone fairly chilly, if not the coldest it is ever been for me, and that is been a membership I have been in a position to depend on by way of my profession from junior golf on up. So I am very proud of the place we’re at. Issues can nonetheless get higher, however we’re again to taking part in golf and hitting photographs and having enjoyable.”
Fowler, who was in one of many featured teams Thursday and stays one of many sport’s hottest gamers, mentioned he felt no further stress having acquired an invitation. The PGA of America sometimes has quite a few invites to provide, and sometimes makes certain all who’re within the prime 100 on the planet get a spot within the area.
Fowler acquired one in every of 38 exemptions that had been prolonged.
“It is extra motivation,” he mentioned. “Clearly very appreciative to have the chance to be right here.”
He additionally will get motivation from Jordan, whose unique Grove XXIII course opened in 2019 and has fewer than 100 members.
“I feel not having handy over any cash to MJ has been most likely a few of the greater wins due to how Grove units up for him, the place he is in a position to press [various wagers],” Fowler mentioned. “If I can win the unique match and lose — not have him flip the unique match due to the press or a number of presses. So if I do not lose cash to him, that is really a win.”