Regional Sports News
VIRGINIA WATER, England — Laura Davies will become the first female golfer to compete in an event on the men’s European Senior Tour when she takes part in the Shipco Masters next year in Denmark.
The former top-ranked female player will play from the men’s tees in the June 1-3 event at Simon’s Golf Club.
European Senior Tour head David MacLaren says it is “prepared to innovate and look to attract a wider audience to the game of golf.”
The 53-year-old Davies is a four-time major champion and 12-time Solheim Cup player. She has 45 wins on the Ladies European Tour and 20 wins on the LPGA Tour.
She says “my golfing career has been played in parallel with a number of players who are currently on the Senior Tour, so I’m really looking forward to testing my wits against them.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says he learned long ago not to assume which of his freshmen would make the biggest impact each year.
How much someone might play in his first college season can depend on everything from his level of homesickness to the position needs of his new team.
“There are just so many different (factors),” Fisher said. “And position can have a big impact. Certain positions are harder to play early in your career than they are for other guys. There’s not as much learning.”
That uncertainty still exists even in an era when freshmen play an increasingly important role every season.
Just last year, Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts was named the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver became the first freshman to earn first-team Associated Press All-America honors since 2011. Hurts had the Crimson Tide on the verge of a national title before Clemson’s last-second rally in the championship game.
Here’s a look at some true freshmen who could emerge as forces this season.
SALVON AHMED, RB, Washington
The return of two-time, 1,300-yard rusher Myles Gaskin could make it difficult for any newcomer to get many carries in Washington’s backfield, but Ahmed’s playmaking ability demands that he earn some kind of role. Whether Ahmed is catching passes, running the ball or returning kicks, Washington will find some way to use him. Ahmed needed only six games to rush for 1,300 yards his senior year at Juanita High in Kirkland, Washington. Other true freshmen who could merit immediate playing time for Washington include tight end Hunter Bryant and defensive back Elijah Molden.
CAM AKERS, RB, Florida State
Akers’ presence could help Florida State withstand the loss of Minnesota Vikings second-round draft pick Dalvin Cook, the Seminoles’ career rushing leader. Akers was rated as the nation’s No. 3 overall prospect in his class according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports. He threw for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns, and rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 more scores last year to lead Clinton (Mississippi) High to its first state title. Akers likely will start his college career behind junior Jacques Patrick on the depth chart but still should get plenty of carries.
JAMON AUSBON, WR, Texas A&M and JERRY JEUDY, WR, Alabama
Just about every year, it seems one of these two schools has a freshman wideout produce big numbers. It happened at Alabama with Amari Cooper in 2012 and with Calvin Ridley in 2015. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk also had a huge freshman season in 2015. Both schools have promising first-year receivers on their roster this year. Jeudy caught five passes for 134 yards in Alabama’s spring game. Ausbon’s also an early enrollee who had a big spring and should step right in.
K’LAVON CHAISSON, LB, LSU
Chaisson’s pass-rushing skills already have been evident. “K’Lavon Chaisson has been dominant,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said after the first week of training camp. “He’s exactly the type player we thought he’d be.” Chaisson posted 15 ½ sacks his senior year to help Houston’s North Shore win a Texas Class 6A Division I state title. His ability to get to the quarterback should earn Chaisson an immediate role this fall. LSU defensive backs Grant Delpit, Todd Harris and Kary Vincent also likely will play right away.
DONOVAN PEOPLES-JONES, WR, Michigan
Michigan must rebuild its receiving corps after losing Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and tight end Jake Butt to the NFL draft. That should create an immediate opportunity for Peoples-Jones, who was rated as the top receiver and the No. 12 overall prospect in his class according to the 247Sports Composite. Peoples-Jones, who is 6-foot-2, leads a talented group of Michigan freshman receivers that also includes Tarik Black and Oliver Martin.
