Rickie Fowler fires 65 in first round of 2017-18 PGA Tour season in Mexico

If the first round of his season is any indication, Rickie Fowler is in for a big year. 

Fowler shot a 6-under 65 in Round 1 of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and is within three of leader Patton Kizzire, who shot a 62. Fowler made no bogeys and topped his 2016-17 birdie average per round of 4.28 by nearly two at Playa del Carmen as he poured in six birdies.

"It was nice, I got off to a solid start," Fowler said. "Always nice to go bogey-free. Always nice to start the year that way. Six birdies out there, and I had one really good par save. It was nice to start the year on a positive note."

Fowler has been doing a lot of things positively of late.

He has increased his top-10 finishes total in each of the last three years after topping out in 2014 at 10. He went from seven to eight to 10 again last year, matching his career high. Can he take it even farther this season?

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His path to doing so will be with his iron play and off the tee. Fowler finished No. 2 on the PGA Tour in strokes-gained putting last season, but fell off a bit in driving and approach shots. Whereas he had ranked in the top 15 in those categories at least once each in the last two years, he fell closer to No. 40 in both in 2017. 

This was the recipe for a great year, because he putted so well, but to take the next step into Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas territory, he'll have to bump his game up in both areas.

It was clear Fowler put it together for a day in Mexico. Can he keep it up all week in an average field tournament? I think he can, but he'll be tested. Kizzire is an underrated ball striker, and Si Woo Kim, Anirban Lahiri and Patrick Rodgers are all lurking. Still, it would start Fowler's season off with a bang if he was able to pick up PGA Tour win No. 5 of his career in Mexico this week.

"Coming off last season, statistically it's the best year I've had," Fowler said, who has not played since the Presidents Cup at the end of September. "Even when I had the couple rounds I played during the four- or five-week stretch (away from golf), I never felt like I was far off. I still felt like I was hitting the shots I was trying to. It's kind of hard not to have fun and play well when you're at a place like this."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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