SCOTTSDALE – Rickie Fowler finally won a tournament title that had eluded him, and it wasn’t all that much fun until the task was complete.
Fowler recovered from a back-side triple-bogey to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday in the outskirts of Phoenix..
Fowler’s final-round 3-over-par 74 in the rain came with birdies on two of the final four holes after his lead disappeared at TPC Scottsdale.
“It wasn’t fun,” Fowler said. “Just having to dig deep and fight through. It wasn’t easy out there.”
Fowler finished at 17-under 267 to win by two shots over South Africa’s Branden Grace, whose final-round 69 wasn’t enough.
A year ago, Fowler couldn’t hold a lead in this tournament entering the final round. This time, he had a four-shot cushion, and he saw that vanish.
“It has been a long time coming to get the win here,” Fowler said. “It was big, especially being out front.”
Fowler pulled even with Grace thanks to a birdie on the par-5 No. 15. Another birdie on the par-4 No. 17 after Grace took a bogey on the 17th gave Fowler a two-shot edge. Grace hit into the water on No. 17, proving costly.
Fowler had been pumped up by then as he drove the green on the par-4 17th with a chance at an eagle putt.
But it wasn’t easy from there. Fowler’s tee shot on the 18th ended up buried in the tall grass strips located in a fairway sand trap. Two shots later, he had a short putt for par to clinch the title.
Fowler, 30, secured his fifth victory on the PGA Tour. It came despite the highest final-round score in the tournament’s history.
“A couple of bad swings, a couple of bad breaks,” Fowler said. “We kept moving forward.”
Fowler made triple at the par-4 11th when his approach rolled past the pin, over the green and into the water behind the green, which was deemed a penalty area. The ball rolled back into the water, costing him another stroke, before Fowler finally got up and down for a 7. He followed up with a bogey 4 on the par-3 No. 12.
Justin Thomas, who contended all week, had three birdies — including on each of the last two holes — during his final-round 72 and ended up third at 14 under.
Thomas figured Fowler was due.
“He would be the first to tell you he should have won more than he has,” Thomas said. “But it’s hard to win, there’s only one winner every week and he’s played plenty well enough and I’m sure it’s going to happen plenty of times.”
Fowler said he views this tournament as special and therefore it’s a coveted victory.
“This is definitely very high up on the list,” Fowler said, also listing Torrey Pines among his most notable. “I would say between here and there, those would be the two highest on the list, other than a major.”
Matt Kuchar, who joined Thomas and Fowler in the final group, shot 75 and faded to a tie for fourth at 12 under. He shared that with Bubba Watson (71) and Chez Reavie (68)
Fowler’s double bogey on No. 5 created the first notable movement on the leaderboard, softened some because Kuchar and Thomas both took bogeys on the hole.
Defending champion Gary Woodland closed with 72 for his worst round of the tournament and finished tied for seventh at 11 under.
–Field Level Media