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The golf world has missed watching Rickie Fowler at Augusta National Golf Club these last few years. The 34-year-old hasn’t been able to play in the Masters since 2020, and he’s dangerously close to failing to qualify again this season.

Fowler needs a strong finish at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play to jump into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and qualify for Augusta, but his chances took a major blow when the groups were announced for the unique tournament. The stylish golfer will need to conquer the group of death this week if he wants to make his long-awaited return to the Masters.

Rickie Fowler is running out of time to qualify for the Masters

Rickie Fowler hits a tee shot during the Players Championship.
Rickie Fowler hits a tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass | James Gilbert/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Golf is a fickle sport, especially at the PGA Tour level. No one knows that better than Rickie Fowler.

The former top-five player in the world saw his game fall apart after the 2018-19 season, and by 2022, he had fallen outside the top 180 in the OWGR. Because of his plunge down the rankings, Fowler failed to qualify for the Masters in 2021 and 2022.

He’s in danger of missing a third straight trip to Augusta National this year, but he still has two more chances to punch his ticket to the first major championship of 2023. Sitting at No. 59 in the OWGR, Fowler needs to jump inside the top 50 after the WGC-Match Play to automatically qualify. If he can’t accomplish that this week, he’ll need to win the Valero Texas Open the following week.

Considering he hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2019, a buzzer-beating victory at Valero isn’t too likely. Fowler’s best chance is to vault at least nine spots in the OWGR this week, but that won’t be easy in the group of death.

Rickie Fowler dealt a crushing blow in his quest to return to Augusta National

The WGC-Match Play is a unique event on the PGA Tour schedule. Instead of battling for the lowest score over four rounds, players compete in one-on-one matches until a winner is crowned on Sunday afternoon. Sixty-four players are bunched into groups of four to start the tournament. Each player faces off against the other three players in their group, and the leading points-getter from each group advances to a bracket of 16.

It’s an entertaining format, sure, but 75% of the field doesn’t move on to play the weekend. Fowler will need to make the Round of 16 to have a chance to qualify for the Masters, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The groups were announced on Monday, and Fowler’s might be the toughest of the bunch. He got paired with World No. 2 Jon Rahm, World No. 24 Billy Horschel, and World No. 45 Keith Mitchell. Rahm is arguably the best golfer in the world right now, as he’s won three of his last seven PGA Tour starts. Horschel isn’t playing his best right now, but he won the WGC-Match Play in 2021. He’s always a tough out in the match play format. And Mitchell enters the tournament with momentum after two top-five finishes in his last five starts.

Fowler will go up against Rahm in the first round on Wednesday. If he loses to the hottest golfer on planet earth, which seems likely, he’ll need a miracle just to make the Round of 16. Fowler will need to play pristine golf this week to crack the top 50 in the OWGR, but he sure has an uphill climb ahead of him to reach the Masters.


Rickie Fowler Can Still Qualify for the Masters for the First Time in 3 Years, but He Must Act Fast