Rickie Fowler was one of the most consistent PGA Tour golfers, from 2014 through 2019.
The California native was a fixture on the American Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, and was a regular presence in the Official World Golf Rankings’ top 10.
But since early 2020, Fowler has not been the same player.
Following back-to-back top 10s (T5 Sentry, T10 Amex) to start the new calendar year, Fowler has made 23 PGA Tour starts, stretching over 13 months, and has failed to produce a single top 10. In fact, he has twice as many cuts (10) as top 20s (4) over this stretch.
The slump has seen the 32-year old Fowler fall to No. 66 in the world rankings. To put that ranking in context: from July 2014 through October 2019 – a span of 64 consecutive months, Fowler never once fell outside the OWGR’s top 20, not even a single week. While he was criticized over this time for not winning enough, he was without question one of the most consistent world-class golfers on the planet.
Even the three seasons prior to this stretch, from 2010-2013 – his first three on Tour, a young Fowler bounced around the 20-40 range in the world rankings, with a worst of 43 (2013) and best of 18 (2012).
In fact, following a solo second at the 2010 Memorial, Fowler spent the next 126 MONTHS ranked inside the top 50.
When asked about his current world ranking, Fowler, who is in danger of missing his first Masters since 2010, admitted he wasn’t sure how far he’d fallen but knew he was outside of the top 50, and returning there was a goal (which would punch his ticket to Augusta National).
“Yeah, I mean that’s the short-term goal [return to the top 50],” said Fowler on Tuesday at Bay Hill, ahead of the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“Honestly, I hadn’t really looked at rankings this year, really. I mean, I knew I wasn’t inside the top 50, I didn’t know exactly where I was, it wasn’t necessarily something where I was calculating or saying, I need to do this to get back to here, it’s, play golf.
“Finished off with a nice round on Sunday in L.A., which could have been a lot better, but things are starting to head the right way.
“Like I said, it’s just been a bit slower than I would have liked it to be and, but, yeah, short-term goal, get back inside the top 50 and get this car started back up and get running.”
Fowler, who was married to Allison Stokes in late 2019, said he’s frustrated but tries to avoid bringing that irritation home to his new wife.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s made it at times tough between Joe and I on the course. We have a great relationship, we have known each other for a long time, but when I’m out there and I’m not hitting shots that I’m visualizing and seeing, it’s hard,” said Fowler, who last won in early 2019 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“It’s tough for all of us that are involved, from my caddie, to my wife, she’s having to deal with me at home. I’m trying to be the best husband that I can, not bringing golf back home. But when you’re out on the road that long and on the grind, putting in the work at home — it’s pretty much been all golf.
“A lot of people have asked, have you been able to fish much at home? Not really, I’ve been, the days that I have off I just take completely off and it’s been workout, therapy and golf.
“So, yeah, everyone that’s part of my team from coach, Tillery — I haven’t really seen my agent a whole lot with the restrictions and them not being able to travel — but my trainer, we’re all in this together and we’re going to keep battling it out, but, yeah, it’s been frustrating, I’m ready to be past that.”
A good place to get “past that” would be this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Fowler, who enjoys a special relationship with the Palmer family, has produced three top 20s in his last four starts at Bay Hill.