Rickie Fowler does a lot on the golf course that the average person can’t relate to.
However, on Thursday, as he was trying to finish his first round at the 2023 Rocket Mortgage Classic, he was in the most familiar of positions.
“I mean, to be completely honest, I had to go to the bathroom really badly,” Fowler said, explaining part of the reason he got two bogeys to finish off a stellar performance. “Luckily, I just had a drug test, so I went straight (there). There weren’t many showers the last five holes, so I was a little shaky, not necessarily to blame for that, but it didn’t help.”
Ramf Classic 2023:How to watch the first round at the Detroit Golf Club
Fortunately for Fowler, he was pretty hot before his bathroom needs. The fan favorite made eight birdies and only one bogey in his first 16 holes; Add them all up and you’re done with 5-67.
He was tied for fifth when he exited the field, good enough to put him near the top of the leaderboard going into Friday.
“Solid day, a lot of good stuff,” Fowler said. “Get off to a good start and that’s all you really hope for on Thursday to start the championship is out moving in the right direction.”
It’s the exact opposite of what Fowler did the last time he was in Detroit. That was a fly-by in 2022, when the Rocket Mortgage-sponsored athlete shot a 1-over 73, then a 2-over 74 to miss the cut for the first time in his four games in the tournament.
However, that was then, this is now, and the lost Fowler has clearly found his groove again.
Three weeks ago in Los Angeles, the Oklahoma State graduate set a US Open record with an 8-under 62 in the opening round. He was tied for the lead (he hasn’t even qualified for the championship since 2020) heading into Sunday and finished T-5.
It was his third consecutive top 10 – placing T-9 at the Monument and T-6 at the Charles Schwab Challenge the week before.
Although Fowler has not achieved any wins this season, the former world number four in 2016 has seven top 10 finishes and 14 top 25 finishes in 19 starts. For comparison, he had four top 10s and 14 top 25s in the previous three years sum.
“I mean, it’s completely different,” Fowler said of his feeling about the game between now and the last time he was on the 313. You’ve been doing consistency and kind of being able to build momentum.
“This was something I definitely haven’t had in the past few years.”
On Thursday, Fowler rolled a 12-foot birdie putt to start his day, but returned the putt straight to par 11 when he couldn’t get up and down the side green bunker.
discipline:Rocket Mortgage Classic 2023: How to watch the first round at Detroit Golf Club
After consecutive pars, Fowler started his best stretch of the day – seven birdies in the next 12 holes to grab a share of the lead late in the morning. He squeezed in a 3-foot birdie on No. 14, then made a five-foot slide on No. 16 and a four-foot slide on 17 of 5 to round at 3-under.
He moved a wedge to seven feet to birdie No. 1, then did the same with a short four, draining 11 feet to catch another putt. When his par-5 fourth tee found the rough, Fowler had to lie down, but he put his approach on 10 feet and rolled for home.
His final birdie of the day came on the 7th from a par 5; He birded all five longer holes of the day.
“Keeping it kind of simple, kind of like one or two things you focus on in a swing fashion,” Fowler said of the edits. “It’s more about going out and hitting shots and playing the game.”
Morikawa’s Secret Fix
Fowler wasn’t the only golfer Thursday who was vague about his recent adjustments.
Colin Morikawa, a five-time PGA Tour winner and two-time major champion, has struggled in 2023, but started his first mortgage on the right foot Thursday when he shot a 6-under 66.
“I found probably the most important thing yesterday afternoon after my supporters,” Morikawa said. “Good shots are good, so it’s tough because I can hit five or 10 balls into range, look great and then you put them in the lane and that’s where shots count. It was great to find yesterday and nice to work from there.”
Great to hear from you, Colin. what did you find?
He said, “I will not tell you.” “So…”
Oh. Well, that’s too bad. How is that?
Well, he said, because it’s still a work in progress. “I think for me the swing ideas and just the basic things, as if they are nothing, nothing complicated at all. Like them are the least complicated things. They influence a lot, how about that?”
It’s a don’t talk about it, be it, Morikawa approach. It’s been a tough year for the 26-year-old, with no wins and only four top-10s in 19 events (he had eight in 19 events last season).
He established his serve with three opening breaks before starting his scoring when he was caught with a 10-foot birdie putt to fall to number 13, the start of a nine-hole stretch in which he had a six birdie.
He rolled the ball well with the flat stick, getting a 16-foot putt at number 14 and a 12-foot putt at number 16 to drop to third, but the loudest roar of the day from his followers came at no. .18.
“What’s great is that I didn’t feel like I played exceptionally well today and collected six birds,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of hard stretches or had to make as many saves evenly, so that’s what you want, you want to keep giving yourself chances to the Birders, especially on this golf course where 25 or 30 might win.”
He was a perfect 5-on-5 in scramble situations on the day.
Morikawa made birdies on first and third, then came home with six in a row. None of the advanced numbers jumped off the page. Late Thursday, Morikawa ranked 8th in hits earned, 11th in hits earned around the green and No. 17 in driving accuracy.
There was a slight smile as Morikawa left his press conference Thursday, before signing autographs for crowds of waiting fans in front of the Detroit Golf Club. Almost as if there was a secret.
“It’s a great feeling to be in control of the golf ball,” he said. “That’s the most important thing is knowing where the golf ball will go even on misses and swinging freely. We were able to do that today.
“It was kind of a late grind yesterday to tweak a few things, but we’re glad we figured it out.”
News and notes
- Dylan Waugh recorded the first double eagle in tournament history, hauling in from 262 yards on 5 14. He finished T-3 at 7 under.
- Jackson’s Brian Steward shot a 2-over 74. Starting at No. 10 and after bogeying at No. 12, the Jackson native picked a stroke on No. 14 when he nearly hid from 109 yards and tapped out from 14 inches. After moving up to 1-under with a 17-foot birdie at No. 16, he hauled at No. 18 to tie the game. Steward made a birdie on No. 1, then closed with bogey on three of his final four holes.
- Former Michigan State golfer Ryan Bream earned a 2-under 70 to take home the tournament. He made a bogey on his first hole (No. 10) and then brought it back to a par 5 14. Brehm was adding birdies on numbers 3, 5 and 7 before a bogey on No. 8 finished off his scoring.
- Tony Finau, last year’s winner, finished the day at 72. After starting in the 10th, he made three consecutive birdies at No. 14-16 to get one-under-one, but shot one out in his last 11. holes.
- Justin Thomas, perhaps the biggest name in attendance, struggled mightily on day one, and is sure to miss out on the cut. Thomas shot a 4-over 76 even after making a birdie on No. 1. He was noticeably upset with the green coming out of No. 14 as he finished the day T-150 among 156 golfers.
- Thomas was paired with 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who was also in the afternoon, never being in the red figures and finishing his day at 3-over-75.