News & Opinion

Rickie Fowler faces his last chance for 2021 Masters

Rickie Fowler
The sun is setting on Rickie Fowler’s shot at qualifying for the 2021 Masters.

After 10 consecutive starts at Augusta National, including top-10s in 2 of past 3 Masters, Fowler must win this week to qualify

Rickie Fowler has not missed a Masters Tournament since 2010, his rookie season on the PGA Tour. That 10-year run will end next week, though, unless he can win this week’s Valero Texas Open.

Fowler, 32, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, has not met any of the numerous ways to qualify for the Masters. With only one top-20 finish in his past 17 starts – a T-20 at the Genesis Invitational – Fowler has plummeted out of the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He enters this week’s play at No. 94, his worst ranking since his rookie year.

A few weeks ago, CBS commentator Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion, applied the needle to Fowler for his endorsement-to-major-championships ratio. It’s at least a dozen to none.

“Good news is if he misses the Masters he can shoot another six commercials that week!” Faldo wrote on Twitter.

A few days later, Faldo softened his criticism, saying that he was trying to “motivate” Fowler.

For his part, Fowler took the high road.

“No, I know where Nick was trying to come from on that, and it’s like competitor to competitor, you’re trying to needle each other and get each other going type of thing,” Fowler said during the Honda Classic, his most recent start, in which he tied for 65th. “I would much rather be playing the week of the Masters than working [on commercials]. But it’s all part of it.”

Well, he’s down to his last shot, beginning Thursday at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course. The $7.7 million Texas Open will pay $1.386 million to the winner. (For the complete 140-man field, click here.)

Six years ago, Fowler looked like a sure thing to start bagging some of golf’s biggest titles. He finished among the top five in all four of the 2014 majors – T-5 at the Masters, T-2s in the U.S. and British opens and T-3 at the PGA. He won twice in 2015, including the Players Championship. In the years since that run, he has won only the 2017 Honda and the 2019 Phoenix Open. Dating to 2015, Fowler has posted only five top-10s in 23 major-championship starts, though two were at Augusta National: runner-up in 2018 and T-9 in 2019.

For a man who had been a regular contender in the major championships and a constant presence on U.S. teams in Ryder and Presidents cups, simply making the season’s first major has become the most immediate goal. A career reboot won’t happen any time soon without a victory this week at the Texas Open.

“I'm going to keep kicking down the door,” Fowler said at the Honda. “If not, we'll keep grinding and we'll be back in the winner's circle soon.”

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