Ugly, but effective is a phrase often used in sports, reserved for those who get the job done in a not-so aesthetically pleasing manner. This would be a very accurate description of Rickie Fowler’s final round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
At the end of the day, all that will matter to Fowler is that he walked away with his fifth career US PGA Tour victory, but the way that he did it is not something he’ll want to get used to. Fowler carded a final-round three-over 74, one that included a bogey, a double-bogey and what looked to be a catastrophic triple bogey at the par-4 11th. After arriving at the 11th tee with a five-shot lead, Fowler walked off the green leading by only one, then found himself a shot behind Branden Grace a hole later, after Grace had made back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th holes.
Rickie Fowler has made a triple bogey 7.
The lead is down to 1. pic.twitter.com/1gZxTfJvVJ
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 3, 2019
But Fowler hung in there, making birdies at 15 and 17 while Grace fell apart in front of him. Even after a poor drive at the 18th, Fowler was able to save par and secure the two-shot win, his first at the Waste Management. Fowler was well aware of how chaotic it all looked.
“I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t fun,” he said. “But other than two holes, it was a pretty darn good round of golf. I felt like we took care of what we needed to do. Couple of bad swings, couple of bad breaks, you kind of have to roll with the punches and I think we did a good job of that today, putting things behind us and keep moving forward.”
Fowler is of course referring to his poor record with the 54-hole lead, of which he’s now had seven in his career and converted just two. In all seven, including this win and his 2017 win at the Honda Classic, he’s carded an over-par round. But the win is all that matters as an emotional Fowler explained afterwards.
“No.11 could have turned this tournament the complete opposite way, and, finally we got it done,” said Fowler, who has finished runner-up at TPC Scottsdale twice. “To finally get a win with my dad, grandma and grandpa around, happy about that.”
Grace looked like he may run away with the tournament late on the back nine, but after not taking advantage of the par-5 15th he safely played his tee shot at 16 well right of the pin and two-putted for par. Then at 17 he took out his driver and went for the green, but his ball found the pond left of the putting surface. After taking a drop, he hit his third shot into the back bunker, leading to a bogey. A par at 18 gave him a two-under 69, two shots short of a playoff.
Fowler’s playing partners, Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar, never applied much pressure in the final round. Thomas posted a one-over 72 to finished alone in third, while Kuchar shot a four-over 75 to tie for fourth with Bubba Watson and Chez Reavie.
The leading Australian this week was Cameron Smith, who shared 15th place at nine-under after a closing 72.