Fabulous Fowler leaving Honda rivals chasing his shadow
Home hero turning on the style
Story so far
The last two US Tour events have provided runaway victories for Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler is threatening to do the same in the Honda Classic.
The all-star American trio, who will be among the frontrunners in the betting for the Masters in April, have built on Ryder Cup glory by starting 2017 in fine style. While Jason Day struggles and Rory McIlroy lies on the treatment table, the Yanks have been making hay.
Fowler, who finished the Phoenix Open strongly in his previous outing, has been superb for three days in the Honda. The former world number four opened with back-to-back rounds of 66, before easing clear of the field with a Saturday 65.
Fowler, freely available at 18-1 ante-post, has scooted four shots clear at the top of the PGA National leaderboard. The leader is no bigger than 4-11 to get the job done.
English raider Tyrrell Hatton is alone in second place, with a further two-shot gap to those in third.
-13 Rickie Fowler
-9 Tyrrell Hatton
-7 Emiliano Grillo, Sean O'Hair, Gary Woodland, Martin Kaymer, Wesley Bryan
-6 Brandon Hagy, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Kisner, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Brian Stuard, Chad Collins, Morgan Hoffmann, Graham DeLaet, Anirban Lahiri, Ryan Palmer
4-11 R Fowler, 9 T Hatton, 33 G Woodland, M Kaymer, E Grillo, 50 W Bryan, S O'Hair, 66 K Kisner, 80 J Walker, Z Johnson, 100 bar
Rickie Fowler has responded manfully to the pressure applied by his golfing peers and this darling of the American galleries can get back to winning ways in Palm Beach Gardens today.
Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson – all good friends of Fowler – have started the year in trophy-winning form. Fowler, who has slipped to 14th in the world rankings, was being left behind. He is using the Honda to catch up.
Fowler defied an increasing number of critics when winning the 2015 Players Championship at Sawgrass in majestic fashion and he is on his way to glory at another tough Florida track this week, providing another timely reminder of his talent.
Take Fowler out of the equation and the Honda would looks a seriously competitive affair going into the final 18 holes. There are a remarkable 12 players tied for eighth place, three shots off second place. All those at six under par have a chance of overtaking Tyrrell Hatton, who leads the pursuit of Fowler.
As for the outright market, there is zero urge to get further involved. Fowler was an ante-post Racing Post Sport investment at 18-1 and there is no reason to believe he will fail to secure his fourth US Tour title today. The Florida-based swinger, sleeping in his own bed this week, has been oozing long-game control and been able to tackle a dangerous, water-strewn track without fear.
Hatton deserves credit for getting into second place on his Honda debut, but surely it will be beyond him to overcome a world-class player who is competing in his own backyard. Fowler's every move will be cheered to the rafters and Hatton's lack of US Tour experience should tell.
Hatton's only significant victory as a professional came with a runaway success in the low-key Dunhill Links Championship last year, plodding around easy St Andrews in a friendly atmosphere with amateur partners in tow. Tackling Fowler and his army of fans through the Bear Trap and emerging with the trophy is a different kettle of fish.
Hatton has failed to convert winning chances into victory whenever he has been competing on a tight leaderboard. He blew a gilt-edged opportunity in the DP World Tour Championship at the end of November.
The betting without Fowler market is ultra-competitive. Hatton is an unattractive option and preference is for Wesley Bryan, Kevin Kisner and Emiliano Grillo.
Fourth-round twoball punters are pointed towards Bryan, who should play in a more relaxed manner today after suffering in the final twoball yesterday. Bryan and Ryan Palmer brought each other down in a sea of nerves and mediocrity, but Bryan made birdie at the final hole and can build on that last-gasp fillip.
Bryan was fourth in the Genesis Open last week, loves PGA National and can make a bold bid for the runner-up cheque from a share of third place. His playing partner Brandon Hagy has never bettered 14th place on the US Tour, so is entitled to be feeling the pinch in round four.
2pts 4-5 general