Cheerleader Rickie Fowler needs to get his US Open priorities straight

Cheerleader Rickie Fowler needs to get his US Open priorities straight

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — We’ve seen Rickie Fowler celebrating at the end of major championships, wearing a wide smile and offering handshakes. But so far, he has been the one doing the congratulating and not the one receiving the congratulations.

Whether it was Justin Thomas winning the 2017 PGA Championship or Tiger Woods claiming his fifth Masters at Augusta National in April, Fowler has been there to greet the winner as he comes off the 18th green, something he says he enjoys, but also something that has to be getting old for someone who has yet to win his own major. Fowler hopes to change that this weekend at the 119th U.S. Open championship at Pebble Beach.

“It’s a love/hate thing,” Fowler said of being part of a major winner’s welcoming committee. “You don’t want to be there necessarily congratulating the other guys. You want them to be there congratulating you. But I think it just shows how much respect there is between players. We appreciate good golf.”

Fowler, 30, has already made a career of good golf, having won nine times worldwide. He has four top-10 finishes this year, including a win early at the Waste Management Open. He’s coming off a tie for 14th at the Memorial after a disappointing tie for 36th at the PGA Championship. Fowler said he “wasn’t in a good spot” with his swing at Bethpage Black, but regained his form at the Memorial and feels good coming into the U.S. Open.

He played 18 holes Sunday to get acquainted with the golf course and just nine holes Monday.

“The big thing is just staying rested and ready to go come Thursday,” Fowler said.

He’s more than ready to win a major, having posted nine top-10 finishes in majors since 2013.

It’s nice to congratulate your friends after they’ve won one of the most coveted tournaments in the world. But his biggest moment in the majors this year has to get better than hugging Woods after he won at Augusta.

“Being there for Tiger and the win at Augusta, it was obviously a big moment in his career and the history of golf,” said Fowler, who finished tied for ninth. “Once I’m done on 18 and left everything out there and done everything I can do, you want to show that respect. It’s cool to see your buddies play well.”

It should get annoying, too. Fowler knows he has the game to win a major. And just about the whole PGA Tour is rooting for him to win one sooner rather than later. His best finish at a U.S. Open was a tie for second in 2014 when he shot 72 in the final round at Pinehurst. He also had a tie for fifth at Erin Hills in 2017. But coming close ultimately doesn’t count for much.

“Obviously there are a lot of great players that haven’t won a major,” Fowler said. “It’s not necessarily something I think about or worry about. I know that when the time is right, it’s going to happen. And I’ve been in the position to have a chance and be right there in the mix come Sunday. I don’t necessarily put my life on it, looking at what success is.

“If I don’t win a major, that’s not going to necessarily define me. Do I want to win a major? Yes. I would love to and then knock off some more after that. But it’s not going to define who I am. But I’m going to continue to go out and put the work in and put myself in position to go do it. I’m looking forward to it, especially the last few years with how comfortable the major weeks have felt, [it’s] just a matter of time.”

Sometimes you’d like to see a little more fire from Fowler. But that can be hard when you’re young, handsome and rich. You never saw Woods waiting to congratulate David Duval or anyone else he lost to.

Yes, this is a different era, but maybe it’s time for Fowler to start worrying more about putting four good rounds together and being disappointed if he doesn’t go from cheerleader to major champion.

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