Commentary

Rickie Fowler flourishing in Philly

Updated: July 1, 2011, 8:27 PM ET
By Kevin Maguire | ESPN.com

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Rickie Fowler wore probably the most boring outfit in his entire wardrobe. But there's nothing bland about the 22-year-old's game.

The always fashionable Fowler followed up an opening-round 68 with a 69 on Friday in the second round of the AT&T National to finish tied for 10th after 36 holes outside Philadelphia.

At one point Fowler got it to 5 under par but dropped back with consecutive bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes. On both occasions he was unable to get up-and-down from the thick, greenside rough at Aronimink Golf Club.

His key so far to staying in contention?

"I'm driving the ball a lot better," Fowler said. "Putting myself in position. So driver's been probably one of the biggest differences there [as compared to the U.S. Open]. It's nice to be playing out of the short grass. It definitely helps."

Fowler, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open two weeks ago by a shot, took advantage of holes 3 and 7 on Friday, when he birdied each for the second straight day. He also birdied the par-4 11th hole.

On a course that played the fourth most difficult on the PGA Tour last year, the margin for error on some of the greens is miniscule. Fowler commented after his round that his tee ball on the par-3 14th missed "by a couple of feet" and that miscue resulted in one of his two bogeys on the day. The hole measured nearly 200 yards on Friday.

[+] EnlargeRicki Fowler
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesNormally clad in some of the brightest colors you'll see on the PGA Tour, Rickie Fowler toned it down a bit Friday at the AT&T National with his gray attire.

Fowler is chasing 36-hole leader K.J. Choi, who tied the course record at Aronimink with a 6-under-par 64 on Friday. Choi's round included a front-nine 30 where he had five birdies in a six-hole stretch. He leads four golfers by 2 shots, including Chris Riley, Charlie Wi, Justin Leonard and Bo Van Pelt.

After the round, Choi didn't realize he had tied the club mark until he was told by a PGA Tour media official.

For Fowler, whose galleries swelled Friday morning with admirers both young and old, there is room for improvement.

"To be where I'm at going into the weekend, and feeling like I haven't played my best … the game does feel good," Fowler said. "Definitely makes me feel good about my position and moving on to Saturday and Sunday."

He'll likely need at least one round of 65 or 66 to keep his foot on the gas and challenge the leaders. That is, unless the PGA Tour officials make this course play like a major, which is completely possible, according to Fowler.

"This course definitely has the feel of and the potential to have a major championship," Fowler said. "I know there was talk of a PGA [Championship] here in the future. I played with a member and he said they're looking to do that.

"I told him, there isn't much that needs to be done to make it play the way it needs to play for a major. Narrow up a couple fairways. Move a couple tees 10-20 yards and this play could play near to impossible."

So should we expect some low scores this weekend from Fowler or anyone else in the field?

"There is a low number [out there]," Fowler said. "You just have to be on top of your game. … You get enough wedges in your hands, where you're able to stay fairly aggressive and make some birdies there."

Maybe even low enough for his first PGA Tour victory.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com.

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