N’KOSI PERRY, QB, Miami
The departure of Detroit Lions sixth-round draft pick Brad Kaaya has created a wide-open quarterback competition at Miami. Perry arguably has the greatest upside of all the candidates, though Miami coach Mark Richt said Monday the experience of junior Malik Rosier and sophomore Evan Shirreffs currently gives them an edge. Perry, who is 6-4, is the nation’s No. 7 dual-threat quarterback prospect in his class according to the 247Sports Composite. Another freshman competing for the quarterback spot is Cade Weldon, the son of former Florida State star and 1991 Heisman Trophy runner-up Casey Weldon.
Denver Post Broncos writer Nicki Jhabvala posts her Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season.
Has Paxton Lynch regressed from last preseason? Or is the pressure of the QB competition getting to him? I’ve noticed he’s been dropping his eyes when scrambling, and has happy feet in the pocket.
— Ron, Denver
Ron: Not necessarily. He’s more comfortable with being a pro in a sense of understanding what it takes to really compete for the starting a job. I think most rookies would tell you that part of it is as hard to learn as anything. His footwork has significantly improved, as well, but he’s adapting to a new system after starting only two games in the old one. While most believe Mike McCoy‘s offense is a better fit for Lynch’s skillset, it’s still a sharp departure from the spread Lynch became accustomed to at Memphis. And it’s a system that requires him to make multiple adjustments on the fly. Reading and reacting to defenses appears to trip him up the most right now. He started the offseason strong and appeared very comfortable with a year under his belt, but as more was added to the offense, the mistakes and turnovers piled up.
McCoy’s offense isn’t simpler than Gary Kubiak‘s. And for a young quarterback with little experience, it can take a while to learn and feel fully comfortable in executing.
If Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch don’t knock anyone’s socks off, would they consider starting Kyle Sloter or Chad Kelly, or is too much time invested in the first two for this year?
— Rob, Nipomo, Calif.
Rob: No. Head coach Vance Joseph made it extremely clear Thursday after the preseason win at Chicago that the first- and second-string jobs will go to Siemian and Lynch. Kyle Sloter will not get a chance to compete for the starting gig or receive more second-team reps. This was the plan all along, and despite Sloter’s impressive showing in the fourth quarter against the Bears, the plan is not changing.
Chad Kelly will likely have a redshirt season. He’s on the non-football injury list as he recovers from knee and wrist surgeries suffered before he was drafted, and he will likely stay on injured reserve when the season opens.
Although few care to listen or really believe what John Elway and Joseph have said since January — and they’ve said it many, many times — the Broncos like what they have in Siemian and Lynch. The two just need more playing time.
If Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch continue to look unimpressive in preseason, could Colin Kaepernick become a viable option at QB? If so, how soon? (Remember, we almost traded for him last year.)
— James U., Los Angeles
James: Don’t think so. Remember they passed on the chance to get him, too, when they couldn’t make the money work and when they subsequently drafted Lynch.
Since Shane Ray is hurt, what will the Broncos do to fill that hole? Do you think they would try to bring back DeMarcus Ware?
— Mike, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Mike: The Broncos brought back Danny Mason for depth when Ray went down with an injury. They also moved rookie DeMarcus Walker to outside linebacker. Denver drafted Walker with the intent of using him as a hybrid of sorts, at defensive end and outside linebacker, and so far they like what they’ve seen out of him at OLB.
Ray, as well as Shaquil Barrett (hip), are both expected to return early in the regular season.
Depth is a concern for the Broncos’ defense. Billy Winn was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury, Derek Wolfe was lost for the remainder of preseason with an ankle sprain and, on Monday, Jared Crick was carted off with an apparent back injury. The team could look to bring in help for depth in camp. But DeMarcus Ware? Eh, he seems to be enjoying life as an NFL retiree and new TV analyst.
Hi Nicki! I am honestly really excited about our run game for the first time in years. On paper, we look like we are pretty stacked on paper with Jamaal Charles, C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. How will the Broncos use them this year?
