Rickie Fowler comfortable with attacking the Summit, makes bold start at THE CJ CUP

The American is seeking to bounce back from a poor 2020/21 season and it turns out that the Las Vegas course is the ideal spot.

Under normal circumstances, Rickie Fowler might have expected to spend August and September competing in the FedExCup Playoffs and the Ryder Cup.

Instead, he was involved in a golfing version of hitting control-alt-delete.

For the most part, the 32-year-old's professional career has represented smooth progress. True, he's never won a Major Championship, but he finished each of his first 10 seasons inside the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list, collected nine wins worldwide, and represented Team USA seven times.

Last season, however, he finished 97th on the money list, it is now two and a half years since his last victory anywhere, and he was nowhere near making the American Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits.

He needed a fillip with which to kickstart his 2021/22 season and Vegas has provided it.

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After posting a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to open THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT the Californian native revealed a series of good vibes that had prompted him to end the first round lying tied seventh on the leaderboard.

"Really just building off last week," he said. "I had a nice finish on Friday (at the Shriners Children's Open). Unfortunately, I missed the cut by one, but I'd put in some hard work over the six-week break that I had before coming to Vegas.

"I knew it was the right stuff, it's been paying off. So really it was just about picking spots, hitting shots, trusting swings.

"And I left some out there today, but I'm definitely happy with the start."

With the weekend free he visited his good friend and previous coach Butch Harmon. It was a trip that only added to his confidence.

"It's always fun to catch up with Butchie, he's someone that's just fun to be around, and on top of that it was nice to hit some balls with him," Fowler said.

"Since I worked with him for such a long time in the middle part of my career, I think I just kind of wanted his stamp of approval. He loved what we were working on. He just said go play and keep trusting it."

To add to the good feelings, Fowler is also in a happy place.

"I feel comfortable around here," he said of the new tournament venue The Summit Club. "I've spent a little bit of time around here the last couple years. We actually have a condo here that we currently in the process of selling.

"So Summit's a place that I have spent a bit of time at before and definitely thankful to CJ for having me here and trying to take advantage of that."

Fowler trails the first round pace-setter Robert Streb by five strokes heading into Friday's action. Sergio Garcia and Viktor Hovland are the leading elite challengers, currently a shot better off than Fowler.

Can he maintain his challenge?

Let's take a closer look at what he said about his opening lap and the stats.

Fowler on his 66

"Definitely happy with it. There were some scores out there today, but it's not like it played easy. You drive it well around this place, you're going to have a lot of opportunities.

"A little bit of a slow start. I just told myself stay patient. I knew there was going to be a time I could hit a couple close, just get the ball rolling, and I did that. I hit a few close, I didn't have to make too many long putts.

"Tried to keep things going. I had some good looks on the back nine, was able to get a couple more coming in, left a couple out there, but definitely happy with the start."

Fowler on Fazio designs

This is the really good news.

Back in 2009 he finished second in his only start at Grayhawk; he's finished second, fourth and T38th at Conway Farms; and was T28th at Shadow Creek last year.

All three are Tom Fazio designs, like this week.

He also has a win (and another four top six finishes) at Quail Hollow, which Fazio has redesigned on multiple occasions before and in-between those efforts.

He's 50/1 to win with PlanetSportBet.

Fowler's form

He's made 19 starts in the calendar year and landed just one top 10, when eighth at the PGA Championship in May.

His last top five finish was in the first week of 2020.

He did opened the 3M Open with a 64 for a share of the first round lead in July (just three starts ago), but a 73 followed.

His second round three-ball

He's up against Lucas Glover and Patton Kizzire in round two. The former carded a 69 in round one and the latter a 71.

Since the start of 2020 Fowler has struggled in head-to-heads with this pair. In all rounds, he trails 7-12-13.

In round two alone Glover has quite a significant advantage over both: 3-8-2.

READ MORE: What they said after day one of THE CJ CUP: Streb soars; Morikawa lurks

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