Up and Down: Fowler Hunting For Form
Up and Down: Fowler Hunting For Form

This article is part of our Up and Down series.

While the PGA Tour is on pause, Len Hochberg will periodically examine two golfers – one who was playing well when play was halted (Up), and one who was playing poorly at the same time (Down). 

He will pinpoint the reasons these players are where they are in the FedExCup Standings and offer some numbers to keep in mind when the season resumes. FedExCup points aren't generally used as a guide, but they are a good indicator of where a golfer stands in relation to others on the PGA Tour this season. He will also look at perhaps the purest stat of all – greens in regulation – as well as birdie or better percentage, an integral component of DFS scoring. 

In this edition: Joel Dahmen and Rickie Fowler.

PLAYING WELL

Joel Dahmen

FedExCup Standings rank: 37

This week we focus on two players who have been in the news lately and, you know, are actually playing competitive golf. Dahmen finished T8 in this week's Scottsdale AZ Open and Fowler is set to tee it up in this weekend's charity match, teaming with Matthew Wolff – featured in last week's edition – and squaring off against Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. As we've noted here before, we are not saying Dahmen is better than Fowler, but the former has had better results this season.

Talk about a late bloomer. Dahmen, 32, took a long time to get to the PGA Tour. He played the first half of the 2010s in Canada, then teed it up on the Korn Ferry Tour for two years, and has now been a PGA Tour member since 2017. He has shown steady improvement, and this season is developing into by far his best. He was no slouch the last couple years, recording 11 top-25s two years ago and eight more last year. He already has six this season, with four of those doubling as top-10s.

Dahmen didn't load up in the fall season, either. His last two PGA Tour appearances came at the Arnold Palmer and Genesis Invitationals, and he finished fifth among a slew of quality players in both instances. He also notched a pair of top-15s at Pebble Beach and in Hawaii earlier this year. Dahmen is still looking for his first win, though he has come close, finishing runner-up to good buddy Max Homa last year at the Wells Fargo Championship and previously in 2018 at the John Deere Classic.

So, what has been the key to Dahmen's success this season? We're about to investigate, but as you'll see there is no magic bullet. In fact, there are some negatives.

A Look At The Stats

Dahmen is not ranked among the top 20 in any of the four individual strokes-gained categories, but he's 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 25th in SG: Total. His whole is certainly greater than the sum of his parts. Dahmen is ranked 24th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 22nd in SG: Approach and 61st in SG: Around-the-Green – pretty good but far from elite. And when you throw in a ranking of 170th in SG: Putting – his worst putting number in three full seasons – you wonder how he has gotten the job done in 2020. And when you look at his GIR and BOB numbers below, you'll really wonder. Dahmen is decent in most areas, which is clearly a recipe for a high finish here or there. However, his putting will surely need to improve before he grabs that first PGA Tour victory.

Greens in regulation rank: 198
Birdies or better percentage: 140

SITTING DOWN

Rickie Fowler

FedExCup Standings rank: 94

Fowler got a very late start to the season, playing in December's Hero World Challenge but otherwise not teeing it up until the first event of 2020. He tied for fifth in the Tournament of Champions and then tied for 10th at The American Express. Since then, he has played in four events, missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and The Honda Classic, tying for 37th in Phoenix and lastly, tying for 18th at Bay Hill.

Let's state the obvious that this is a very small sample size, even amid all the small sample sizes we've been looking at in the Up and Down series. The TOC had only 34 entrants and the Amex featured a weak field. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is annually one of the best, if not the best, event of the year for Fowler. After all, that's how he got into the TOC, winning at TPC Scottsdale last year. The three previous years there he tied for 11th, tied for fourth and finished runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama in a tough loss in 2016. So, a T37 this year was a bit of an eye-opener.   

Fowler has dipped to 27th in the world rankings, his lowest standing in six years. He was once ranked No. 4. Fowler no longer own the title of Best Golfer to Have Never Won a Major, and he lost that label in the worst possible way, not by winning a major but by no longer being the best golfer without a major championship. That said, he still performs pretty well in majors: he notched two top-10s last year, one the year before and two in 2017. But he has not been truly contending, even when he finished runner-up to Patrick Reed in the 2018 Masters.

A Look At The Stats

Fowler is not in the top 35 in any of the six strokes-gained categories. He had a great short game the last few years, with either his wedges or his putter being at or near elite. That's not the case this season. Fowler is ranked 131st in SG: Around-the-Green and 49th in SG: Putting. He has never been a long hitter, so he has relied on his short game, and it's just not there right now.

Greens in regulation: 149
Birdie or better percentage: 46

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.
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