Rickie Fowler turned in another strong finish in one of golf's biggest events and gained the experience of playing in the final group of a major.
He will have to wait a little longer for his first major title or his second PGA Tour victory.
The 25-year-old Fowler tied for second Sunday in the U.S. Open, finishing with a 2-over 72 for a 1-under 279 total at Pinehurst No. 2. Fowler and Erik Compton ended up eight strokes behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer, who dominated the tournament so completely the first two days that everyone else was playing for second.
Ultimately, Fowler said, his second top-five major finish of the year is proof he's inching closer to some breakthrough moments — the kind that could eliminate the questions about whether he is more hype than substance.
"It doesn't matter what I do. I'm always going to have critics," Fowler said. "... Obviously, there's been some great finishes, but I want to win and I want to win more."
Fowler's only tour win came two years ago in the Wells Fargo Championship. He was two shots back at the Masters going into the final day before shooting 73 to tie for fifth.
He has always attracted plenty of attention with his flamboyant style, from the knickers he wore Thursday in opening round in tribute to late U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart to the nearly head-to-toe orange of alma mater Oklahoma State he wore Sunday.
His game has been a work in progress with swing coach Butch Harmon since the end of last year following the death of former coach Barry McDonnell in 2011. While Fowler has shown improvement, he has also missed the cut in three of six events since the Masters.
At Pinehurst No. 2, he shot even-par 70 on Thursday and Friday then followed with a 67 to put himself in the final group. But he never got much momentum Sunday, with his double bogey on the fourth hole — he sank a long putt to avoid a triple — stalling him early.
He also hooked a tee shot on the 16th so badly that a man had to snatch up his child to avoid the ball skirting along the pine needles, though Fowler managed to save par on that hole before a bogey on 17 helped drop him into a tie for second.
"He hit a couple of bad shots and that put him into some bad positions, but he saved it very well," Kaymer said. "... I was just hoping for him that he makes birdie on 18, because I think he really deserved to finish second here."
Still, if Fowler felt disappointed with tying for second, he did not show it Sunday evening.
As Compton talked with reporters, Fowler pulled out his cellphone and snapped a selfie with Compton in the background as he stood to the side waiting his turn.
"It's kind of the same way handling rounds at the U.S. Open here," Fowler said about winning a major. "You can't get ahead of yourself, you have to stay patient, have to stay in the moment and keep going through the process. ... We're going to continue to do this and keep my game progressing the right way, and it's just a matter of time."
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