Butch Harmon not only had a lot to do with Rickie Fowler’s comeback, he predicted it. Harmon, one of the great instructors in golf, made changes to Fowler’s swing late last year that led to a terrific season and a playoff victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July.
“It was sad to watch,” Harmon said of Fowler’s slump in the last four seasons after he claimed five victories, including the 2015 Players Championship, and Harmon was surprised it took Rickie so long to ask for help. “It was hard to watch him go from a perennial top-10 player in the world to outside the top 150.
“I didn’t say it (why he didn’t ask for help), but I was thinking it.”
Said Harmon after working with Fowler again beginning in November: “I think he’ll win this year. The game needs it.”
Quipped Fowler when he heard that: “Did he say which week?” but Fowler figured that one out himself.
Fowler sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole after a brilliant approach from the rough to turn back Adam Hadwin of Canada and Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal to win the Rocket Mortgage at Detroit Golf Club in Detroit.
“It’s just so great to win again, but with Butch’s help, I knew it was coming soon,” said Fowler, who earned his eighth result in the top 10 this season and 14th in the top 25 while climbing back to No. 21 in the World Golf Rankings and No. 8 in the FedEx Cup point standings after falling off the map in both categories in recent seasons.
“He’s the best golf coach out there,” Fowler said during his winner’s press conference after claiming that elusive sixth career PGA Tour title. “He does a great job with players, taking what they have and ultimately making them the best that they can be with who they are and how they swing and making what they do well that much better, and brings up the weaknesses.
“Butch is great, just his voice and having him in your corner. Just telling you something to give you a little confidence to go out there and just go play golf and keep it simple. Our split (in 2019) was really just because he stopped traveling, and then things weren’t working for me the last few years.
“It’s definitely been long and tough, a lot longer being in that situation than you’d ever want to be. But it makes it so worth it having gone through that and being back where we are now.”
Fowler remained popular with the fans during his slump and they kept cheering him on while he struggled. Although Harmon didn’t say anything, he felt the same way.
“When Rickie went through his bad stretch, it was brutal to watch,” Harmon admitted. “I knew how good he could be, but his swing wasn’t producing. After a while, he lost his confidence, too. But he never wavered as a person, signing all the autographs, and giving his time. If the world was full of Rickie Fowlers, it would be one hell of a place.
“This one meant more to me personally than a lot of the majors I’ve won with different guys.”