It wasn’t particularly pretty on Sunday, but Rickie Fowler picked up his fourth PGA Tour win at The Honda Classic.
For the first time in four tries in his PGA Tour career, Fowler converted a 54-hole lead, maintaining the four-shot edge he had to start the final round at PGA National’s Champion Course. In the end, Fowler bogeyed the final hole to shoot 1-over 71 at cap off the win at 12-under 268.
The final round didn’t get off to a great start for Fowler, who, after a birdie on the par-5 third then dropped a shot at the following hole. Two holes later, Fowler’s tee shot found the water hazard left and led to a double bogey. However, Fowler steadied the ship, managing to not drop another shot on the front side. A par at the 10th hole kept his edge at two.
Back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes were the sealing circles on the card, scored with a 39-foot putt followed by a 24-footer.
Fowler came to the Bear Trap — holes 15, 16 and 17 at the Champion Course — needing to simply avoid disaster to win. He got through 15 and 16 in 1 under with an impressive birdie on the 16th hole. However, Fowler tried to cut his tee shot into the 17th into the green, toward the water. His ball started too far right and sailed too far right, finding the water hazard. Rather than bothering to even scope out if his ball was playable from the water, Fowler moved forward to the drop zone and put his third shot to 6 feet before converting the bogey putt.
From there, Fowler simply had to finish dry. He did that, albeit with a bogey, ending a winless drought that went back to the 2015 Deutsche Bank Championship.
The victor credited his work over the first three rounds and his putter for getting him through a tough round in windy conditions.
“To be in the position I was after 54 holes here, give myself that cushion, allowed for a tough day today,” he said. “With the wind, there weren’t a whole lot of low scores. I think there were some early on. Some guys made some good moves. But other than that, like I said, I gave myself enough cushion where I could kind of get away a bad nine, which I started with, and then lucky enough, the putter saved me at times and gave me that cushion I needed on 12 and 13, and made a great swing into 16.”
The win, the cap to a great start, albeit on a limited schedule, to his season, puts Fowler in stout company that has won on the PGA Tour in 2017. Fowler humbly remains convinced he hasn’t earned the right to be mentioned in the same company as the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. Add in Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama, and that’s the lead crop of the next decade on the PGA Tour.
“I want to continue to play well and I want to be, whether I’m talked about with those guys or not, I just want to play the best that I can and keep pushing myself,” he said, “and ultimately just keep trying to put myself in position to win and start collecting more of these.”