Rickie Fowler spent Tuesday answering questions about yet another major title slipping through his grasp. He spent Wednesday getting further familiarized with the TPC Potomac, which is playing host to the Quicken Loans National for the first time.
On Thursday, he will tee it up in the first round of a tournament that he has quickly become the face of in the absence of host Tiger Woods, who is being treated at a clinic for his use of prescription drugs.
The ninth-ranked Fowler has an endorsement deal with Quicken Loans and is the only player in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings in this week’s event. Fellow Americans Justin Thomas (No. 12) and Patrick Reed (17) are the only others within the top 20, so the hope among tournament organizers is that Fowler can make a strong run at his fifth career PGA Tour title this week.
Fowler won the Honda Classic earlier this year, but has failed to break 70 in the final round of The Masters or the U.S. Open, where he was in the thick of the hunt entering the final round.
“There’s probably been a few times where it hasn’t been exactly either the right mindset or potentially getting behind the eight ball early and pushing a little bit too much from there,” Fowler said, “instead of kind of letting things fall into place.”
This marks the 11th Quicken Loans National, which sits between the U.S. Open and British Open, explaining the dearth of marquee names in the field. It also lost storied Congressional Country Club as the annual venue, bouncing around to multiple courses. However, defending champion Billy Hurley III said the players in the field have their work cut out at the TPC Potomac track.
“There are no low scores here,” he said. “The rough is definitely going to be penal this week, more so this week than other weeks on tour. I’ll sign for 10 under and sit in the clubhouse for four days.”
Thomas was even stronger in his assessment, saying “you could 100 percent host a U.S. Open here starting tomorrow.”
Hurley earned his first Tour victory in this event last year, although it came at Congressional, which plays host to the tournament in even-numbered years.
TPC Potomac plays to a par of 70 and can be stretched as long as 7,139 yards. It has been the host course for the 2010 Senior Players Championship and two Web.com Tour events since undergoing a major renovation in 2006.
Players have been complimentary of the greens so far this week, as well as the immaculate fairways. But don’t be fooled into thinking it will be a cakewalk for the pros come Thursday.
“It’s not very often we play greens this firm on tour other than majors,” said Thomas. “You’ll occasionally get a weekend where they’re firm, but I mean, on Tuesday and Wednesday, you don’t get them where 8-irons are rolling five to eight yards or bouncing five to eight yards out like here. …
“The rough is thick, and there’s times where you’re just going to have to chip out. Like I said, it’s very major-like. It’s very U.S. Open-like. … You really have to golf your ball this week to play well.”
Reed, who is coming off a tie for fifth place at last week’s Travelers Championship, agreed.
“It’s just going to take a lot of patience and a lot of good golf shots to go out and shoot a low number,” he said.