There are a lot of stats to like about Rickie Fowler’s career so far: seven top-five finishes in Majors, eight professional wins worldwide, more than $US30 million in on-course earnings and it’s been almost four years since he’s dipped outside the top-20 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
But with a T-11 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open after coming into the final round as the solo leader, a less flattering stat began making the rounds: of the six US PGA Tour events Fowler has either led or co-led coming into the final round, he’s only converted one (the 2017 Honda Classic) into a victory — a paltry 17 percent.
To be fair, the depth of talent on tour today means converting 54-hole leads is harder than you might think. Last season just 27 percent of third-round leaders went on to win. In the past five years, 54-hole leaders only convert more than they don’t once their lead stretches to four shots or more, per the Golf Channel’s Justin Ray.
Nevertheless, Rickie’s low conversion rate stands out. He’s undoubtedly an elite player, so why isn’t he converting these leads more? Not even that; why isn’t he even converting at the tour’s average? Is he struggling under pressure or simply unlucky?
Because no two situations are the same, let’s break down the five 54-hole leads Rickie has squandered so far in his US Tour career and rank them based on how bad the blown lead was.
5. 2010 Memorial Tournament
Situation: Leading by three shots heading into the final round, Fowler finished the tournament second to Justin Rose, losing by three.
Holding this one against Fowler would be harsh. It was the then-21 year-old’s first 54-hole lead since turning professional the year before. He gave a good account of himself until a double-bogey at the 12th hole, but even then recovered with birdies on 15 and 16. Rose’s bogey-free round was simply too good. Chalk this one down to ‘all part of the process’.
4. 2016 Barclays
Situation: With an automatic Ryder Cup spot on the line, Fowler led by one over Patrick Reed but finished T-7 after a Sunday 74.
A sketchy final round from Rickie, but I’m willing to give him a slight pass. With the Ryder Cup hype festering in the background, there was a lot of pressure around him that extended beyond the tournament itself. It’d be tough for anybody to deal with.
3. 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Situation: Solo 54-hole leader by one over Jon Rahm, his final-round 73 dropped him all the way down to T-11.
His two-over final round was undoubtedly disappointing, and doubled as one of the few over-par rounds on an otherwise scoreable day. Demanding he win is probably unfair, but at this point in his career, it’s slightly surprising he didn’t perform slightly better. This could’ve easily been one spot higher in the rankings; it isn’t because his eventual T-11 finish was partly the product of the very tightly packed, talented leaderboard around him.
2. 2016 Wells Fargo Championship
Situation: Solo leader by one heading into Sunday, Fowler shot 74 to drop to T-4.
Fowler was the headliner coming into Sunday and promptly flamed out. The two chasing him – James Hahn and Roberto Castro – stuck around and eventually settled things in a playoff. Meanwhile, Fowler’s two-over 74 was the highest final-round score of anybody inside the top-24.
1. 2011 AT&T National
Situation: Co-leader heading into Sunday, a four-over 74 dropped him to T-13.
A good old-fashioned implosion. After a 64 the day before, he finished 10 shots higher on Sunday, tieing the worst round of any player inside the top-30.