Rickie Fowler is the forgotten Hero in the Bahamas...
Orange may be the major colour in 2018...20:28 Monday 4 December 2017, 20:28 4 Dec 2017
It was great to see Tiger Woods back healthy at a golf tournament, showing signs of his old sparkle. After 4 back surgeries, most of us aficionados of the game felt he was toast, done, washed up, finished. I met David Feherty in Dublin last year and as the man 'in the know' across the pond, he was pessimistic about Woods' recovery. Despite an imminent 42nd birthday, Woods is fit as a flea - and once the pain doesn't return, golf is ruled by one factor above all others; natural talent. So it's not inconceivable that Woods will win on the PGA Tour again and contend for a 15th major championship.
It is a fascinating story line ahead of 2018. Tiger contending for a 5th green jacket at Augusta in April would probably break everyone's televisions. One thing I have picked up on with all the hype around his comeback at the Hero World Challenge is that golf is crying out for Tiger's aura, for the intrigue, for the 'will he, won't he', for the magic he once conjured at will to irrevocably change golf, and indeed, sport. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Thomas - none of them have caught the imagination in a durable way as a 'replacement' in terms of the stature Woods had in the game at his peak from 1997 until 2009. There will never be another Tiger. Only Jordan Spieth has produced genuine beauty over the past couple of years to take our breath away. It is over 3 years since Rory won a major.
So if Woods' return after 10 months off in a tame tournament in the benign Bahamas mattered, then Rickie Fowler's 61, the lowest round of his professional career, cannot be overlooked. This was a round on Sunday which saw Fowler roll off seven birdies in a row from the start. It was a highly impressive way for the Californian to finish 2017, building on the momentum of a second place finish in Mexico. Fowler gave himself too much to do in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in August, but he didn't sulk. He has kept going and with this 4 shot victory, he is a healthy seventh in the world rankings.
Now Sergio Garcia has a green jacket, Fowler is the default name in the 'best player to have never won a major' conversation. He's the new bridesmaid. Fowler's putter went a little cold earlier this year, but he possesses the solid all around game required to be a multiple major winner. At the young age of 28, and an 8 time winner around the world, Fowler is coached by the best in the business, Butch Harmon, and the only thing that is missing is a killer instinct down the stretch in a major championship. Fowler has proven with consistent finishes in all 4 majors that no type of golf is unsuitable, so he can be a factor at Augusta, Shinnecock Hills, Carnoustie and Bellerive over the next 12 months. People may question his bottle, but there was nothing wrong with Fowler's fortitude in the way he won the 2015 Players' Championship, the biggest tournament outside the majors, when he crushed 3 iron shots to the notorious 17th green island hole at Sawgrass and made birdie every time. It is my belief that Rickie Fowler will be a multiple major champion and 2018 is the year when that journey begins.
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