The scenario seemed made to order for Rickie Fowler after 54 holes of the Masters Tournament last year.
Fowler, seeking his first major title, was one shot off the lead during a week he said then was “by far the best” he’d felt in a major championship, of which he’d completed 28 at the time.
He liked coming from behind – three of Fowler’s four career wins had come that way.
He was also paired with good friend Jordan Spieth, who was two shots off the lead. Spieth, who had finished no worse than second with a victory in three starts in the Masters, would certainly play well.
“He and I could potentially get off to a good start and we could really push each other,” Fowler said before the final round. “We'll try and pull the best out of one another. It's always fun when you're playing with one of your good buddies.”
Good vibes never appeared in the final round. They were both 1-over after five holes and Fowler shot 76 (with bogeys on the final three holes) and Spieth had 75. They tied for 11th.
“We both could have played better,” Fowler said.
Still, it was a good comeback for Fowler at Augusta National, where he shot 80-73 the year before to miss the cut for the first time in seven Masters appearances.
Fowler's short game magic in the first three rounds last year disappeared on Sunday. After averaging 26.3 putts per round in the first three days, Fowler needed 30 on Sunday.
“Chipping and putting kind of went sideways on me,” he said. “Every time I chipped it close I missed the putt or I didn't chip it close enough and I'd still miss the putt. When you're not able to get the ball up and down out here or make those key kind of five- to 10-footers, that's what happens. I didn’t make anything.”
It didn’t help that Fowler’s swing “was a little off” in the final round.
“It would have been nice to swing a little better, like I had been,” he said.
The 2017 Masters started off in windy conditions, just like Fowler likes from his days growing up in California and now living in Florida.
“A lot of times I hope it gets windy because I feel like it separates the field a little bit and ball striking becomes a premium,” he said before the 2017 Masters.
The first 36 holes at the 2017 Masters were more than a little blustery and Fowler shot 73-67, the latter being Friday's low round. He had 71 in the third round.
Despite his problems on the greens in the fourth round, he tied for first place in fewest putts for the week (109).
Fowler ended 2017 and started 2018 on a hot streak, winning the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December and tying for fourth in the official Tournament of Champions in January.
At the Hero World Challenge, Fowler had a final round to remember. Seven shots back after 54 holes, he opened with seven consecutive birdies en route to 61. He shot 28 on the front nine and finished with 21 putts for the day and a career-record 30 birdies for the tournament.
The win was his last so far. The 29-year-old would love to add a major to his list of wins.
“Goals going forward this year are, I would say, the biggest and main one is get a major,” Fowler said. “I think I did a good job last year of putting myself in contention multiple times, but there needs to be some better weekends to make sure that we’re on top come Sunday afternoon. So that’s the main goal this year.”