Rickie Fowler is quite familiar with Olympia Fields. He won at the iconic venue in 2007, when he played at Oklahoma State.
So unsurprisingly, he is contending there again this year.
After opening with a 4-under 66 Thursday, Fowler sits one back of Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman at the BMW Championship.
The former Cowboy needs a good performance this week to solidify his standing in Atlanta for the Tour Championship.
Currently ranked 12th in the FedEx Cup rankings, Fowler has had East Lake on his mind since the beginning of the year—only the top 30 golfers advance from the BMW Championship to the Tour Championship.
“You don’t necessarily have to win, but you have to play well and have some good finishes to make it to East Lake,” Fowler said.
“Being able to lock that up before the Playoffs says a lot about the year, especially with the win in there. Or you can do it the other way, Lucas Glover-style, win and get in, and then win again and lock it up that way.”
Before winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in early July, Fowler was in the midst of a victory drought that spanned seven years.
But he has turned it around in 2023, as he also has eight top 10s and 16 top 25s.
He has gotten close to winning multiple times this year too, and this week is no exception. At one point, the 34-year-old shared the lead with McIlroy and Harman. But Fowler put his tee shot in the pond to the right of the 17th fairway and made a costly bogey. That dropped him back to 4-under.
Yet, he is still in contention, hoping to put himself further into the Ryder Cup discussion. Should he play well enough over the next three days, Fowler will have a pretty good case for captain Zach Johnson.
In the short term, however, Fowler is focused on Atlanta. He is already in the field next week, but that does not mean he will not fight for another win at Olympia Fields. A victory would vault Fowler up the FedEx Cup rankings, thus improving where he begins the Tour Championship in the handicapped format.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and on Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.