Barclays Golf 2012: Why Rickie Fowler Will Contend Through the Weekend

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 24, 2012

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Rickie Fowler of the United States tees off on the fifth hole during the second round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on July 20, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Even with a disappointing bogey to close out a one-under round of 70, Rickie Fowler showed some encouraging signs at The Barclays on Day 2.

Ranked 144th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting during 2012, Fowler has recorded 25 and 28 putts respectively in his first two rounds this week.

This improvement with the flatstick will provide an opportunity for Fowler to contend through the weekend.

After an impressive flurry of birdies on the back nine on Thursday, Fowler was in prime position to go low on Friday morning.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite shake out as planned in the beginning. The 23-year-old American struggled out of the gates at two-over through eight holes.

After getting a stroke back on the 18th, Fowler dropped three more birdies after the turn, making the most of his opportunities on the greens.

What is discouraging is Fowler's iron play. Despite hitting roughly 79 percent of fairways, he has only hit 58 percent of greens in regulation at Bethpage Black.

Usually, the tee-to-green aspect of Fowler's game is his strength, but his short game is getting plenty of practice in the lush grass and bunkers that flank Bethpage's greens.

Fowler has yet to take full advantage of scoring-friendly conditions because his long game simply hasn't been in sync as of late.

After his first tour event at the Wells Fargo Championship, Fowler finished tied for second at the Players Championship and joint fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

Since that nice run in the month of May, Fowler hasn't finished better than a tie for 31st at the Open Championship.

In the past, it seems that Fowler has been a hot-or-cold, on-or-off type of player. When he's on, he is likely near the top of the leaderboard. When he isn't at his best, he isn't much of a factor.

Learning to contend in tournaments without his all-around A-game will be important for Fowler to take the next step as a pro. The way his play is trending this week, it looks like he may be striding in that direction.

If he can continue to improve on his putting along the way, which has traditionally been the weakest part of his game, the swag-savvy Fowler may become even more of a young, talented force to be reckoned with.

A disappointing season at the majors for Fowler could be redeemed with a great run in the FedEx Cup, and he is showing no signs of folding early on.