Rickie Fowler didn't win the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship this week, but the fact that he played six matches was a win in an of itself and was the biggest surprise of the tournament.
Fowler had missed three straight cuts coming into this week, hobbling as a No. 14 seed to a first round slaughter at the hands of Ian Poulter, considered by most to be the best match play golfer in the world. But Fowler started on Wednesday by knocking Poulter out in the first round, the biggest upset of the first 32 matches that day. He then backed that up by beating the hottest player in the world this season, Jimmy Walker, who was just the fourth player in the last 25 years to get three wins in his first eight events. Walker is almost certainly headed for Ryder Cup spot and should have a stranglehold on the top of the FedExCup Standings for at least the first half of the year, but Fowler got hot again for the second straight huge upset.
His third round match against Sergio Garcia was marred by the Spaniard's bizarre decision to concede a 17-foot putt, offering a good-good resolution with his own ball just six feet away. Fowler gladly took the halve from that disadvantageous position, and then came back from a 3-down deficit to win it on the 18th green. Fowler staged another comeback on Saturday against Jim Furyk in his elite 8 match, winning the 17th hole to pull even and then taking the 18th to play his way into Sunday.
It was a shocking development for Fowler, who, over the last 12 months or so, has hit a bit of a low point in his young career. He's a high profile player with lots of fans and endorsement deals, but he's got just one win so far and hasn't contended over the past year. It got particularly ugly at the start of this season, but Fowler has been working through swing changes with guru Butch Harmon.
Perhaps some of those alterations with "Butchy" took shape this week? He ran into the indomitable Jason Day in the semis, and he never led with the Aussie No. 2 seed winning on the 16th green, 3-up. But Fowler was undeterred, and came back in the consolation match to knock off Ernie Els, another player not expected to make much noise this week. Fowler beat Els on the 19th hole, and even though it was a third place match, it clearly meant something to him as he looked relieved and ecstatic to take his second game of the day. It would be great for golf if a young marketable star like Fowler started to make a run at these big time events and this week could be the turning of a corner for Rickie.