LOS ANGELES ― Rickie Fowler has made a name for himself in golf. But, with the reboot of his swing, he has now made history. Fowler had less than 30 minutes on Thursday to enjoy sole possession of a U.S. Open record for lowest round when he shot a 62 at the Los Angeles Country Club. Before the new ink could dry in the record books, Xander Schauffele tied the record with his own round of 62 on the par-70 during the first round of the tournament. But while the two golfers share the record, the moment belonged to Fowler.
As Fowler hit his scintillating round, he marked another step back from a career descent. During this period, he lost his confidence, lost his way, and almost lost his PGA Tour card. “It’s definitely been long and tough,” he told reporters. He never recaptured the magic of 2014 when he finished tied for second in the U.S. Open, tied for second in The Open Championship, and tied for third in the PGA Championship. And his descent accelerated during the 2020 season, with too many missed cuts and too solid rounds. His struggles led to action, so he fired his caddie, John Skovron, and hired Ricky Romano. Then he fired his swing coach, John Tillery, and hired Butch Harmon, who once worked with Tiger Woods.
The reboot has worked wonders for Fowler. After his round of 62, Fowler credited Tillery, his former swing coach, “for everything I learned from him. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right fit.” Enter Harmon, who coached Woods from 1993 to 2004 and Phil Mickelson from 2007 to 2015. Not to mention a half dozen other big-name golfers. Harmon, 79, might know as much about a golf swing as anybody, but Fowler suggests his new coach’s value goes beyond technical advice.
“Butch is great, just his voice and having him in your corner,” Fowler said. “He’s been around and seen a lot and been around so many great players. He’s coached so many guys to reach, I would say, their potential. A lot of them are very different.” A very good golf coach and life coach is how Fowler described Harmon. “Kind of separate from being kind of a swing coach,’’ Fowler said. “He can be technical and mechanical if needed, but he understands the playing and the mental side and what it takes to ― if you may be a little off finding one thing or just telling you just something to give you a little confidence to go out there and just go play golf and keep it simple. That’s been one of the big things has been me getting back to playing golf.”
On the par-5 No. 8, the second-to-last of Fowler’s round, his tee shot sailed right. His ball landed on the barranca, one of the steep-sided gullies at The Los Angeles Country Club. With a pitching wedge in hand, he found his ball and looked at the gap between a footbridge to his left and trees to the right. “Really just tried to hit it fairly quickly, just react to it, don’t really think about it a whole lot,” Fowler said. Caught it clean, and onto the fairway that ball flew. Suddenly he was out of trouble and in the process of making his 10th birdie of the round, with two bogeys. “Like I said, sometimes in those situations, the quicker ― not quicker you hit it, but just step in, just react to it, hit it and not think about it too much,” Fowler said.
Fowler’s second-place finish at the 2018 Masters was a sign that he’s still one of the best golfers around. But after his 62 on Thursday, he’s showing that he’s not done yet. The reboot of his swing has worked wonders, and he’s back on track to win his first major. Keep an eye out for Fowler as he continues to make history on the golf course. Holy moly!