DETROIT (AP) — Rickie Fowler tilted his head back, exhaled and smiled.
He finally did it, holding on for a win after so many have slipped away.
Refusing to crumble and collapse again, Fowler made a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and outlasted Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin on Sunday, two weeks after squandering a chance at the U.S. Open.
“It’s just nice to have this one out of the way,” Fowler said after winning for the first time in four years. “I’m obviously going to soak this one in and celebrate a bit.
“Yeah, it’s just been a long road.”
Fowler ended a career-long, 96-start championship drought after missing out on two chances to win in June, closing with a 75 at the U.S. Open to tie for fifth and with a 69 last week at the Travelers Championship to drop into a tie for 13th.
Followed all day by a sea of orange at Detroit Golf Club, Fowler was knocked down on the leaderboard by a near record-tying-round from Morikawa. He responded on his 72nd hole of the tournament with an approach from 145 feet that left him with a 3-foot birdie putt to pull into a three-way tie with Morikawa and Hadwin at 24 under.
Fowler hit an errant tee shot way right in the playoff and after a drop, his approach from 184 landed 12 feet from the cup. Morikawa was inches long on his approach and instead of having the ball spin back to the hole, it bounced into the rough.
“I truly thought I hit the perfect shot,” Morikawa said. “It just was a little juiced, went a little far and just didn’t have the putter in the hand. Not that the chip wasn’t possible, but would have been nice to have the putter in the hand.”
Hadwin missed a 22-foot putt and Morikawa his chip, opening the door for Fowler to close out the tournament before thunderstorms rolled over Detroit.
“I knew it was just a matter of time with how I’ve been playing,” said Fowler, who has eight top-10 finishes this season. “I’ve had a couple tough weekends where I had a chance.”
Even though Morikawa was disappointed in coming up short on a victory he has been shooting for since winning the 2021 British Open, he was happy for Fowler.
“He’s been playing phenomenal golf, it’s great to see,” he said. “People love him.”
Morikawa’s 8-under round put him one shot back from the course record of 63. Hadwin shot a 67 and Fowler a 68.
Fowler had a share of the 54-hole lead last month at Los Angeles Country Club with an opportunity to win his first major and was at least a co-leader after three rounds in one tournament in each of the previous two years.
Before his breakthrough in Detroit, he had won just two of the 10 times he was the third-round leader or co-leader.
The 34-year-old Fowler physically and mentally did what was needed to earn his sixth PGA Tour victory and his first since winning the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The fan favorite Fowler, a longtime ambassador for Rocket Mortgage, was cheered with chants of “Rick-ie! Rick-ie!” as clusters of people gathered around the 18th green hoping he would win it.
While Fowler faltered, going 10 straight holes settling for pars on a relatively easy course, Morikawa had four birdies on both the front and back nine. Morikawa made a 10-foot putt at No. 12, his fourth birdie in a six-hole stretch that put him within a shot of Fowler, and his 9-footer for birdie at No. 14 pulled him into a tie with Fowler at 23 under.
Monday qualifier Peter Kuest (65), Lucas Glover (65) and Taylor Moore (67) were tied for fourth at 21 under. Kuest, who started the week ranked 789th in the world, did well enough to earn a spot in this week’s John Deere Classic in Illinois.
Play was suspended Saturday for 1 hour, 42 minutes because of lightning and the schedule for the final round was adjusted due to inclement weather in the forecast. The leaders teed off Sunday morning about 5 hours before the original schedule with threesomes starting on both the front and back nine.
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