At the turn, Fowler’s longtime caddie, Joe Skovron, reminded Fowler that with his near-flawless play during the first three days, he had given himself the wiggle room for an imperfect finish.
“Hey, you just played your worst nine holes all week,” Skovron said he told Fowler, “and you’re still in control of the tournament.”
Fowler dresses in colorful attire, including Creamsicle orange on Sunday, but his emotions rarely stand out. Skovron said that one of his top responsibilities is to get Fowler into the most positive frame of mind possible, and so before Fowler teed off at the 10th, Skovron asked him, “Are you good?” Fowler’s one-word reply — “Yep” — put Skovron at ease.
With his strong finish on the back nine, Fowler ended one dubious streak while extending another — he still has not broken par in the final round while holding the 54-hole lead.
“Turning at two over, I really felt even par was probably going to be O.K. from there in,” Fowler said, adding, “I just had to hold on.”
Fowler had won twice overseas while holding the 54-hole lead, in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, both times against more illustrious fields than this one, which included none of the players in the world’s top six. Fowler turned a Sunday stroll into high drama on the par-4 sixth when his drive found the water hazard. After taking a one-stroke penalty, he hit the fairway with his next shot but was 77 yards from the pin. His approach landed 25 feet from the hole, and from there, he two-putted to drop to 11 under.
Around then, Woodland parred the seventh to stay at nine under, two under for the day. Woodland then birdied the 13th to move to 10 under. But then Fowler sank his 38-footer at 12 to give himself some breathing room at 12 under.
“I was well aware that it was getting close,” Fowler said. “I just kept sticking…