Rickie Fowler snapped a winless streak dating back to the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship 13 months ago to claim the Honda Classic in Florida.
Fowler closed with a topsy-turvy, one-over-par 71 to edge Gary Woodland and Morgan Hoffmann by four shots in a victory built primarily on his opening three rounds that propelled him to 13-under-par at the fickle and fascinating Champion course at PGA National. A hot putter plus a field-leading 21 birdies for the week also helped.
Fowler struggled early in the final round, driving a ball into the water at the sixth hole en route to a double-bogey then finding trees with back-to-back tee shots to close the front nine. However, birdie putts of 38 and 23 feet at the 12th and 13th holes, respectively, eased the pressure valve and made his two closing bogeys incidental in a four-shot victory – the same margin he began Sunday with.
Reinforcing the difficulty of closing at this tournament is the fact none of the past four winners have broken par in the final round of the Honda Classic, yet eight of the 11 third-round leaders since it moved to PGA National have held on to take the trophy.
After Jordan Spieth’s romp at Pebble Beach and Dustin Johnson’s clinical performance at Riviera, this marks the first time since 2005 that three consecutive US Tour events were claimed by four or more strokes. It’s also Fowler’s first title in America since September 2015 and his fourth on his home circuit.
Defending champion Adam Scott was the pick of the Australians, closing with a two-under 68 to finish equal 14th at four-under.
In other news, the reshuffle of the Official World Golf Ranking will see Hideki Matsuyama rise to fourth in the world, matching the highest-ever position of a Japanese golfer (Tommy Nakajima).
* South African veteran Darren Fichardt won for the first time in four years as he and two other European Tour journeymen booked British Open starts at the Joburg Open.
Fichardt edged Welshman Stuart Manley and England’s Paul Waring by a stroke after the tournament was cut to 54 holes due to persistent storms and flooding. As a qualifying event for the 146th Open Championship, all three men can count on being at Royal Birkdale this July.
Fichardt birdied the 54th and final hole at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to sneak ahead and claim a fifth European Tour title after a period of searching for his game during tournaments.
“The form I have been having the past couple of months has been horrendous, but I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to play as many tournaments as I can and just get my game right. And yeah, it worked out,” Fichardt said.
“It’s good to win again. It’s just nice to see hard work paying off.”
* Gold Coast-schooled Korean Amy Yang captured the weather-beaten Honda LPGA Thailand, setting a tournament-record 22-under-par to defeat So Yeon Ryu by five shots for her third LPGA title.
Yang birdied the 72nd hole to eclipse the 21-under figure set by Suzann Pettersen a decade ago and matched by Ai Miyazato in 2010. Yang also rose from 11th in the world rankings to eighth.
Rain and thunderstorms forced the winner to play 31 holes on Saturday and 23 on Sunday in a marathon dash to get all 72 holes completed on time, yet the frenetic pace allowed Yang to find a groove as she made only two bogeys for the week – both on par 5s.
“You know, very happy, beyond happy,” Yang said. “[It] wasn’t easy with rain delays and 4am wake-up calls two days in a row. But I stayed really patient out there, did my best, and very happy to win the tournament.
“It’s always nice to be back here playing,” Yang said of Thailand. “I love this place. I love the people here. And with my parents, spending time with them here, it’s just great every time.”
Perth’s Minjee Lee started brightly with a 67 on Thursday but fell to equal 25th over the weekend.