LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rickie Fowler first began working with Butch Harmon last year at the British Open, not knowing whether it would take two months or two years to see some results. The turnaround was quicker than he imagined.
Despite a rugged start to the season, Fowler has really stood out in the majors. He is the only player with top-five finishes in each of them this year.
“Butch has been a big influence this year … with what we’ve done with the golf swing to make it more efficient and more repetitive and a little less dependent on timing,” Fowler said.
That wasn’t the only change he made this year.
Fowler said one reason for his strong performance in the majors was preparing better with caddie Joe Skovron, and developing a plan with Harmon on how to be ready for the four biggest events of the year. For the first time, Fowler has played every tournament the week before a major.
He finished sixth in the Shell Houston Open. He tied for 13th in the St. Jude Classic. And he tied for eighth in the Scottish Open. He tied for eighth last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, an event he typically plays before the PGA Championship.
Fowler said he makes a checklist at those events to make sure his game is in shape.
“If there was any low point, it gave me a chance to work on that in competition and work things out and get ready for that following week,” Fowler said. “So that’s probably been the biggest thing, just the process and the prep work along with Butch.”
EUROPEAN PICKS: Bernhard Langer, who turns 57 at the end of the month, already has four wins on the Champions Tour including two majors. He won the Senior British Open in a runaway in Wales, stirring discussion about whether he could be a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
European captain Paul McGinley shot down that notion Wednesday.
“Tremendous guy, huge heart as we all know,” McGinley said. “It’s very hard for me to evaluate Bernhard for two reasons.”
The first is that McGinley has plenty of players already under consideration a list that could include Lee Westwood and Luke Donald who are outside the standings. Secondly, he doesn’t have any world ranking events on which to accurately judge Langer. He is No. 462 in the world. The only regular event the German played this year was the Masters, where he finished eight shots behind in a tie for eighth.
“So it’s very hard for me to evaluate Bernhard where he is vis-a-vis the rest of the players,” he said. “As a result, I’ll almost certainly … I’ll never say never, but it’s 99.9 percent sure that my picks will come from the guys who are on the periphery of the team and chasing at the moment.”
Then there’s the case of Ian Poulter, Europe’s stalwart the last few teams who nearly single-handedly led the comeback win at Medinah in 2012. Poulter isn’t having his best year, but it might be more shocking if McGinley left Poulter off the team than if Tom Watson didn’t pick Tiger Woods.
As Graeme McDowell said last week, “There are two picks and Poults.”
McGinley wouldn’t go that far – but he was close.
“With his pedigree and his background, of course he has got a great chance of being one, but he needs to keep showing form just like all the rest of the guys do,” he said. “I need to see Ian Poulter play well, not just this week but see him play well in the FedEx series, too. He’s very close to the team. He’s one decent performance away from being automatic on the team. He’s not a huge worry for me because his form has been quite good and he’s amassed a huge amount of points.”
GOOD MANNERS: Rickie Fowler learned at an early age from his parents and grandparents how to behave on the golf course and how to respect others. For all his flash, one underappreciated aspect of the young American is how well he behaves toward everyone from players to the fans.
“One of the main rules with my mom was if I broke a club, she was going to take it and I wouldn’t get it back,” he said. “So I made sure I kept all my clubs.”
He’s never thrown a club?
Well, he tried recently. And he’s apparently not very good at it.
Fowler said he was goofing around at home in Florida recently and tried to throw a club after a poor shot.
“I just felt like it,” he said. “It kind of showed that I haven’t thrown a golf club very much because I threw it with my glove still on my hand, and when you do that, it doesn’t release properly.”
Was he angry? Not really. It just seemed like a good time to see what it was like to heave one. It went into a palmetto bush and he had to dig it out.
“It was for fun. I had never really done it,” he said. “I felt like it was the proper time to do it and see what happened. Might be the last one.”
BIG HITTER: Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen won the Long Drive Competition during the practice round Tuesday at the PGA Championship, using his state-of-the-art metal driver with a graphite shaft to strike a solid-core golf ball 340 yards.
Jack Nicklaus won in 1963 using a wooden driver and a wound ball. The winning drive was 341 yards.
Oosthuizen was asked to explain the different.
“He’s won 18 majors,” Oosthuizen said. “I’ve only won one.”
PARKING AVAILABLE: Countless pictures were taken Tuesday and early Wednesday of the vacant parking spot belonging to four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods, who didn’t show up until just after lunch on the eve of the championship.
But there was a courtesy car in his spot on Monday.
It belonged to Steve Stricker.
“I knew he wasn’t coming on Monday,” Stricker said. “I just said, `I’m going to be Tiger Woods today.’ Because I don’t have one of these spots. Yet.”