— Jesus M., Arvada
Jesus: The Broncos are excited, too. The offensive line and the run game were the two areas of the offense the team needed to improve most. Ron Leary, a run-blocking guard, is already showing how valuable he is to this offense and the added size up front, in general, gave the run game an early boost in Chicago.
Joseph has said he plans to take a committee approach with his running backs.
“The running back position, you need two or three guys who are going to carry the load,” he said in May. “It’s no longer a one-guy position.”
Anderson is the starter and returned to camp this year in the best shape of his career. And although Booker quickly went down with a wrist injury, he is expected to be back early in the regular season and the team has high hopes for him. Joseph said that while Booker is listed as the No. 2 back on the depth chart, he was pushing to be No. 1 before the injury. That says a lot.
Jamaal Charles, if he’s anything close to the Jamaal Charles of 2014 before his injuries, he could be a needed spark plug.
But the name to remember is De’Angelo Henderson, the 5-foot-7 rookie out of Coastal Carolina who turned in the 41-yard game-winning score at Chicago. His speed and vision has earned him rave reviews from his coaches and teammates. He’s small, but he plays anything but.
In 305 fielding chances this season, Colorado’s five-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman had misplayed a baseball on just four occasions — and never on a groundball so routine as the one he saw in the eighth inning of the Rockies’ 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
The Rockies blasted three home runs, but all were solo shots. Rookie starter Kyle Freeland gave up just four hits, but three for runs. And the Rockies’ offense, their supposed hallmark, failed to score more than three runs in an eighth consecutive game.
Colorado (66-53) failed to add a cushion in the National League wild-card chase after Arizona (66-53) and St. Louis (61-58) also lost.
But no detail caused more double-takes than Arenado’s skip-throw in the eighth. With two outs in a 3-3 game and Atlanta’s Brandon Phillips stuck on second base, right-handed reliever Pat Neshek forced Tyler Flowers into a soft chopper toward third.
Arenado corralled the grounder like the thousands of fungoes he fields every season in a daily practice routine that borders on obsessiveness. He hopped into a throwing motion and fired toward first baseman Mark Reynolds. But the throw fell short and skipped through the dirt, and as the ball bounced away, Phillips sprinted home for the go-ahead run.
Arenado’s place in Tuesday’s game was doubtful even the day before, after his left hand swelled with a bone bruise caused by an errant pitch Sunday in Miami. He lobbied his way into the lineup, and it was working for the Rockies. Arenado homered in the first inning to give them an early lead.
Boxscore: Atlanta 4, Colorado 3
Runs for the Rockies came piecemeal. Arenado redirected a low-zone Sean Newcomb 97 mph fastball to dead center for a solo shot. Midafternoon a day earlier, Arenado could barely grip a bat, let alone swing one. But he tied Charlie Blackmon for the club lead with 27 home runs.
In the fourth inning, Reynolds led off by jerking a changeup from Newcomb into the left field seats, an arced shot that seemingly nipped the clouds in its long hang time. It was Reynolds’ 24th homer this season, but his first since Aug. 3 and second since July 23.
His was not the only Colorado leadoff homer. Trevor Story shot-putted a solo job over the right-field fence in the fifth inning, victimizing another Newcomb fastball, this one in a 2-0 count, for his 16th home run of the season. Story hit 27 homers in an injury-shortened, 97-game rookie season in 2016, but he had not hit one out before Tuesday since July 29.
Freeland returned to the Rockies’ rotation after a minimum stint on the disabled list to help heal a strained left groin muscle. He picked up where he left off, tossing a 13th quality start (at least six innings and no more than three earned runs) with a workmanlike performance. He gave up only four hits, and no more than one in an inning.
Atlanta took an early lead with just one hit, after Freeland walked Flowers to lead off the second inning and walked Lane Adams three batters later, and then rookie Dansby Swanson lined a two-run double to the left-field corner.
The Braves’ second hit was another double, Freddie Freeman’s one-hopper off the right field wall with two outs in the third inning. But Freeland rallied to strike out Flowers, the cleanup hitter, as he flailed at a changeup. Nick Markakis tagged Freeland for a solo homer in the sixth inning, to right field, but only after Freeland whiffed Freddie Freeman on high heat and forced Flowers to ground out. The damage was contained.
“He pitches aggressively,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “He sets the tone for the at-bat. He doesn’t back down. His intent is to attack. That’s what I like about Kyle. That’s always a good plan, to be the aggressor and go after hitters. And that’s in his nature.”
The slumping Rockies, who lost their sixth game in the past eight, fell to the Braves at Coors Field for the first time since 2014, snapping a Colorado streak that on Monday extended to 11 games. Atlanta won just a third game in its past 18 against the Rockies overall.
SANDUSKY, Ohio — LeBron James swiped at President Trump on Tuesday, calling him the “so-called president” while calling for unity in light of the Charlottesville tragedy.
Speaking on stage to students, parents and families connected his to foundation at the end of a daylong event at Cedar Point Amusement Park, James said he wanted to spend a moment addressing the weekend’s violent protests, where a woman was killed.
“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville (Virginia),” James said. “I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command and the only way for us to get better as a society and for us to get better as people is love. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something as one. It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case.”
Earlier in the day, the NBA superstar blasted Trump on Twitter after the president appeared to equate the actions of white supremacists and those protesting them.
James has been outspoken on his political beliefs in the past, and he took advantage of his first public appearance since the NBA Finals, to call out Trump’s actions.
“It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day,” James continued. “It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. All of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent, then that’s all you can ask for.
“So, shout out to the innocent people in Charlottesville (Virginia) and shout out to everybody across the world that just want to be great and just want to love. Thank you, and I love you all.”
James was joined on stage by his three children, singers Usher and Jordin Sparks, who performed during the event, and Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith.
James flew to New York earlier Tuesday to play in pickup games with Warriors star Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.
Beth Mowins will become the first woman to call NFL play-by-play for CBS.
Mowins will team with former NFL kicker Jay Feely for her debut on Sept. 24 when Cleveland plays at Indianapolis. The network released its announcer pairings Tuesday.
Mowins will start the season calling a Monday night NFL game between the Chargers and Broncos for ESPN. She will be the second woman to call play-by-play for an NFL regular-season game and first since NBC’s Gayle Sierens in 1987.
Mowins has called college football for ESPN since 2005 and done play-by-play locally on preseason Raiders games.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will make his CBS debut on the network’s No. 1 team with Jim Nantz by calling the Oakland at Tennessee on the first Sunday of the season.
Romo will be the analyst for the Broncos’ Week 4 game against the Raiders on Oct. 1 in Denver.
Nolan Arenado barely needed much lobbying to get himself into the Rockies’ lineup Tuesday. Colorado’s all-star third baseman, with batting gloves on and a bat in his hand, spoke just four words to his manager as they passed each other in the clubhouse hallway.
“I think he’d just come from the cage,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “I said: ‘Hi, Nolan. How you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m good to go.’ And we just passed each other in the hall and that was it. So I immediately kept going and saw (bench coach) Mike Redmond. And I said, ‘Red, Nolan is in the lineup.’ He said: ‘I know. I talked to him earlier.’”
Arenado on Monday estimated he would miss two or three games with a bone bruise on his left hand, after he was hit by a pitch in Miami on Sunday.
“It’s definitely bothering me,” he said.
By Monday night, Arenado had talked himself into a pinch-hitting situation, batting in the eighth spot in the seventh inning. He popped out, but his swings looked healthy. Then he tried to sneak to third base.
“Little did I know he was going to try to take the field,” Black said. “That wasn’t in the game plan. That’s like a Little Leaguer, when little Johnny runs out to right field. ‘No, Johnny, that’s Billy’s position.’”
