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Rickie Fowler upbeat despite falling short at U.S. Open

Rickie Fowler lines up a putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on Sunday. (Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images)

As Rickie Fowler’s tee shot soared into the first fairway Sunday, a man yelled: “Let’s go, Rickie! Do it today, baby!”

Fowler did birdie that first hole but could get little going beyond that. His even-par 72 left him in a familiar spot, in search of his first major championship.

Yet Fowler remained Mr. Positive.

“I feel like I’m playing at the highest level,” Fowler said. “If you look at the negatives too much, I mean, you’re going to be stuck doing that the whole time.

“You have to measure success in different ways, not just by winning, because that doesn’t happen a whole lot. I think Tiger (Woods) had the best winning percentage of all time at 30%, and you’re lucky to even sniff close to 10.”

Fowler finished tied for 11th at the Masters and sounded satisfied with his 10-under total at Erin Hills.

“Even though the scores were somewhat lower than a normal U.S. Open, to finish in double digits under par at a major championship, especially the Open, it was a good week.”

Everyone got to see the Jordan Spieth they expected to see on Sunday. He scored a three-under 69 under very windy conditions. It left him one over for the tournament.

“I thought it was a fantastic round of golf, given what we were dealing with to start the day,” Spieth said. “I mean, [the afternoon wind] is light and variable compared to the beginning of the day, but that’s what you get for playing a poor first few rounds.”

Spieth said he liked the course a lot and hopes the U.S. Open comes back one day. He’s not worried about the low scores the first few rounds.

“I think anytime you’ve seen the golf courses — U.S. Open golf venues — work back toward even par, there are complaints,” he said. “Now all of a sudden they make it tough and fair, and people are 12 under, and people are complaining. So let’s pick one side or the other here.”

Low amateur

Scottie Scheffler walked away from the tournament with the honors of being low amateur with a final round of 73 to finish one under.

“It’s a great experience and being able to be the top amateur would definitely be very special,” Scheffler said before he knew he had the title. “The USGA always treats amateurs and their champions really well.”

One of his goals is to play in the Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club on Sept. 9-10. The Walker Cup is for amateurs and is played between the U.S. and Britain and Ireland.

“I think this week definitely helps a bunch,” he said. “Performing on a stage like this certainly couldn’t hurt my chances, but that’s not really up to me, it’s up to the committee and the USGA. Hopefully they’ll want me to be a part of the Walker Cup but you’ve got to play good.”

Is he a golfer?

A young fan at Erin Hills asked Xander Schauffele late Saturday if he was a golfer. Yes, but it turns out he’s not just any golfer.

Schauffele entered the U.S. Open with little acclaim but left with an invitation to the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills by tying for fifth at 10-under par.

“I think I need to play a little better for a little longer and maybe the name will stick,” he said.

The San Diego native, who attended both Long Beach State and San Diego State, said his performance is proof that “my team and I are working on the right stuff, keeping my body on the right spot. It helps to play well every once in a while to know that you’re doing the right thing and that you belong.”

A return visit

At 50, Steve Stricker would need to find the Fountain of Youth to play another U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But the Madison-area native still hopes the USGA’s signature championship returns.

“The powers that be might want to change a few things,” he said. “Maybe narrow the fairways a bit, and I’d like to see the fescue a little bit thinner, so it’s not a full-shot penalty for hitting in there.

“It’s tough when you come to a place for the first time not really knowing how to set it up, how to play it. But I thought it was great. The crowds were unbelievable.”