Rickie Fowler was pleased with his first-round efforts, which saw him rebound from a disastrous early triple bogey to sit two off the lead, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Fowler began his quest for his breakthrough Major, and was flying after birdies at the third and fourth moved him to two-under with his game looking sound from tee to green.
Then calamity struck as he found the fairway bunker on the fifth hole at Quail Hollow.
His first effort hit the lip and almost ricocheted back on to him after striking it thin. He compounded his mistake by hitting his next bunker effort fat, and missed the green from the right rough. After failing to hole his putt, he would drop three shots and move to over par. His day looked as if it was about to take a completely unforeseen direction.
A winner on this course in 2012, Fowler composed himself and quickly got back under par with birdies at the 7th and 9th.
With Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy for company, the 28-year-old gave as good as he got and took advantage of his next scoring hole by making a birdie four on the 10th, despite a wayward drive forcing him to lay up.
With the greens as quick as you’ll find them on tour, Fowler bogeyed the 11th before his sixth and final birdie came on the 14th.
‘You have to drive it in the fairway. That’s definitely key. I feel like I did a pretty good job of that, other than one hole. Happy about the start,’ said Fowler.
He safely navigated the Green Mile to sit two strokes back of Kevin Kisner and Thorbjorn Olesen, and one in front of Rahm. McIlory is one over par after an indifferent day in North Carolina.
Of his error on the fifth, Fowler blamed his drive for the costly mistake, but was happy how he recovered.
‘Well, I mean, I got off to a great start, but I just kind of made a little mental mistake and forgot a swing cue I usually think of and missed the drive. Kind of compounded from having that mistake.
‘It would be nice not to have it. It’s good. I’ve been swinging well. I had a great week Saturday, Sunday last week at Akron.
‘It’s been a good year kind of all across the board. Kind of going through and keeping an eye on stats and making sure that everything is continuing to get better, or kind of figure out what needs to be tightened up.
‘I just need to continue to do what we’ve been doing. I feel like right now we’ve been making really good swings short, mid-iron. Just see if we can put ourselves in the short grass as much as possible, so we can go ahead and do that.’
After his breakthrough win in 2012 at Quail Hollow, Fowler is ready to keep the momentum going.
‘I’ve definitely had a lot of good finishes here. Getting my first win, and then being in contention a couple years ago. This golf course has a great look to me. It suits my eye. I’ve made a lot of putts here. Obviously being on some different surfaces and some of the greens are different.
‘I feel like we did a good job of that on the putting surfaces today. The big thing for me is continuing to drive it, as good as I did today, if not better.’
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