Rickie Fowler scored a six on the infamous Island Green at Sawgrass on Sunday during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship. No shame in that. The pros have dumped as many as 50 golf balls into the water on the Stadium Course’s shortest hole during a single round. There are always a handful of the dreaded “others” marked on scorecards at the 17th hole.
But Fowler’s six was a bit different. It was a cumulative total of playing the dastardly 132-yard hole three times in 2-2-2 to win the biggest tournament of his career after two playoff rounds. The third birdie at the water-encircled green dispatched Kevin Kisner and capped one of the most improbable comebacks in years on the PGA Tour. It is even more impressive since two hours earlier, half a dozen players were chasing the lead of Sergio Garcia… and Fowler, the eccentric Puma and Cobra spokesman, was not one of them.
He was working his way indifferently through the back nine, even par on the day, when a 15-foot birdie putt fell on 449-yard 15th hole. A bold approach over water on the par-five 16th took a Fowler-friendly bounce to within 30 inches for a kick-in eagle, and suddenly the 26-year old Californian was rolling. Fowler stuck a wedge shot to six-feet on the 17th for another birdie and rapped home still one more 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Check out this awesome video of his walk in between 17 and 18. His total of 11 strokes over the final four holes, five under par, was the best finish ever at the Players Championship and catapulted the popular Fowler to the top of the leader board.
There were still a flurry of birdies left on the golf course; however, when the smoke cleared on a crystalline Florida afternoon, Garcia and American journeyman Kisner (ranked number 123 in the world) had joined Fowler at 276. THE PLAYERS Championship fancies itself the “Fifth Major” and has instituted a three-hole playoff to crown a champion in the fashion of the Royal & Ancient’s Open Championship, so it was back to the 16th they went.
On the first hole of the aggregate playoff there were pars all around, but Kisner and Fowler both converted birdies inside ten feet at the Island Green. Garcia, who had made a dramatic 45-foot birdie putt on the hole minutes earlier, narrowly missed; he was excused from the proceedings on the 18th when he was unable to get to one under par for the three holes. This set up sudden death between Kisner and Fowler, beginning on hole 17 again.
The Sweet Taste of Victory & Proving Them Wrong
Kisner, who had never approached a golf stage as big as this one, continued to deliver like a grizzled veteran and knocked his tee shot up to within twelve feet of the hole. Then the youngster did this:
In a curious circumstance of timing, Fowler’s win trailed only days after the publication of the results of an anonymous poll of professional golfers in Sports Illustrated that put Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter atop the list of “most overrated” golfers. It’s probably never a good idea to put much stock in anonymous surveys, but Fowler did say that the surprising results provided a bit of extra motivation during the week. Welcome to the prime time, Mr. Fowler.