Spotlight on: Rickie Fowler in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Narashino Country Club

The American bounced back to form with a top-three finish in Las Vegas and will hope to carry that form to Japan this week.

Rickie Fowler's slump in the world rankings over the last couple of seasons has been well documented.

Last week he entered THE CJ CUP in Las Vegas down at 128th: a stark contrast to his highest position of fourth.

But a tied third place - his best finish since 2019 - vaulted Fowler back up to 82nd.

It's still way below what our impression of him is - a top 10 or top 15 player - but it's a start.

If the Californian can continue in this vein then hopefully we can see him pushing for Majors again.

This week's tournament in Japan could be a good place for Fowler to start his climb.

His grandfather is Japanese and Fowler acknowledged those connections in his pre-tournament press conference.

"For me, my grandfather was one of the most influential people in my life growing up," said the 32-year-old.

"He's the one who introduced me to the game of golf. He was taking up golf about that same time, so I used to go and play golf with him or go to the driving range all the time.

"His work ethic as well as his demeanour and personality is what rubbed off on me quite a bit. So yeah, there's definitely a part of me that is influenced very much by him and the Japanese culture."

Could that extra angle boost his chances further?

Let's take a closer look at the options of backing Fowler this week.

Fowler in the outright

Last week's top-three finish in Las Vegas was built on excellent solid ball-striking.

Fowler ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (5.517) and 1st for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green (8.994).

As he noted: "Last week was a very good week for me, especially after the last couple years. I played very well tee to green.

"Very happy with the ball-striking. That's something we've been putting a lot of work in on the last couple years, especially the last couple months. Long time coming. Like I said, very pleased with it and looking forward to this week now."

As for this week's course, he added: "I played the back nine this morning and then I'm going to play the front nine after lunch.

"The golf course is in perfect shape. There's plenty of length. It's a tough golf course, you've got to drive it really well. I'm looking forward to it.

"The greens have quite a bit of movement. A lot of guys that I've talked to or seen on the golf course, whether they've seen the course or not before, they really like the golf course as far as the test that it presents, the variety. It's going to be a fun one to play, but a tough test."

Fowler in the first round

Perhaps this could be the best market to play Fowler in.

He's got momentum after last week's big finish and a third-round 63 in Vegas shows he has a low one in him.

Fowler opened that week with a 66 to sit seventh after day one while three starts earlier at the 3M Open, the former Ryder Cup star blasted an opening 64 to take the first-round lead.

In his last 47 starts, he's finished day one inside the top three on five occasions.

Fowler's Thursday three-ball

Fowler has two fellow Americans for company in Thursday's first round and he's the slight favourite to shoot a lower R1 score than Ryan Palmer and Harry Higgs.

Higgs shot the lowest Thursday score when this trio last all played the same event (the Shriners).

But the time before that, Fowler outscored Palmer and Higgs in round one of the PGA Championship.

Higgs finished tied ninth last week so is in decent nick but Palmer's last three results show two missed cuts and tied 57th.

Fowler in a 72 Hole Threesome

Planet Sport Bet also have Fowler in a 72 Hole Threesome against Alex Noren and Maverick McNealy.

Last week, Fowler finished third, with Noren down in tied 59th and McNealy tied 38th.

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Noren finished the best of the three in the Rocket Mortgage Classic but Fowler outscored them both in the PGA Championship.

That means, on the last three occasions they played the same event, Fowler shot the lowest 72-hole score in two of them.

Conclusion

It's tempting to take the 28/1 about Fowler winning the tournament but, with four-round consistency still a slight issue, slight preference is for first-round leader at the same price.

He also looks a decent bet to outscore Noren and McNealy over 72 holes.

If Fowler continues this upward trend, he's one to keep an eye out for in the 2022 Majors.

READ MORE: Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa loving their return to Japan for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.

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