It feels like a while ago that Rickie Fowler responded to being voted one of the most overrated players on the PGA Tour by his peers with a burst of impressive victories.
Fowler started by winning the Players Championship in May 2015. He followed it up at the Scottish Open a couple of months later and then won the Deutsche Bank Championship in the September.
Until Sunday, however, he had not won on the PGA Tour since. That’s 17 months – a long time for someone as talented him – while he had not won anywhere since Abu Dhabi more than a year ago.
The American, 28, ended that drought in style at the weekend, taking the Honda Classic by four shots.
Fowler didn’t have a great front nine, dropping two shots including a double bogey at the sixth hole, but he stood up to the test and played very well on the back nine.
There’s never a bad time to win, but there probably isn’t a better time than early in the season. You set your stall out, the money list is in sight and everything is rolling along nicely.
I’m pleased for him – he’s a really, really nice boy – and it’s a reminder that he is among a very strong group of players at the top of the rankings. This win lifts him to ninth in the world.
He has made huge changes to his swing under coach Butch Harmon, so to come back and win is huge testament to both him and Harmon.
Rickie's putting from inside 7 feet @TheHondaClassic …
57 of 57. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/3ZGIttWpMz
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 27, 2017
Fowler’s putting was the star of his game in Florida, though. Of 57 putts of seven feet or less, he holed every single one. Of course some of those would have been two or three feet, but nonetheless that is extraordinary.
He is a proven winner and, while there are other guys out there who also fall into that bracket, he is banging on the door of the top five. Let’s see how he does.
Hatton needs patience
Tyrrell Hatton played very well once again to finish in a tie for fourth place, but the young Englishman will be disappointed at the way he finished.
Hatton missed a three-foot birdie putt at 17 which cost him a share of second. He was very demonstrative in his frustration and that is something he needs to cut out of his game.
He is a lovely boy and I have total admiration for his game, but at times his temperament on course is holding him back.
In order to let his talent flow, he has to be more patient, take the rough with the smooth, and get mistakes out of his head instantly.
Home win for Fichardt
On the other side of the world, Darren Fichardt produced a fantastic finish to win the Joburg Open.
It was tight at the end and I felt sorry for fellow South African Jacques Kruyswijk and England’s Paul Waring, but full credit to Fichardt for winning on home soil.
McIlroy primed for Mexico
Attention turns to Mexico this week for the year’s WGC event, where former world No1 Jason Day will be absent but Rory McIlroy is set to return from injury.
Day slipped off the top of the rankings last week and the Australian’s withdrawal due to illness is another cause for concern in a mixed start to the year.
McIlroy, however, is back and I’m eager to see how he gets on. I have said before that everything is in place for him to have the best year of his career and I still believe that.
Of course he is slightly behind where he’d like to be, with some rivals already off the mark in 2017, but it is all about the Masters for Rory and, with five weeks to go, he will be ready for Augusta and fresher than many of his opponents.