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SportsPulse: Brooks Koepka clocked a marshal in the head at the first round of the PGA Championship. The guy took it like a champ.
USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE — Timing is everything, as the saying goes.

Rickie Fowler and his playing partner, Rory McIlroy, each suffered through holes they’d rather forget on Thursday at the PGA Championship. But while McIlroy’s morale-crushing double bogey late in his first round eventually proved too much to overcome.

Fowler’s triple-bogey seven on his fifth hole left him time to recover.

And that’s exactly what he did.

“I knew I still had three par-5s ahead of me,” said Fowler after his eventual two-under 69, leaving him tied for eighth T-8 heading into Friday’s second round. “I told myself to accept it and move on.”

Outside of McIlroy, there’s no player with a greater affinity for the course than Rickie Fowler.

When he made his first appearance here in at 2010, he Fowler spoke glowingly of the course. It The course fit his game, he said, and the layout was “fun to play. .” He finished sixth that year and tied for 16th T-16 in 2011, before firing rounds of 66 and 67 to capture his first PGA Tour win at the course in 2012.

“It’s a good feeling right now,” the 23-year-old said on that occasion. “It’ll take a while for this to sink in.”

Five years on, Fowler has since cemented his status among the game’s elite, and coming into the PGA Championship’s final three rounds, he’ll have a chance to capture his first major on the course that kick-started it all.

Ahead of this year’s tournament, Quail Hollow removed about 800 trees and stretched the par-71 course to more than 7,600hundred yards. “It’s a bomber’s paradise,” said Tommy Fleetwood, who opened with a one-under 70. “If you can hit your driver well, it’s a real advantage.”

Fowler came into the week ranked 11th in strokes gained tee-to-green, boasting the highest driving accuracy of his career thanks to a midseason switch to a shorter-length driver. Fowler That tee-to-green precision is why Fowler ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in birdie average, with and boasts a lower scoring average than all every player but Jordan Spieth. And Ultimately, it’s what saved his round on Thursday.

Birdies on the third and fourth preceded an uncharacteristic error on the fifth hole,…