By Tuesday, Arenado was back in the starting lineup. The swelling in his hand decreased enough that it didn’t affect his swing. Black called his return “a bonanza” for the Rockies. They were prepared multiple days without their Gold Glove corner infielder.
McMahon waiting. In the one game Arenado did not start, Black used utility infielder Pat Valaika at third base. He considered, but decided against, giving recent call-up Ryan McMahon the start. Since his call-up Friday, McMahon has started one game, at first base in place of Mark Reynolds.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” McMahon said. “But this team is in a playoff push right now. I need to kick the nerves and get ready to help any way I can.”
McMahon, Black said, will be used primarily as a backup first and second baseman, for however long his first stint in the majors lasts.
“Mac hasn’t played a lot of third base this season,” Black said. “He’s played a lot more on the right side — even going back to last year, the conversion to first base in Double-A, and he played a lot of first base in the fall league. Not that he couldn’t go to third base and feel comfortable, but to have his second major-league start at third base might not be the right thing to do. But we did think about it.”
Bullpen boon. With Kyle Freeland back in the starting rotation, the Rockies now have three former starters in the bullpen: veteran Tyler Chatwood, rookie Antonio Senzatela and left-hander Chris Rusin. But they will not necessarily be confined to long-relief roles.
“They can all be used in different types of situations,” Black said. Rusin and Chatwood, over the past week, both pitched in spot relief and longer stints. They may be used in matchup situations, as late-inning setup men or long relief.
“Those are three major-league pitchers. The more major-league pitchers you have, the better off you’re going to be.”
Footnotes. LHP Tyler Anderson (left knee surgery) pitched his second proper bullpen session Tuesday. He is working to strengthen the thigh muscle on his plant leg above the knee. “He’s going to pitch this year,” Black said. … Outfielder Ian Desmond (right calf strain) did more hard running work and hit in batting practice. But there is no timeline for his return.
David Zalubowski, The Associated Press
Jeff Roberson, The Associated Press
Matthew Stockman, Getty Images
Matthew Stockman, Getty Images
Christian Petersen, Getty Images
John Leyba, The Denver Post
Marcio Jose Sanchez, The Associated Press
Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-7, 4.29 ERA) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (4-2, 4.92), Wednesday 6:40 p.m., AT&T SportsNet, 850-AM
Gray is rounding into form after coming back from a broken foot in late June. In his past three starts, over 19 2/3 innings, he struck out 16 with a 3.20 ERA. But the team is 4-4 behind him since his return. His underlying numbers are promising, including a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best among Colorado’s starters. He is throwing a third-pitch curveball with confidence, and for strikes, to complement a fastball-slider arsenal. And in two career starts against Atlanta, he has a 0.64 ERA. Nick Groke, The Denver Post
Thursday: Braves RHP Lucas Sims (0-2, 5.25) at Rockies RHP Jeff Hoffman (6-4, 5.15), 1:10 p.m., no TV
Friday: Brewers TBA at Rockies RHP German Marquez (9-5, 4.13), 6:40 p.m., AT&T SportsNet
Saturday: Brewers TBA at Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (0-0, 0.00), 6:10 p.m., AT&T SportsNet
Question: The Broncos have taken it slow with Jamaal Charles and won’t have him play until Week 3 of the preseason, against Green Bay. Is that enough time to prove himself? Does he make this team?
Nicki: The Broncos wanted Charles before they brought him in for a visit this year. He fits Vance Joseph‘s vision for the offense, for the team as a whole, in providing explosiveness and speed to a run game that lacked consistency and general production last year. Listen to what Joseph has said over the last three months and it’s clear he has high hopes for Charles and is willing to be patient with his return from multiple knee surgeries. When asked if Charles needs to play in the preseason to solidify his place among the final 53, Joseph just said “Probably.” Asked if Charles is running out of time, Joseph said flatly: “No, he’s not.”
