Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Rickie Fowler
- Rickie Fowler is the favorite to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
- Behind Fowler, Aaron Wise (+2700) and Emiliano Grillo (+3000) could provide top-of-the-board value.
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Just over nine years ago, Rickie Fowler lost the then-Frys.com Open in a playoff.
Conventional wisdom stated that it was only a matter of time until the 20-year-old started winning tournaments on the PGA Tour — and well, that was true to an extent. He won at Quail Hollow three years later, then didn’t win again for three more.
Even now, discussions about Fowler’s immense talents start with what he hasn’t won that what he has. If he’s not the best current player without a major championship, he’s at least near the top of the conversation.
And just last week, when Bryson DeChambeau claimed his fifth career title in just 16 months, the easy comparison around Golf Twitter was to Fowler, who started nearly a decade earlier, but whose odometer remains stuck on four.
I’ve always believed one of the biggest issues for Fowler was that he got too good, too quickly.
Bear with me here: There’s rarely a downside to playing elite-level golf as a young professional, but there might’ve been in this case. By the time he was 21, in just his second year as a pro, Fowler was already qualifying for majors, WGCs and invitationals. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Well, maybe not.
Due to the fact that he progressed so quickly, Fowler largely missed out on the part of the process that would’ve had him competing against similarly accomplished players in smaller events. Sure, he played a few of them here and there, but almost right from the start he was playing in fields that included only the best of the best.
This isn’t to make any excuses for why Fowler, currently the world’s ninth-ranked player, hasn’t won more PGA Tour events. It should simply serve as an explanation. There was a Catch-22 at play: He obviously couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play in those bigger events, but he probably needed some more reps when he was one of the best players on site that week.
Over those last nine years, I think he would’ve been better served playing a few more events like the one he’s competing in this week — the Mayakoba Golf Classic, where for one of the first times in his career, Fowler ranks as the prohibitive favorite.
If he’s wins this tourney from a +900 position, I’m sure some people will simply excuse it away as an event he should’ve won against an inferior field. But I think this is an important one for Fowler, one which could lead to an important dose of confidence and momentum leading into the 2019 campaign.
Let’s move on to my Mayakoba picks, starting with the chalky play who’s rarely been chalk.