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Live Life Deliberately

Rickie Fowler got his first win in years. Watching it live was a challenge.

It took more than four years, but Rickie Fowler finally got another win on the PGA Tour. CBS viewers had to wait to see it televised.

Fowler’s birdie putt Sunday on the first hole of a playoff with Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin at the Rocket Mortgage Classic delivered him a loudly cheered victory. After weather concerns led tournament organizers to have all of the competitors start the final round much earlier than initially planned, though, CBS stuck to its broadcast schedule. That meant the network showed the popular golfer’s triumphant moment approximately 3½ hours after it actually occurred at Detroit Golf Club.

Those with the CBS Sports app on their phones were able to see the action as it unfolded, but many hoping to catch it on TV were instead treated to infomercials as Fowler, Morikawa and Hadwin battled down the stretch and into a sudden-death playoff. Critical comments flooded social media, including a tweet from soccer star Alex Morgan, who said all she wanted for her birthday was to see Fowler win and to “watch this live.”

If some would-be viewers were left unhappy, the 34-year-old Fowler expressed a mixture of satisfaction and relief after completing a climb back to the top of the sport.

“It’s just nice to have this one out of the way. I’m obviously going to soak this one in and celebrate a bit,” he said Sunday at a post-tournament news conference. “Yeah, it’s just been a long road.”

A former phenom who finished in the top five at all four majors in 2014 and reached as high as fourth in the world rankings two years later, Fowler had fallen all the way to 185th just a year ago. Amid struggles to work through some swing changes, he admitted in May 2022 to having issues with his confidence.

Following a reunion late last year with famed coach Butch Harmon, Fowler showed immediate improvement at the start of this PGA Tour season, including a second-place finish at October’s Zozo Championship. His fifth-place showing at last month’s U.S. Open — at which he shot a record-tying 62 in the first round — made for his seventh top-10 finish to that point. His final-round collapse after sharing the 54-hole lead, though, served as a painful reminder that Fowler still had one more daunting hill to climb.

The Oklahoma State product can now check a victory off his to-do list, and he even pulled off some stirring heroics Sunday to make it happen. Having been passed in the final few holes by Morikawa and Hadwin, Fowler needed to birdie the 18th to get into the playoff, and he did just that after stuffing his approach to within a few feet of the pin. At the 18th again to start the extra session, Fowler got into trouble off the tee but was granted a fortuitous free drop, which he parlayed into an impressive shot that left him 12 feet from the cup.

After Morikawa and Hadwin failed to make a birdie with either of their third shots, Fowler drained his putt and ignited a Detroit crowd that gleefully resumed chanting: “Rickie! Rickie!”

“I knew it was just a matter of time with how I’ve been playing,” Fowler said in an on-course interview. “I’ve had a couple tough weekends where I had a chance.”

Meanwhile, a number of fans were wondering why CBS was unable to change its Sunday plans to correspond to the decision made by the tournament and the PGA Tour. To add to the frustration of some hoping a live feed might have been shifted to cable, per reports, Golf Channel was showing a replay of the morning’s action.

“Rickie Fowler is at -23 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Morikawa and Hadwin are a stroke behind,” sportswriter Mike Lupica tweeted during back-nine play. “Why am I telling you this? Because the PGA Tour and CBS Sports geniuses don’t have it on television.”

A spokesman for CBS Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For Fowler, it was his first tour win since February 2019, when he topped the field at the Phoenix Open. That gave him five such victories at the time, dating from 2012, plus three additional wins on the European and Asian tours.

Then began a descent into mediocrity for one of golf’s most high-profile performers. Asked Sunday if he “always” felt he would get back to the top, Fowler replied: “Not always. You never really know with this game. You definitely learn to appreciate the good times when you’re playing well, and you hope the struggles don’t last, but sometimes they last longer than you would hope for.”

“I knew what I was capable of,” he added, “but it’s tough when you’re struggling for that long.”


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