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Rickie Fowler Must Finish to Win U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

Rickie Fowler was in his element today, smoothly swinging his way to the green and feathering putts into the hole as we’ve seen so often from him in major championships. But don’t let his nearly blemish-free first round fool you. We’ve seen this from him before and we won’t be fooled again. It’s going to take a lot more than 18 holes for Rickie to win his first major.

Fowler fired a 5-under 66 during the first round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Thursday, making six birdies and one bogey during a silky-smooth round that also featured a new mohawk haircut. That took his first-round total at major championships to 20 under since 2017, which is tied with Brooks Koepka (his round was still in progress) for the lead over that time.

The difference between Koepka and Fowler, of course, is the number of majors: four to zero. And while that may seem harsh, it does illustrate an issue Rickie has had during his career– closing when he has the lead.

Over his career, Fowler has held the 54-hole lead at a tournament six times, but only once has he held on to win. He’s usually a come-from-behind player, which isn’t bad considering he has five PGA Tour wins in his career, but is challenging when you’re trying to win your first major, where comebacks are fewer and harder to attain.

Most golf fans know Fowler has 10 Top 10 finishes in majors, including three runner-ups, but for him to get over the hump and get his first major, he has to be able to follow up a strong first round with an equally impressive next 54 holes. It can’t be one great round on Saturday or Sunday. And it can’t be three great rounds Thursday-Saturday. It’s going to take 72 holes of near perfection, and maybe more.

Fowler has all the tools necessary to win at Pebble Beach. He’s an amazing ball striker, an exceptional putter, and he hits it off the tee with power and accuracy. But winning a major is about consistency over 72 holes, not 18 or 54. You gotta combine them all to make it happen. The only question now is, is this the week Fowler does just that?