LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler achieved the rare feat of top-five finishes at all four majors this year but Sunday’s tie for third at the PGA Championship was the one that stung the most.
The 25-year-old Californian, who has triumphed just once on the PGA Tour, was hunting his first victory on golf’s biggest stage and for much of the final round at Valhalla Golf Club he was perched atop the leaderboard.
Three times over the first 10 holes he seized the outright lead before being caught by the chasing pack.
A bogey at the par-three 14th, where he missed the green badly to the right off the tee, ultimately cost him a shot at the title.
“This is probably the one that hurts the most for me with the majors this year,” Fowler told reporters after signing off with a three-under-par 68 on a rain-soaked Valhalla layout where birdies were plentiful.
”The first three (majors) were a lot of fun obviously, to be in great positions and to get great finishes. This one I felt like I could go out today and win it. I put myself in a good position.
“The back nine wasn’t what I was wanting but still, to look back on the year, it was pretty awesome through the majors and something I can be proud of.”
Fowler, who ended up with a 14-under total of 270 to finish two strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy, finds himself in illustrious company after his consistent displays in the majors this year.
He joins Tiger Woods (2000, 2005) and Jack Nicklaus (1971, 1973) as the only players to finish in the top five at all four major championships in a season during the modern era.
Asked if there was one shot during Sunday’s final round he would like to take back, Fowler replied: ”Maybe the nine-iron on 17 out of the fairway.
“I had a good number and just didn’t catch it clean and left it out to the right.”
Fowler barely reached the front edge of the green with his approach there and two-putted from over 50 feet for par.
“I had a good number to the left pin and I‘m able to be aggressive with it,” he said. “I make birdie there and have a chance to make three or four at the last. Then it’s a different story.”
Almost two hours of play had been lost earlier in the day due to water-logged conditions at Valhalla and with daylight fading fast, the final two pairings played the par-five 18th hole in near darkness.
Fowler and playing partner Phil Mickelson hit their tee shots at the last, and then allowed McIlroy and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger to hit their theirs too before they advanced up the fairway.
Fowler fully expected play to be suspended in the gathering gloom before they could hit their approaches into the green.
”We were cool with hitting the tee shot,“ Fowler said. ”Typically if it’s getting dark and they (organizers) are going to below the horn, you at least get the guys off the tee and it gives them the opportunity to play.
“We weren’t expecting the approach shots. So, however, you look at it ... It is what it is. It was a little different playing the last few holes in the dark. I was getting fairly close to calling it obviously but nice to get it (the final round) in.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford