“Ride her til she bucks you.”
No, Rickie Fowler wasn’t talking about any kind of rodeo activity; he was referring to a birdie streak. Beginning Sunday seven shots back of 54-hole leader Charley Hoffman, Fowler opened up the first seven holes with birdies. By the time he finally made a par on the par-3 8th, he had the solo lead.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 3, 2017
By the end of the day at Albany Golf Club, Fowler had flipped the script completely, turning what was expected to be a Hoffman-led runaway into a foregone conclusion as Fowler played the last few holes with a comfortable lead.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) December 3, 2017
It was Tiger Woods who was wearing his signature red and black on Sunday, but it was Rickie Fowler who produced a Tiger-esque performance at the Hero World Challenge.
Only a 59-watch could have wrested away the enormous attention heaped on this week’s host, and only Fowler has the celebrity to share the spotlight with Woods, who was making his competitive return following fusion surgery on his lower back in April.
For most of the week, the actual competition was very much an afterthought, with Woods’ return dominating the conversation; but on Sunday, Fowler quickly altered the narrative with a torrid start.
After starting the day seven strokes off the lead held by Charley Hoffman, Fowler birdied his first seven holes and added another at the ninth to turn in 28 and move into solo possession of the lead.
“He just made me look like I was playing absolutely horribly,” said Patrick Reed, who was paired with Fowler on Sunday at Albany. “Once he got his speed down on the first hole, making the first putt, it just seemed like the hole was about the size of a dinner plate. It was awesome to watch.”
Fowler extended his lead to three shots with a birdie at the 13th hole and his focus drifted from winning the 18-man challenge season event to something else – shooting a 59.
“I knew when I got in there on 13 that was going to be a bonus, and I knew if I made that putt that 59 was a chance because 14 and 15 ahead are birdie holes,” said Fowler, who conceded he didn’t know where he stood in relation to the rest of the field as he made his way toward the finish. “I was definitely happy with the way I played the last six holes or so, not really knowing the situation. Obviously [I had] a little bit of that 59 thought in there but I wasn’t going to necessarily press for it.”
Fowler added another birdie at the par-5 15th hole to move to 11 under par for the day before playing his final three holes even for a closing 61 and a four-stroke victory over Hoffman, who closed with a 72.
Rounding out the top-10 were Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Spieth in T3, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Justin Rose in T5, Francesco Molinari in solo eigth and Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar in T9.
Here are the complete final round highlights.
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