Rickie Fowler’s gesture on 18 instructed us one thing his golf recreation could not

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Rickie Fowler entered Sunday tied with Wyndham Clark however completed the day 5 pictures again.

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LOS ANGELES — As the ultimate putt dropped and the U.S. Open concluded and the gang exploded, one man stood nonetheless.

Some 30 toes away, Wyndham Clark raised his arms in triumph. He started bawling earlier than the ball settled within the backside of the cup. A cameraman arrived by his facet, after which one other, after which one other. Clark buried his face in his hat for a second, hiding his tears from the world, however when he uncovered his eyes the world had come to him. All week the Los Angeles Nation Membership crowd had been critiqued for a scarcity of power, however now the inexperienced was surrounded by a bunch of marauders that had snuck beneath the ropes and charged up the green. They roared their approval for golf’s latest main champion.

Rickie Fowler watched the celebration from the again of the inexperienced, hat in hand and smile on face. After a pair minutes along with his family and friends, Clark ran out of individuals to hug and turned to stroll towards the again of the inexperienced. That’s the place he discovered Fowler, who welcomed him with open arms.

Fowler pulled Clark in tight, yelling his congratulations. After which, simply earlier than they walked away, he leaned in for a quieter message.

“Your mother was with you. She’d be very proud,” he mentioned.

After signing his card and hugging his spouse and scooping up his daughter — who was wowed by the gang however seemingly unaware of the specifics of, say, her father’s 72nd-hole bogey — Fowler walked round a nook and up the steps to the interview room. Runner-up Rory McIlroy had simply vacated the rostrum and lots of members of the press had snuck off in pursuit of Clark and his winner’s speech.

After the primary spherical, wherein Fowler fired a U.S. Open-record 62, he’d confronted a full home of reporters. After his second and third rounds Fowler had held the event lead, so he’d confronted full homes then, too. Now? Most members of the media had been off hoping for a glimpse of his victorious taking part in accomplice.

Fowler regarded out on the near-empty room, flashed a smile and delivered a line, deadpan.

“The place’s everybody at?”

Fowler’s proximity to victory may seem to be it’d be pure ache. A final-round five-over-par 75 might sound that approach, too. This was his event to win! This was the event that might change every little thing! However Fowler selected to explain the week as progress — and it appeared like he meant it when he mentioned it, too.

It’s simple to see why. A 12 months in the past, Fowler was on the U.S. Open, too, however he didn’t get to play. The World No. 145 had almost made it by means of Open Qualifying however had settled at first alternate, which meant he trekked to Brookline, performed observe rounds, prepped his recreation and waited round all Thursday. He even took a break from the day’s wait to speak to a bunch of USGA interns. And when he didn’t finally get to tee it up, he mentioned there was “numerous good things” to remove from the expertise. This was relentless positivity on show.

From the skin, his scenario didn’t appear so clearly constructive. Fowler had made a reputation for himself early in his profession for his major-championship play; his 4 top-fives in 2014 was an unimaginable feat and he’d logged 5 extra main top-10s within the years since. However that first-alternate wait got here within the midst of a stretch wherein Fowler missed 4 out of seven main championships. When he completed final 12 months’s PGA Championship, some individuals questioned if it could be his closing main ever.

What did it imply, then, that he was within the closing pairing only one 12 months later?

“I positively assume we’re heading the suitable path,” Fowler mentioned. “The final 10, 12 months has been nice. I’m heading the suitable path, and we’re nonetheless going ahead and up.”

That’s an understatement.

Fowler admittedly didn’t have his greatest stuff on Sunday. His 75 was the fourth-highest rating of the day, pushing him from tied for first to a three-way share of fifth. He didn’t have management of his irons, dropping almost three strokes to the sphere on method. He started the day dreaming of a maiden main championship, however six holes in he was abruptly 4 pictures again of Clark. By halfway by means of the again 9 he knew that ship had sailed.

Nonetheless, T5 in a serious is value much more than nothing. There’s the test for $738,934, in fact. However extra importantly the displaying vaults Fowler to No. 35 on this planet. It earns him priceless Ryder Cup factors. And it cements the truth that he’s, as soon as once more, a fixture in golf’s higher crust. For McIlroy, Sunday was win or bust. For Fowler? There was lots to be gained by getting this shut.

“I loved it,” Fowler mentioned, summarizing his event. “You study from all of your experiences. Not the place I wished to be in after right now, however numerous good coming from this week.”

I walked with Fowler’s group for a lot of the day. I used to be that I by no means noticed a touch of frustration nor rage. Not after a crushed chip-shot at No. 2. Not after a three-putt at No. 5. Not after a blocked tee shot at No. 7. Fowler cited a stroll down the sixteenth gap because the second he realized his possibilities at profitable had formally evaporated. I occurred to be alongside him on that stroll and he was inscrutable, impassive and immobile save for the swinging of his outsized water bottle.


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That’s per the model of this man we’ve seen during the last couple years. Even when Fowler spoke about his struggles he by no means let on that they’d shaken his core nor imperiled his psyche. We knew, intuitively, that it couldn’t be that straightforward. There should have been moments. Like, say, when he watched the 2021 Masters alongside an injured Tiger Woods in Jupiter, or when he watched the 2021 Ryder Cup from dwelling, or when he slipped from the highest 100 on this planet. You don’t go from a fixture atop the sport to an also-ran with an unsure future with out accumulating a bit of scar tissue. However regardless of (or maybe due to) how a lot time he spends within the public eye, Fowler remained cloaked in an air of unknowability.

That’s the place the orange has all the time been deceptive. If there’s one phrase informal golf followers may use to explain Fowler, it’s orange. On Sunday, his head was adorned with a swatch of the colour so shiny it was onerous to look straight at him. Maybe that’s the purpose; it’s simple to see simply how shiny that orange is and understand you don’t know all that a lot in regards to the man beneath it.

Again to that gesture on 18, then. Rickie ready to greet his profitable mates on their closing gap has turn out to be his trademark transfer. For Justin Thomas. For Tiger Woods. For Brooks Koepka. And so forth. There’s all the time been a component of tragedy in Fowler celebrating others’ main accomplishments with out attending to have fun any of his personal. He’s gotten some grief for that actual factor. However displaying up in your mates is a basically respectable factor to do, no matter your personal standing. It was simpler than ever to hug the winner on this Sunday, given Fowler was in the identical group. However he went out of his approach to make the second with Clark — who has lengthy regarded as much as Fowler — notably significant.

Fowler has constructed his model on flash plus substance. However his Sunday was a reminder that you’re what you do. His recreation wasn’t sufficient to earn a U.S. Open title. However when he completed his media obligations he headed to the identical place he’d gone after the primary spherical, and the second spherical, and the third spherical, too: the Autograph Zone. He signed and signed and signed till each child there was happy along with his work. There’s no faking it by means of prolonged autograph classes — you both do ’em otherwise you don’t.

Rickie Fowler didn’t go away LACC totally happy. However he went out of his approach to ensure that others did. His golf recreation seems to be almost all the best way again. That different, extra necessary high quality by no means left.

The writer (cautiously) welcomes your feedback at dylan_dethier@golf.com.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior author for GOLF Journal/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams Faculty, the place he majored in English, and he’s the writer of 18 in America, which particulars the 12 months he spent as an 18-year-old dwelling from his automotive and taking part in a spherical of golf in each state.



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