Rickie Fowler rides the Open wave, talks Olympics and Tiger Woods

The American carded a 7-under-par 64 to grab a share of the first round lead in the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities.

Best bets

Rickie Fowler 7/1

Troy Merritt 10/1

Chez Reavie 20/1

Golf can be a damnable business.

One week straightforward, the next utterly perplexing.

For the first decade of his professional career Rickie Fowler was having a wonderful time of it, then early last year he hit a wall, as the stats darkly affirm.

In his last 34 starts he's landed one top 10.

In his previous 250 appearances? He recorded 81 of them.

You don't need to be Carol Vorderman or Rachel Riley to do the math.

Those recent problems had him starting this week 124th in the FedExCup rankings, in danger of missing out on the PGA Tour's August finale.

Whereupon, emboldened by an improved performance in the final round of last week's Open, he thrashed a bogey-free 7-under-par 64 to set the pace in the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities.

The first round was incomplete, but at day's end he shared top spot with Troy Merritt and Jhonattan Vegas with only Roger Sloan (6-under through 16) a threat to their end-of-round position.

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The secret to 32-year-old Fowler's Thursday success? Simplicity.

"It's kind of a cliché, but any course, if you hit the fairways and hit the greens, you're going to be okay," he said. "And the big thing here is, keep it out of the water."

He was more or less as good as his word: he found 10-of-14 fairways, 14-of-18 greens in regulation, and the only water he got involved with went down straight down his throat.

"Right now," he said. "I feel like my iron play's been better. I feel like that's heading the right direction. Putting as of the last few months has definitely been heading the right way. I know I'm close, it's just not all coming together just yet."

The numbers once again back him up. He ranked 26th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and second for SG Putting.

For all the promise, he's keen to keep everything in perspective. He might be projected to jump into the top 50 on the rankings with his current position on the leaderboard, but there's a long way to go this week and indeed before the PlayOffs begin.

"I know where I'm at, what we need to do and stuff like that," he said. "Really just focusing on things we've been working on, playing more consistently good golf.

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"More days like today and things will be fine. I'm kind of keeping things simple and small, focus on the day-to-day and go from there. Everything will work out.

"Luckily I haven't had to necessarily be in this position before, but it's really just about sticking to the game plan. Play well this week, a couple of weeks off, then play Greensboro and Wyndham.

"Play well, make birdies and that's all we can control."

Here's a look at the current betting, plus what else Fowler has had to say this week.

Current position

Fowler is the 7/1 favourite with PlanetSportBet with Vegas 9/1 and Merritt 12/1.

Fowler is a Twin Cities debutant, but he has won at TPC Boston which, like this week's course, is an Arnold Palmer design. He's also been third at Palmer's Bay Hill and had a strong affinity with the great man.

Merritt has sneaky form on Palmer designs: third at Bay Hill and tied seventh at Twin Cities in 2019. He was also defeated in a playoff last month so is bang in form.

Keep an eye on Chez Reavie. He was in the top three at halfway two weeks ago in the John Deere Classic, shot a second round 66 in the Open, and is looking to complete an unusual hat trick this week: not only a third won on the PGA Tour but, should it happen, all three would have been the week after a Major. He's 20/1.

Fowler on Tiger Woods

"I actually haven't seen him for a while. Last time I talked to him was maybe I guess three or four weeks ago. So I don't have many updates for you. I know he's been getting after it as far as rehab goes, that takes up most of his day. I know how stubborn he is and that he's putting the work in. I know JT's probably been the one that's talked to or seen him the most. I know it's been tough. It's a long road till now, he's got a long road ahead, but he's putting the work in."

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Fowler on the Olympics

"The Olympics were awesome. Unfortunately, the guys and the girls playing this year are not going to have anywhere close to the experience that I was able to have in '16. Being there for opening ceremonies, staying in the village, going to other events, meeting other athletes, it was pretty special because you're around people that the event is everything that they've worked for, that's the pinnacle of their sport.

"For us, it's obviously a really cool opportunity whenever you get to represent your country, but it wasn't necessarily a dream of golfers growing up to be in the Olympics, with it just being recently added not too long ago. So it's a super cool experience.

"The opening ceremony was awesome, just how big it is and the spectacle of all the countries walking in, how long it takes, the whole staging process. It's pretty impressive of how big of a scale everything is.

"Also, just being in the village, working out alongside other athletes, eating with other athletes in the big cafeteria area that we had there in Brazil, being able to go to the other events. I think one of the highlights for me was being there front row poolside watching Phelps win his 23rd gold medal. A lot of really cool experiences."

READ MORE: The top Major performers of 2020/21: Which players were best for golf punters?

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