Rickie Fowler looking to end title drought in land of forefathers

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Rickie Fowler - TheGolfingHub
While Rickie Fowler acknowledges he has been winless in 44 months, he is also no stranger to pressures on Sunday and is ready for the challenge at the ZOZO Championship. Photo: JGTO

Rickie Fowler birdied his closing 18 to ensure he would stay atop the ZOZO Championship leaderboard on his own after signing for a four-under-par 66 to fend off the stiff challenge from a host of players that include Japan’s young talent Ryo Hisatsune on Saturday.

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Hisatsune started the day in tied-13th after rounds of 69 and 67. But a noteworthy 65 that included six birdies and a bogey on 12 saw the 20-year-old Japanese move inside the top-10 to take a share of eighth place with his three-day total of nine-under-par 201.

 

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Fowler, who is seeking his first win since the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2019, reeled in two birdies on holes two and seven to reach the turn in 32. The overnight co-leader with Andrew Putnam then moved ahead with further birdies on 10 and 13 but was pegged back by a bogey on 15.

Despite finding the fairway bunker on 18, Fowler’s calculated approach ensured he would sink another birdie to snatch the outright lead, giving him a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley who also signed for a 66.

 

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“I didn’t have a very good lie and was sitting in a low spot. So, there was no thought of trying to go for it or hit it any further than where I did.

“I was just trying to get one back in play and give myself a wedge to that pin. But I hit it onto a very good spot out of the fairway to have a good angle,” said Fowler.

While Fowler acknowledges he has been winless in 44 months, he is also no stranger to pressures on Sunday and is ready for the challenge.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in this situation. I definitely had some tough times the last few years, but I always knew it (my game) was there. It was always just a fine line, a shot or two here or there. It’s just nice to see myself starting to build that momentum and confidence again and get the ball rolling in the right direction.

“It will be tough and also fun tomorrow. I’m going to have to play well and continue to do what I’ve been doing the last three days. There are plenty of guys within a few shots. I’m in control, but that can change if I don’t execute what I have been doing.”

Like Fowler, Hisatsune is also aware of the pressures of being the leading Japanese as he heads into his final 18 holes at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club.

The 20-year-old turned professional in 2020 and while he has yet to notch his first professional victory, Hisatsune has already served notice of his talent with six top-10sincluding a tied-second finish at the Aso Ilzuka Challenged Golf Tournament on the JGTO this season.

“I obviously felt a little bit of pressure but continued to believe in myself. I’ve been hitting good shots all day and making putts that were missing in previous tournaments. I need to continue doing what I’ve been doing and hopefully, my best will not only make me happy but also the home crowd,” said Hisatsune.