Emotional Rickie Fowler ends four-year winning drought with Rocket Mortgage Classic win


As the ball dropped into the cup, Rickie Fowler crossed his arms over his putter and looked up at the sky. Take a big exhale, a smile, and then – over the shoulder of caddy Ricky Romano – swing your club triumphantly in front of a throng of cheering fans.

After 1,610 days, the golfing man in orange was back in the winner’s circle.

Victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday ended Fowler’s four-year wait for a sixth PGA Tour title as the 34-year-old emerged victorious from a three-way playoff at Detroit Golf Club in Michigan.

After finishing tied with compatriot Collin Morikawa and Canada’s Adam Hadwin for an overall score of 24-under, Fowler holed his birdie putt from 11 yards on the first replay of 18.th Hole to win his first Tour title since the West Management Phoenix Open in February 2019.

“It’s great to have it out of the way,” the American told reporters afterward.

“I’ll obviously take it in and celebrate a little bit… It’s been a long journey.”

There was something special – or rather someone – new in the celebrations this time. An emotional Fowler gave her winner’s interview while holding her daughter Maya, born in November 2021, in her arms.

She was on the 18th green to witness the wonderful moment with Fowler’s wife Allison Stoke Fowler, a fellow athlete and former pole vault star. The new champions dedicated their victory – “The Missing Link” – to the pair.

Rickie Fowler walks off the 18th green with his wife Allison Stokes and daughter after the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament in Detroit, Sunday, July 2, 2023.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Fowler said, “It was just hard because everything else in my life was wonderful and then the one thing that I obviously love to do… was kind of the missing link.”

“So for everything to fall into place and come together, and obviously it all started before Maya was born, it has been an amazing journey.

“At the end of the day, Maya may or may not ever remember this, but at least we’ll have some special images to help her remember today.”

The road back to silverware has been a difficult one for Californians. A two-time major runner-up in 2014 and world No. 4 in 2018, Fowler’s ranking fell slowly in 2019 after a win in Arizona.

As of July 2022, he finds himself outside the top 150 ranked players in the world for the first time since his rookie season on the PGA Tour 12 years ago.

Yet 2023 marked a resurgence year for the fan-favorite golfer as eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts have lifted Fowler back up the rankings. A major title remains elusive, with Fowler’s final-day fall at the US Open extending that wait, but a joint-fifth performance in Los Angeles marked another sign of a return to form.

Now, she is ranked world No. 23 and $1.584 million better off after the lucrative winner’s payout.

Fowler said, “You hope conflicts don’t last long, but sometimes they last longer than you expect.”

“Since I’ve been one of the best players in the world, I’ve had so many good finishes and wins, I knew what I was capable of, but it’s tough when you’ve been struggling for so long .

“But I knew it wasn’t far away and I just had to keep putting in the time, keep working, keep pushing. Then some positive results started showing up and some confidence and momentum started building last fall.

DETROIT, MI - JULY 02: PGA golfer Rickie Fowler hits the winning birdie putt on the 18th hole during a playoff during the final round to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 2, 2023 at Detroit Golf Club in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Hadwin and Morikawa’s near miss extended the pair’s quest for another PGA Tour victory. Hadwin was looking to add to his first title at the Valspar Championship in 2017, while Morikawa was hoping to end a two-year wait for his sixth PGA Tour victory.

Morikawa’s last win was at the 2021 Open Championship, the second major of his career.

The 26-year-old would like to repeat the feat at Royal Liverpool later this month, but on Sunday, he was content to present flowers to Fowler.

“It’s not like it’s a one-time thing, he’s playing phenomenal golf,” Morikawa told reporters.

“People love him. Fans still come to see him no matter how he’s playing, but he’s playing well.

“Look how he’s playing, especially at the US Open, the scores he’s posting last week, it’s amazing. Grinding is not easy. That never happens, it doesn’t matter where you are.”

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