Nick: Charles himself is ready to roll. You can tell he is becoming antsy as he awaits his turn on the field. So far, it’s been only nibbles as he gradually increases his repetitions in practice. Charles said this week that he has put extra pressure on his right side, eager to show his surgically repaired knee is ready. He says he has nothing to prove, and as a guy who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards five times, that’s probably fair. But the Broncos will be paying close attention to how he reacts when he hits the field Aug. 26.
Nicki: At the start of camp, it was fair to question — and perhaps it still is — Charles’ durability and physical readiness after his injuries. But the fact of the matter is this: If Charles is anywhere close to the player he was from 2012-14, when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons straight, he’s a boost to the Broncos’ running backs room. The issue is less him and more the competition around him. De’Angelo Henderson shook things up immediately. Stevan Ridley did, too, when he arrived for depth and proved to be much more.
Nick: The good news for the Broncos, as you suggested, is that they don’t have depend, at this point, on a big contribution from Charles. With the experience of C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker, who should return from a wrist injury in about a month, and the speed of the rookie Henderson, the Broncos have nice options as they aim to restore a solid running game. But a Charles resembling anything near the all-pro version would be a huge boon, and the Broncos owe it to themselves to find out if they have that.
Nicki: Charles’ one-year deal is a win-win for the Broncos. If he fails to make the Week 1 roster, they owe him a mere $100,000. If he’s on the final 53 for the Monday night opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, he’s due about $1.33 million. With incentives and game-day bonuses, he could make up to $3.75 million. If the Broncos believe he’s close — if they believe he can make the cuts he needs without worrying about his knee, if they believe he still has some of the burst (he has shown it in practice) — then I believe he makes it.
Nick: I agree. I think the Broncos are going to put Charles through a test run against the Packers to be sure he’s on the path he claims to be on as it relates to being fully healthy. If Charles gets through that test without problems, I think the images of his breaking off big runs in an orange jersey come September would be too much for the Broncos to leave behind.
When the wave of emotion around Chad Bettis’ return finally crested Monday night, after the 28-year-old right-hander capped a comeback from cancer to pitch his first big league game this season, another boost kicked in.
The Rockies, with six weeks remaining in the regular season and on firm footing to get into the playoffs as a wild-card, found a pitching acquisition hiding in full view. Bettis, who threw seven shutout innings in a 3-0 victory against Atlanta, suddenly looks like a trade deadline deal that required no trade.
“We need some help,” Nolan Arenado said. “We need him a lot more than people know. We’ve been struggling. Hopefully this boost will help us.”
Bettis threw his first game on a big-league mound since last September. The Rockies acted like playoff contenders near the July trade deadline two weeks ago, trading for veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handed reliever Pat Neshek. But they did not add a starting pitcher. Bettis now fills that void for a young rotation.
When he left spring training in February after blood tests showed a recurrence of testicular cancer that led to chemotherapy treatments, Bettis vowed to return this season. His goal was a return just after the all-star break. But no one with the Rockies knew for sure how viable that goal was.
But Bettis did make it back. And just in time for a postseason push.
“This is one of, if not the, most important thing we can do this season,” Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich said on the MLB Network of the Rockies assisting Bettis back. “The way he handled it with grace and class and strength.”
Bridich meant that on a personal level. But competitively, Bettis’ return is a boon, too. He won more games (14) and pitched more innings (186) than any Rockies’ pitcher last year.
“This is a pitcher who, when he’s throwing well, will have an impact on the game every time he’s on the mound,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He wants to be a part of this and make a contribution every time he takes the mound. That’s a good thing for us.”
The Rockies’ rotation is now firmly in place with six weeks to play. Fireballer Jon Gray sits atop the fivesome, followed by rookies Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman, and Bettis. Veteran Tyler Chatwood and rookie Antonio Senzatela, both starters by trade, are now in Colorado’s bullpen. And lefty Tyler Anderson is rehabbing a knee injury, but will likely return.
“We feel pretty good about where we are with our arms, all of them,” Black said.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rickie Fowler, golf’s version of an action hero, keeps showing up too late to save himself at the majors.
