Rickie Fowler used to be a regular name near the top of the leaderboard in major championships, but now he’s struggling to even receive an invite.
The five-time winner on the PGA Tour failed to qualify for The Masters earlier this year for the first time since 2010. He was only able to play in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island thanks to a special exemption. Now, with the U.S. Open just three weeks away, Fowler faces an uphill battle in his quest to qualify for the third major of the season. He’s even been forced into the desperation move of entering a 36-hole sectional qualifier in an attempt to sneak into the U.S. Open field.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Rickie Fowler is outside the top 100 in the OWGR
Just two years ago, Fowler was a top-10 player in the world thought to be the next up-and-comer to secure his first major championship. But that top-10 ranking has slowly and steadily climbed higher as Fowler’s game continues to sink lower.
Heading into the 2021 PGA Championship, Fowler found himself at No. 128 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which was his worst ranking since 2009. He hasn’t won an event on Tour since his stressful triumph at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2019. Before the PGA Championship last weekend, Fowler only recorded two top-20 finishes in his 18 starts this year.
After a season-best T8 finish at Kiawah Island, Fowler is still on the outside looking in at the top 100 in the OWGR at No. 101.
Fowler still hasn’t qualified for the U.S. Open
Life is pretty good on the PGA Tour when you’re ranked inside the top 50 in the world. Automatic exemptions. No need to play every weekend to boost your points. You can basically pick and choose which tournaments you want to play in because you’re invited to almost every one.
But things get a little more tricky when you find yourself in the position Fowler is in right now. At No. 101 in the OWGR, Fowler hasn’t automatically qualified for the U.S. Open (only the top 60 do), and he’s running out of time to do so. June 7 is the deadline for Fowler to vault into the top 60 and secure an automatic spot in the field at Torrey Pines.
The U.S. Open won’t be as kind to Fowler as the PGA Championship was, either. If he doesn’t qualify, he doesn’t qualify. No special exemptions. No loopholes. Nothing.
And that’s a shame for the 32-year-old who just played his best three rounds of golf this season. Something is finally starting to click, and he would be a name to watch at the U.S. Open if he does sneak into the field.
“I’m starting to feel pretty darn good,” Fowler said last weekend from Kiawah Island. “The last few months, it’s been a lot more just go play golf and not play golf swing. Put a lot of time in prior to the last few months of working on swing and doing the stuff we kind of needed to work on and accomplish. Now it’s just, go play golf.”
Fowler forced into desperation move three weeks away from the U.S. Open
It’s extremely unlikely Fowler will be able to vault into the top 60 in the OWGR in one week. He’s in the field at The Memorial this weekend, but winning the tournament doesn’t even guarantee a move that drastic up the rankings list.
So, Fowler has been forced to enter into one of the 11 36-hole sectional qualifiers on Monday, June 8 in a last-ditch effort to qualify for the U.S. Open. The top 10 aggregate point earners from those events will earn a spot in the U.S. Open field.
With the tournament being held this year at Torrey Pines, which is about an hour drive from Fowler’s hometown of Murrieta, Calif., he wants more than anything to be able to compete in the season’s third major on his home turf. He might have to jump a few more hurdles to get there, but that’s just what Fowler’s career has come to at this point.