Is there room for the “big three” to become the “big four”?
That’s what Rickie Fowler is hoping today as he leapfrogs fellow American Bubba Watson into No.4 on the world rankings after his win on the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship.
Fowler skipped from sixth to fourth, past Watson and giant Swede Henrik Stenson, when he held his nerve – and a couple of remarkable chip shots – to salute by a shot against an elite field, including world No.1 Jordan Spieth and No.3 Rory McIlroy.
And another big move at the top of the rankings was only prevented when runner-up Thomas Pieters, of Belgium, charged home to displace McIlroy from a share of second that would have lifted him past Australian Jason Day (absent from the tournament) and into No.2 in the tight rankings race.
Fowler will still be approximately two full points behind McIlroy, but is steadily building a quality resume with wins at The Players, Scottish Open and FedEx Cup playoff event the Deutsche Bank Championship in the past nine months.
The 27-year-old, who also has four other top-five finishes in that span, had to dig deep in Abu Dhabi, holing out twice from off the green – once from a fairway bunker on the 8th hole for eagle minutes after a double-bogey on the 7th threatened to derail his run.
His chip-in birdie on the 17th gave him breathing room for the closing par that gave him the title.
But even the man himself said recently that there’s one thing missing off the CV before he can be considered part of a “big four”.
“I feel like to be in the same conversation I need to get a major and get that on the resume to at least have some sort of credentials to be there,” Fowler said.
“But I'm just looking forward to working on being the best that I can be. The ultimate goal is to be the best player in the world. I obviously have some pretty tough competition out there.”
Day will likely need a top-20 finish at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, near San Diego, to keep his grip on second spot with McIlroy having closed to within 0.1 of a point.