His final six holes at the PGA Championship were nothing short of remarkable, the very reason why Fowler should remain in the category of “when” and not “if” as it relates to winning a major.
Seemingly out of contention, Fowler holed a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 12 (one of only four birdies in the final round) and hit his tee shot on the 13th to 8 feet for another birdie. He drove the 14th green to 40 feet for a two-putt birdie, then nearly holed a chip on the par-5 15th for a fourth straight birdie.
That whipped social media, along with practically all of Quail Hollow, into a frenzy because everyone loves Fowler and he loves them back.
But he ran out of holes.
Fowler figured he would need two more birdies, and that nasty three-hole stretch known as the “Green Mile” didn’t give any player more than one in the final round. He still managed to keep slim hopes alive by making a pair of 8-foot par putts that he couldn’t afford to miss. Heroic stuff.
Still, the closest he came to the Wanamaker Trophy was when he posed for a picture with its new owner, Justin Thomas, a good friend who lives down the street from him in Florida. Fowler also waited behind a year ago to see Jimmy Walker polish off victory at Baltusrol to win the same trophy. And he was at the 18th green a month ago at Royal Birkdale to see Jordan Spieth clutch the claret jug.
Asked to assess this year in the majors, Fowler wrapped it up with three sentences: “Nice coming off of last year. Made all the cuts. That’s a good step.”
It was a baby step compared with his colleagues’, many of them younger, all of them in full stride.
Compared with his own standard, it was a step to the side at best, but certainly not forward. Three years ago, Fowler joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top 5 at all four majors (Spieth has since joined them). The difference is the other three all won a major in those years.
Fowler is still 28. He has played only 30 majors as a pro. The talent is there, and so is the ability to deliver big moments. He showed that when he won The Players Championship in 2015 and the Scottish Open later that summer.
Phil Mickelson, now with five majors and three legs of the career Grand Slam, had a comparable major championship record to Fowler at that age.
In his first 30 majors as a pro, Mickelson had three veritable chances to win. He was one shot out of the lead at Shinnecock Hills in the 1995 U.S. Open, had the 36-hole lead at Valhalla in the 1996 PGA Championship and lost to a 15-foot putt by Payne Stewart at Pinehurst No. 2 in the 1999 U.S. Open.
The knock on Mickelson shouldn’t have been that he had not won a major by then, but that with all his talent he didn’t give himself enough chances. After eight full years on the PGA Tour, Mickelson already had 16 victories.
Fowler is wrapping up his eighth full year and has four PGA Tour titles.
He also has seven top 5s in the majors, though he has shown a bad habit of starting slowly, whether it was the Masters and British Open in 2014 or the Masters and the U.S. Open this year. His best chance was in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, where he made only one mistake on the back nine and had a long eagle putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.
Fowler should be too young to be considered the best without a major except that four players younger than him already have at least one — Spieth, Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. At worst, he has become a sentimental choice because of the growing number of chances and the gracious manner he treats people.
Maybe the time spent celebrating everyone else’s majors will pay off.
“You can learn so much from watching your friends play well and get the job done,” Fowler said. “It’s fun to see. It also motivates you to want to go out and push yourself to another level.”
The old guard might question Fowler’s fire by his willingness to smile and celebrate majors he wants for himself.
That’s simply the way he was brought up.
“We always kept everything positive,” his father once said. “Even if he hit a bad shot, we only talk about the good shots that he hit. We never brought up any negative talk. He knew if he hit a bad shot. We didn’t need to say anything.”
The skill is there. Only Fowler knows how much he feels the sting of watching others claim majors. His greatest asset going forward might be a positive attitude, something Sergio Garcia was missing for so many years before he finally won the Masters.
The best example was at Erin Hills, when Fowler started the final round of the U.S. Open two shots out of the lead and faded from view. He was asked that afternoon about the disappointment of not winning his first major.
“If you look at the negatives too much,” he said, “you’re going to be stuck doing that the whole time.”