Rickie Fowler returned to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge determined to improve on his debut last year when he his best round was an even-par 72 and he ended up tied for 50th place. He’s off to a good start, shooting a 3-under-par 69 Thursday morning, tied for second after the opening round.
Perhaps he received a psychological boost – and maybe a few pointers – when he played a round with a guy who has extensive local knowledge of the Champions Course. Earlier this month Fowler, the 2010 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, was paired with Arnold Palmer in the prestigious Pro-Member at Seminole Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida.
In fact, Fowler and Palmer won the event against a field that included Lee Westwood, Jhonattan Vegas, Ernie Els, and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Vegas was paired with Jack Nicklaus.
“Yeah, definitely didn't hurt,” Fowler said of playing with the King. “I played really well with him. I wasn't too nervous, but obviously I felt that if I played well, I wanted to impress him a little bit.”
He did just that. “I went out and made seven birdies and an eagle,” Fowler said proudly. “I got a little smirk (from Palmer) at the end with a handshake, so I was happy about that.”
JANZEN’S WET, WILD DAY
Lee Janzen struggled a bit like most of the field as the winds picked up at Bay Hill Thursday, and he hit three balls in the water that could have derailed his round. Instead, he found a way to shoot 2-under 70. It helped that he had three birdies and an eagle thanks to just 23 putts.
“You would have to really do some research to see if I've ever shot under par with three water balls,” said Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion playing on a sponsor exemption. “In 1995 here, I hit a bunch of balls in the water that year, too, and made the cut. I didn't finish that good (tied for 65th), but I won THE PLAYERS Championship a couple of weeks later.”
Janzen, 46, hasn’t had great success at Bay Hill, with his only top-10 finish coming in 2001 when he tied for eighth.
“Today the difference really in the score is that I putted better,” Janzen said. “I probably didn't hit it as good today as I've hit it in a lot of rounds the last couple of years, but just a matter of making putts, which I have not done much of. And it's not for lack of trying or practice or anything else. So, hopefully, whatever it is I'm doing, I can just keep doing it.”
TOUGH DAY FOR FORMER CHAMPS
Bay Hill turned out to be a handful for much of the field, but former champions were particularly vexed. Out of the 11 teeing it up Thursday, only Phil Mickelson, the 1997 winner, managed to break par, shooting a 2-under 70. Chad Campbell, who conquered the field in 2004, was at even-par 72.
Tiger Woods, the six-time champion, was at 73. Likewise for Rod Pampling. The rest of the list: Andy Bean, 74, Tim Herron and Vijay Singh, 75, Robert Gamez 77, Paul Goydos 78, and Andrew Magee 79. Kenny Perry, the 2005 winner, shot 79 and withdrew with hip and knee problems.
POINTS AT CHIPPING CHALLENGE
D. A. Points will appear Friday at the Travelers Chipping Challenge at the Arnold Palmer Pavilion near the 18th hole at approximately 2:30 p.m.