Good Rickie vs. Bad Rickie

Rickie Fowler, 2023 U.S. Open,Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Rickie Fowler, 2023 U.S. Open,Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports /

If not for his own silly self, Rickie Fowler might have effectively ended the U.S. Open Friday before the field was even cut.

Fowler turned in one of the most stunningly disjointed cards in Open memory Friday. At numerous intervals, he was easily the best player on the course. Coming off an opening round 62, he carded birdies on the first three holes and eventually ran his total of sub-par holes for the day to eight.

But every time it appeared that Fowler was about to run off and hide from the field, he did something to remind us that his fascinating professional record contains no Major championships. Those eight birdies were nearly offset by six bogeys, leaving only four of his 18 holes to be played in par.

How good was Fowler Friday? In running his tournament birdie total to 18, he virtually ensured that he will destroy the record of 22 sub-par holes for the full event.

How bad was Fowler Friday? His six bogeys were more than were made by any player who finished among the top 39.

Basically from hole to hole, there was no telling what Rickie might do. Four times he immediately followed a birdie with a bogey, but three other times he followed a bogey with a birdie.

Let’s begin where Rickie began, with Good Rickie.

Hole 1. He fired a bunker shot within six feet and made the birdie putt. That sent him to nine-under.

Hole 2. He dropped another six-footer for birdie.

Hole 3. He stiffed his approach for a tap-in birdie to get to 11-under

On this day, however, Bad Rickie was never far away.

On the par 3 fourth he pushed his tee shot into the barranca right of the green and did well to recover for bogey. Back to 10-under.

Normality enjoyed a brief interlude at the par 4 fifth, which Fowler parred. At the short par 4 6th, Good Rickie laid an iron in optimal position short of the green, wedged within seven feet, and drained the putt to go back to 11-under.

At the 300-yard par 3 seventh, Rickie’s drive made the front of the green. But he timidly left a 70-foot uphill putt 13 feet short, then left his par putt short as well. Back to 10-under. Then Good Rickie jumped in again with an eight-foot birdie putt at the par 5 eighth; back to 11-under.

After par made a second cameo appearance at the ninth, Bad Rickie drove into a fairway bunker at the 10th, had to lay out, and left himself with a 20-foot par putt, which he missed to return to 10-under. At the 11th, Bad Rickie struck a four-foot par putt too tentatively and watched it dodge around the cup for a second straight bogey. Back to nine-under.

At the par 4 12th, Good Rickie ran in a 20-foot birdie putt to get back to 10-under. But Bad Rickie horned back in at the 13th, leaving a lengthy birdie putt well short and three-putting to fall back to nine-under.

But as much of a constant presence as Bad Rickie was Friday, he had no staying power. Following the day’s third par, Fowler wedged to within birdie range at the short par 3 15th and made that putt to climb back to 10-under.

Bad Rickie’s sixth appearance – at the long par 4 16th – resulted in Fowler finding a greenside bunker and failing to get up and down. Back to nine-under for an amazing fifth time.

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Good Rickie got a last shot in at the par 4 17th, delivering an approach that rolled up within eight feet. Rickie made it and went back to 10-under. His par at the 18th was only his fourth of the round.

In short, Fowler was the very personification of peripatetic Friday. He spent nine holes at 10-under, five at nine-under, and four at 11-under, yet never sat at the same number for more than two consecutive holes.