Detroit — Rickie Fowler does a pretty good job of keeping things in perspective.
Although it had been more than four years since he last won on the PGA Tour, he enjoyed some life milestones in between, including marriage to Allison Stokke in October 2019 and the birth of his daughter, Maya, in November 2021.
“It was tough, just because everything else in my life was great, and then to have the one thing that I obviously love to do — it’s not everything to me, but it’s a big part of my life — it was like the missing link,” Fowler said of the state of his golf game. “So to have everything start to click and come together, and of course all of this started before Maya was born, it’s been an amazing ride.”
Fowler snapped his long PGA Tour championship drought at 1,660 days Sunday afternoon at Detroit Golf Club, birdieing the final hole in regulation and the first hole in a playoff to beat Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin and win the non-major tournament it means the most to him, Rocket Mortgage Classic.
There to celebrate with him, just as they have been with him through all the disappointments of the last several months, were Stokke and Maya, whom Fowler held amid a mob scene on the 18th green.
The win was Fowler’s first since before Maya was born, his first since the 2019 Phoenix Open.
It was also the first since he made two major changes to his golf inner circle: He reunited with legendary coach Butch Harmon in September, and also joined new caddy Ricky Romano in the fall — after a 2021-22 season in which he had one top-10 finish and nine missed cuts, including the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Last September, he was ranked No. 185 in the world, down from a peak of No. 4 in 2016.
“I mean, both of them have been great partnerships,” said Fowler, 34. “Butch wasn’t necessarily new as we worked together for a while through the middle part of my career. Our split was really just because he quit with traveling and then things didn’t work out the last couple of years.”
Fowler had worked with John Tillery, but told Sports Illustrated in September that the relationship had run its course and “it never really clicked.”
He returned to Harmon, 79, whose clients over the years have included the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Jackson, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink, among others.
Harmon is based in Las Vegas, and Fowler said he believes he has seen him in person four times over the past 10 months. It was, of course, four pretty good sessions.
“Butch is a very — he’s the best golf coach out there,” Fowler said during his post-round news conference inside the DGC clubhouse Sunday, where the RMC trophy sits to his left. “He does a great job with players, taking what they have and ultimately I think making them the best they can be with who they are and how they swing and do what they do well, much better and bring out the weaknesses.
Fowler didn’t have too many weaknesses at the 2023 Rocket, surged to a 54-hole lead, then came up clutch with back-to-back birdies to take the title. His wedge game was super sharp all week and his putting came up huge at times, although it was a little shaky late Sunday. He made the two longest putts of his season during Rocket week, including a nearly 50-footer for birdie on the par-5 fifth hole Sunday.
Harmon watched from afar.
“My anxiety was probably the same level as his was … just because I wanted to feel so bad for him,” Harmon told PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM Monday. won with different guys just because I know how low Rickie was. And it was a pleasure to see him come back.”
Sunday’s win was also his first with Romano on the back since he split with Joe Skovron last August. Skovron had been Fowler’s caddy since he turned pro in 2009.
Romano, a California native like Fowler, has been caddying since 2012 and was actually Nate Lashley’s caddy when he won the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Romano started Sunday’s celebration. After Fowler made the putt, he took a moment and looked toward the sky as if to exhale. Meanwhile, Romano jumped around and eventually jumped into Fowler’s arms.
“Rick has been great on the bag. We’ve known each other for a long time, grew up in the same town. So when Joe and I split, he was basically at the top of my list because he’s a great player, a , and I’ve known him a long time. “I knew we’d be comfortable and a good fit and easy to get along with. So to kind of put everything together and start seeing results, all of this started right before Napa (Fortinet Championship) in September.
“It’s been a fun ride—like just getting started.”
With the Rocket victory, Fowler moved up to eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and 23rd in the world rankings. He has become a popular darkhorse pick to win the British Open later this month, having led for large parts of last month’s US Open in Los Angeles. The British Open returns to Royal Liverpool, which last hosted in 2014 when Rory McIlroy won and Fowler finished two shots back. Fowler has also moved well up in the Team USA Ryder Cup standings, and given his play of late (eight top-10s in 20 events this season, including four in his last five events) he might be picked by captain Zach Johnson, though he doesn’t finish top-six in points.