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Rickie Fowler getting closer

7/20/2014 - Golf Rickie Fowler
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The Yellow Scoreboard

Gene Wojciechowski examines the unique and historic yellow scoreboards at the Open Championship.

HOYLAKE, England -- Even a kid who has a ton going for him such as Rickie Fowler occasionally gets reminded that life is not fair.

Fowler shot four rounds in the 60s and posted a 15-under total at the Open Championship, a performance worthy of any number of things.

A party. A parade. A permanent portrait on someone's clubhouse wall.

But here's one thing Fowler's brilliance at Royal Liverpool was not worthy of: the Claret Jug. Rory McIlroy earned that, and his third leg of a career Grand Slam, by finishing 2 strokes better than the opponent he first faced at the Walker Cup seven years back. Fowler finished tied for second with Sergio Garcia.

"It's kind of similar to being one of the only guys at the U.S. Open to be under par and not win," Fowler said.

He was one of those guys -- along with Erik Compton -- who placed second at Pinehurst last month at 1 under, 8 big shots behind Martin Kaymer. Fowler also finished tied for fifth at the Masters, making this a breakthrough year for the 25-year-old known as much for his stylish wardrobe as his stylish game.

Only here's the problem: McIlroy is 25, too, and he already has two more victories in majors than Fowler has in PGA Tour events (one, at the 2012 Wells Fargo). "I definitely have some catching up to do," he said. "But I am getting closer."

In fact, he got as close as he could down the stretch Sunday after starting 6 shots behind his playing partner. Playing bogey-free golf all day, Fowler cut the deficit to 3 with a birdie at the par-3 15th, and followed up with birdies at the par-5 16th and 18th.

But McIlroy was too far in the clear. The moment he also birdied No. 16 was the moment Fowler and fellow chaser Garcia knew it was game, set, match.

"Tried to give Rory a little run at the end," Fowler said, "but just got on the gas a little too late."

He shot 5-under 67 playing in the final pairing of the final round of the Open Championship, 4 strokes better than McIlroy's number, and was left to console himself with the knowledge that he'd virtually locked up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Fowler also earned a piece of history he'd probably rather give back: Ernie Els (twice) and Jesper Parnevik are the only other players to score in the 60s in all four rounds of the Open Championship and fail to win.

"It's hard to be disappointed about it because it was such a great week," Fowler said. "And with the way I had been playing in the majors, there was some pressure to play well this week. But with how comfortable I've been ... it doesn't feel like a big stage. It feels like I should be here. ... There's plenty more to come. I'll take 15 under in a lot of majors and sit there and wait in the clubhouse."

Before he left Royal Liverpool, Fowler was asked if McIlroy had the game to someday complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National.

"I really don't have any doubt that he'll win there," Fowler said. "It would be nice if I can get him there first."