SHANGHAI — Rickie Fowler dropped by PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens with the Ryder Cup trophy last week as a way to let the employees share in the U.S. celebration. The trophy stayed behind. Fowler brought memories of Hazeltine all the way to China.
While the Ryder Cup was a team victory earlier this month, Fowler's own contributions gave him a shot of confidence going into the HSBC Champions.
He was solid from tee to green, attacked the par 5s and holed one last birdie putt Thursday for 7-under 65, leaving him one shot behind Sweden's Rikard Karlberg, who made an auspicious World Golf Championships debut with nine birdies in his round of 64.
Fowler hasn't won since the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January, and his game hasn't felt right since he lost good chances to win the Phoenix Open the first week in February and the Wells Fargo Championship in early May.
But things changed at the Ryder Cup, where Fowler had never won a match in three previous events before teaming with Phil Mickelson in a fourballs victory in the opening session at Hazeltine. More special was Sunday, when he overcame Justin Rose in a tight match for a 1-up victory.
"I got some good work in last week," he said. "It's tough to do with how busy the summer was."
He looked sharp again, and it helped to be in a group that was making plenty of birdies in the rain-softened conditions. Fowler played alongside defending champ Russell Knox, who played bogey-free for 66, and Paul Casey, who made an eagle on the par-5 14th hole on his way to 67.
Shortly after Fowler finished his round, Karlberg surged ahead with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine and had a chance at the course record until his last two holes.
PGA: Kevin Streelman shot 9-under 63 for a two-shot lead after the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.
LPGA: South Korean Amy Yang's 8-under 63 was good for a two-stroke lead over American Marina Alex at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. Michelle Wie opened with 66, her best round in more than a year.