Freaking out? Not Rickie Fowler, who went low on Thursday at the 2024 Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, Conn. — Rickie Fowler is not freaking out. He’s not panicking, he’s not losing sleep and he’s not making radical changes to his golf game because 2024 has been a frustrating season. He’s been through worse and gotten through it.

After missing the cut in his last two starts — the Memorial Tournament and last week’s U.S. Open — Fowler arrived at TPC River Highlands and did exactly what he’s been doing all season. He worked.

Even with temperatures in the 90s and the air filled with mid-summer humidity, Fowler was in the practice area Wednesday. In fact, he was one of the last players to leave.

“I was here all day,” Fowler said on Thursday after signing his card for a 64 in the opening round of the Travelers Championship. It was his best first-round score of the season and only his second first-round score in the 60s this year.

Fowler made six birdies and no bogeys, even though he hit only six of the 14 fairways off the tee. His iron game was solid, hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation, but what transformed a good round into a great one was his putt. The 35-year-old from Murrieta, California, made a 25-footer on the seventh hole and a 38-footer on the 17th for birdies. When Fowler missed, he left himself numerous low-stress tap-ins for par.

“Making putts kind of frees up the rest of the game to where you don’t feel like you have to be perfect,” he said, eyeing the air-conditioned clubhouse. “I just kind of kept it fairly simple.”

Mired in a slump this season, keeping it simple might not be as easy as it sounds, even for someone who is still one of the most popular golfers on the PGA Tour.

Last summer, Fowler contended at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club before eventually finishing tied for fifth. A week later, he tied for 13th here in Connecticut before finally breaking through to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

Those results were reason for optimism heading into 2024, but in 15 events this season Fowler has missed five cuts and failed to notch a top-10 finish. His best showing has been a tie for 18th at the RPC Heritage, a week after the Masters.

But Rickie Fowler remains calm.

“I’m significantly closer this year from where I was a few years back,” Fowler said. “It’s just more of just a lot of disappointment, as far as knowing how close it is and not having a couple of shots go the way I thought they would, or a few putts go in and change the momentum of how the season or round had been going. It’s been a struggle, but definitely not as tough as a few years ago.”

Earlier this week, the United States Olympic Golf Team that will compete in Paris in August was announced. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler will be going to France, as will PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and 2023 U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark. Fowler, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and who has the Olympic rings tattooed on his right forearm, did not make the team. He was not on the team that competed in Tokyo either, so maybe he is not overly disappointed in not earning a spot in Paris, but Fowler has pride and would love to have marched with Team USA again. He wants to win more PGA Tour events, and break through in the majors and win one of golf’s four most-coveted events.

But with a second child on the way this summer and the prospect of a genuine off-season looming this fall, Rickie Fowler understands what is genuinely important to him.

“I think a big thing is always kind of trying to put things into perspective, family stuff, you know,” he said. “With some of the guys we’ve lost as part of the family out here on the Tour (alluding to the recent death of Grayson Murray), it’s not that big of a deal, but we all kind of just continue to grind.”

Thursday’s 64 should come as a reassurance that grinding will pay off again, but either way, Rickie Fowler is not panicking.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek