Fowler: 'Chance to do something pretty cool'

Rickie Fowler hits from the fairway bunker on No. 1 during the third round of the Masters Tournament on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Augusta National Golf Club. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Rickie Fowler hits from the fairway bunker on No. 1 during the third round of the Masters Tournament on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Augusta National Golf Club. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Rickie Fowler has given himself another chance. What might he do with it this time?

Fowler cashiered his best-ever day at the Masters with a 7-under 65 on a soggy Saturday, which did not exactly leaving him breathing down turbo-charged Patrick Reed's neck. Fowler opens the final round in third place but five shots behind.

Yet for a player so scrutinized for how he has performed in the major championships, Fowler challenged, moving up from 11th place into the final round's penultimate pairing with a collection of remarkable shots of his own. He has never played Augusta National so well.

"Obviously, Patrick is playing some pretty solid golf," he said. "I think we took care of what we needed to take care of and tomorrow's chance for us to do something pretty cool."

It has become part of Fowler's modus operandi to come close to something cool. A bitter memory of last spring is still fresh. He shared the lead of the 2017 Masters after 36 holes and opened Sunday one shot down, only to shoot 76 and tie for 11th. Asked if he prefers being the pursuer this time rather than the pursued, he said he'd prefer a nine-shot lead.

"Yeah, I'd much rather be out front and give myself a little wiggle room and be able to play some golf," he said. "But I'll take this. All you want is a shot come Sunday at the Masters, so we got that."

Fowler can't show up a major without having to account for himself. Currently ranked No. 8 in the world, he is winless in his 32 majors, with seven top-5 finishes and two runners-up. Following his stellar 2014, when he finished second in the U.S. and British Opens, third in the PGA and fifth in the Masters, it was widely assumed he had arrived as the next best American hope.

But four years later, he is 29 now and hasn't won anything in almost 14 months, much less a major. These circumstances are not lost upon him.

"Obviously, it's been everyone's dream to win at the Masters," he said. "You know, growing up, to be able to have that chance to walk up 18 with a chance to win or maybe you have it closed out, and that's your walk to victory.

"We did a great job today of giving ourselves a chance for tomorrow. Still a lot of work to be done, a lot of golf to be played. But I'm looking forward to it. We're definitely in striking distance to go put together a good round of golf like we did today and we'll see what happens."

His third round was jumped-started by a 25-footer for eagle on No. 2 and then a serpentine 42-foot for birdie on No. 5, after he drove into the deep rough. But he sounded prouder of two holes where he saved par from deep trouble. On No. 11 where he found trees to the right off the tee, he pitched out, dropped his third shot to within 14 feet and made a double-breaking putt for 4. On 13, he saved par with an up-and-down after knocking his second shot into the water.

He left a birdie putt on No. 18 perhaps one ball rotation short. The round marked his first without a bogey in 28 trips around Augusta National.

"I'm definitely playing this golf course the best I have ever, as far as how comfortable I am on each and every hole, playing all the holes well," Fowler said. "Definitely, I think I'm hitting a lot more greens than I've ever hit here and probably driving it the best I ever have."

The past three Masters have produced three first-time major champions in Jordan Spieth in 2015, Danny Willett in 2016 and the long-suffering Sergio Garcia last April, who took his first major in 19 years of trying. When Fowler was asked if a victory on Sunday might change the way the public sees him, he thought first about the wardrobe.

"I hope it wouldn't change how you guys see me," he said, "other than having a green jacket I'd be able to wear around every once in awhile and then wear it back here."