Rickie Fowler’s Career Is in Such a Freefall That He Needed the PGA to Bend the Rules to Let Him Play in the Next Major

Once upon a time, Rickie Fowler was one of the most consistent golfers on the PGA Tour. Back in 2014 when he finished top-five in all four major championships, it wasn’t a matter of if Fowler would win a major in his career, but when.

But fast forward to 2021 and he can’t even qualify for a major without the PGA of America bending the rules. Fowler, who’s now ranked 116th in the Official World Golf Ranking, isn’t supposed to be in the field for the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in two weeks. Thanks to a special exemption from the PGA, however, he will be.

Rickie Fowler’s career is in the midst of a freefall

Rickie Fowler is in the midst of a brutal slump, and he needed a little help from the PGA to even be invited to the second major of 2021.
Rickie Fowler reacts after hitting a shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2021 PLAYERS Championship | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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A few short years ago, Fowler was considered one of the brightest up-and-comers in golf. He won his first PGA Tour event in 2012, and his career just took off from there.

Two years later, Fowler completed a historic season in which he finished inside the top five in all four major championships. In 2015, he recorded the most prolific win of his career at The Players Championship. Since he was ranked No. 6 in the world at the end of the season, it seemed like just a matter of time until Fowler scored his first major victory.

But the last few years haven’t been kind to the fan-favorite golfer. Fowler hasn’t won an event on Tour since the 2019 Waste Management Open. In 2020, he had just as many missed cuts (six) as top-25 finishes. And it’s only gotten worse this year.

Over his last seven starts on Tour, Fowler has missed three cuts and finished 65th or worse twice. He also failed to qualify for the 2021 Masters, which marked the first major he’s missed since 2010.

Ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill earlier this year, Fowler detailed his struggles and how they’re affecting him on and off the course.

“It’s very frustrating,” Fowler told reporters in March. “It’s made it at times tough between Joe [Skovron, his caddie] 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. 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.”

Fowler won’t automatically qualify for the PGA Championship

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After missing out on the Masters last month because he wasn’t ranked high enough in the OWGR, Fowler shifted his focus to the PGA Championship on May 20. The problem was his ranking was still slipping, and slipping fast.

Fowler needs to be inside the top 100 in the OWGR by May 10 to automatically qualify for the second major of the year. As of this week, he stands at 116th.

But the PGA of America has come to the rescue just in time.

Fowler receives a special exemption to play in the PGA Championship

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With Fowler on the outside looking in at the PGA Championship field this month, his guardian angel has swooped in to give him a fortunate break. Last week, Will Gray of NBC Sports reported Fowler received a special exemption from the PGA of America to play in the second major championship of the year based on his “performances, playing records and OWGR.”

Well, hold on just a minute. Performances? As in his six missed cuts and just two top-20 finishes in his last 17 events played? And what about playing record? His missed cut and T36 at the last two PGA Championships aren’t too impressive, either. Oh, and OWGR? We’ve already gone over that one.

Fowler may have been given a gimme this time around, but the PGA of America should make him putt it out from now on.

All stats courtesy of PGA Tour