AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Rickie Fowler knows how to make his way to the front of a congratulatory line. He has had plenty of practice slapping, high-fiving and hugging his buddies as they walk off with the championship hardware and he is left to wonder when he will get his.
It was Justin Thomas last summer at the PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth at The Open before that, Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open even before that. He has seen his share of victory speeches, and it's got to be getting a bit old.
And so, there he was again Sunday at Augusta National, a final-hole birdie giving him a 67 and a weekend combo of 12-under par that would be hard to surpass but wasn't enough to win the Masters Tournament.
He stood outside the scoring room after watching Patrick Reed knock in his winning par putt and waited as the newest major champion made his way from the 18th green through a procession of cheering spectators, there to offer his compliments once again.
"It's going to hurt, but I try and look at things more as glass-half-full," Fowler said after finishing a shot behind Reed. "Obviously, I want to be the one standing on top after the four rounds, but this is, if anything, it's a step forward and makes me feel better about going forward into our next major, the U.S. Open. It's going to be fun. I feel like this is a year to knock off our first."
Give the 29-year-old Fowler credit for the positive outlook. This was his eighth top-five finish in a major championship and third runner-up. That's as many top-fives as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth since 2011 and more than anyone else. But, of course, they have since celebrated major titles while he still waits.
It was hard to ask for much more from him Sunday. A slow start of 70-72 left him seven strokes out of the lead and with a lot of ground to cover. But he went 65-67 on the weekend. What more do you have to do?
"Well, I've got to put myself where I'm not five back, and then shoot 67," Fowler said. "I figured another 65 would have been probably good enough, and I didn't have the front nine that I quite needed."
True, another 65 would have won by one. But back-to-back 65s in a major? At Augusta National?
Fowler played the front nine in just 1 under before he played the last seven holes in 4 under. Perhaps the bogeys at the ninth hole on both Thursday and Friday will haunt him, or the inability to make better than par on three of the four days at the par-5 second will be of bother.
If so, Fowler was not letting on.
"I did a great job of keeping myself in it but just put myself a little too far back to actually getting out to evening things up with Patrick or even getting in front," he said.
Fowler has long been accused of being more about style than substance. He has been considered an elite player since turning pro out of Oklahoma State in 2009 but has just four PGA Tour victories and none in more than a year (he also has two on the European Tour). A staple of U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, Fowler is ranked eighth in the world. Four years ago, he was top-five in all four major championships, seemingly putting him on the brink of his first major. It has yet to happen.
"It feels a lot different," Fowler said. "I am ready to go win a major, but this was kind of the first major week that I understood that and known that and felt that. I would say, previously, [I was] still feeling the nerves and dealing with tough rounds and things not going your way.
"But I think the big round for me was yesterday. I didn't feel my best. I felt like I had to just really stick to my game plan and kind of fight through a few times where I may not have felt comfortable and just trying to gut it out. ... So, I'm really looking forward to this year and the three majors that are left. Shinnecock [site of the 2018 U.S. Open] is one of my favorite golf courses in the U.S. Obviously, this place, and I haven't been to the other two, but should be a very good major season."
And Fowler would love nothing more than to have his buddies waiting around to congratulate him.