May 10, 2015; Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA; Rickie Fowler holds up The Players Championship trophy after winning the final round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Sports Illustrated conducted an anonymous poll last week in which PGA TOUR pros gave their opinions on a number of things including the most overrated players in golf. There happened to be a tie for the most overrated player between Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler.
It would make sense for Fowler to be named overrated if this was 2013 as he only has one TOUR win coming at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, but the 26-year old had a massive year in 2014 by placing top 5 at all four majors. When asked about it after posting a 3-under on Thursday at the first round of THE PLAYERS, Rickie said,
"“It’s fine by me. I’m going to try and play as well as I can this week and I’m going to take care of my business. I guess top fives in four majors isn’t that good? Like I said, I’ll take care of my business and I’ll be just fine.”"
The 26-year old followed through on his promise at this year’s fifth major.
THE PLAYERS is known as the PGA TOUR’s fifth major for a reason and if you watched any of the tournament this weekend, you’d understand why.
Saturday was the definition of “moving day.” Thirty-nine golfers shot under par and by the end of the day 30 guys were within five shots of the lead. Rookie Justin Thomas had the low score of the day with a 65, setting a tournament record with 10 birdies. Not bad for a guy who made the cut by just one stroke.
If Saturday’s action wasn’t enough get you fired up, then Sunday certainly was. By 3:20 ET in the final round, there were 5 golfers tied for the lead at 10-under. 8 minutes later, the best player of that bunch was the sole leader at 11-under, Sergio Garcia.
Garcia would extend the lead to 12-under, until Rickie Fowler came along. Entering the day at 7-under, it was easy to overlook Rickie on the jam packed leaderboard, that is, until he reached the 16th hole.
Tiger Woods has said that holes 16, 17, and 18 are “the most dramatic holes that we play on TOUR.” In the last 12 years, a total of 1,396 balls have been hit in the water on hole Nos. 1-15, while a total of 1,459 balls have found the drink on hole Nos. 16-18.
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Rickie Fowler didn’t get this memo.
Fowler stepped up to his second shot on the par 5 16th and hit a miraculous shot from 240 yards over the water within two feet of the hole. He then made the putt for eagle and took the walk to the Stadium Course’s iconic 17th hole, the Island Green.
Since 2003, the 17th hole has the most balls in the water of any course. Fowler accepted this challenge by sticking it within 7 feet to birdie. With the crowd still buzzing on the 18th tee box, Rickie showed his confidence by busting out a driver and piped one right down the middle of the fairway. Putting his approach shot within 17 feet, Fowler needed to make the birdie to enter the clubhouse with a two-shot lead at 12-under. Rickie drained the birdie putt to send roars throughout the Stadium Course.
Garcia caught wind of those roars. El Niño birdied the 16th hole only to face his old friend at 17. Stepping up to the 17th tee box, the hole he choked things away to Tiger Woods in 2013, he put one 44 feet away. It was incredible. Sergio was in contention in the first place, with the way he had putted in the first three days. Entering Sunday, Garcia’s strokes gained putting was -1.3, meaning he was losing 1.3 strokes to the field with his poor putting. With 43 feet and 10 inches standing between Sergio and a share of THE PLAYERS lead, El Niño drained the putt, the longest putt he has made all season, and tied leader Rickie Fowler.
With a possibility of a 5-man playoff, Bill Haas and Ben Martin both missed putts on 18, while Kevin Kisner missed out on an 11 footer that would have given him the win. With Kisner, Garcia, and Fowler all in the clubhouse at 12-under, patrons were treated to a three-man aggregate playoff.
What do you do when you have a three-man playoff? Make them play the final three holes.
The three golfers had just collectively finished that exciting stretch of holes at 8-under. Unfortunately for Kisner and Garcia, their competitor just ran through that stretch with an eagle and two birdies. After three playoff holes, Fowler and Kisner were all knotted up after they both birdied the 17th. With Garcia gone, the two headed back to the island green for a sudden-death playoff. Just like his previous two attempts, Rickie stuck his tee shot within 5 feet. After Kisner missed his birdie attempt and tapped in for par, Fowler ran in his birdie putt to win THE PLAYERS Championship and put the critics to rest.
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is known to destroy golfers’ rounds. For Fowler, it was a feeding ground for success. Rickie played his final ten holes of the day in 8-under, including three birdies on 17 during that span. Not bad for the most overrated golfer on TOUR.