NORTON, Mass. -- Rickie Fowler walked off Bethpage Black on Sunday steaming mad after posting a double-bogey and two bogeys in his final four holes.
Now, let's not mince words: There have been tougher losses to overcome than Fowler's defeat at the Barclays. There have been collapses from seemingly insurmountable leads, down the stretch at major championships, even in recent months.
On the scale of heartbreakers, Fowler's loss doesn't even register; he kicked away a 1-stroke, 54-hole lead to not only lose but fail to clinch an apparent Ryder Cup spot.
That doesn't mean he didn't feel the effects.
"It definitely hurt, especially because of how well I was playing and how much good golf I put together during the week, but it was almost the opposite of Phoenix," said Fowler, referencing this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open, where a 71st hole tee shot into the water led to a playoff loss to Hideki Matsuyama. "I played well at Phoenix, but the last nine holes I did not miss a shot. I put it together, but a couple of bad breaks and I'm on the losing end."
Even the winningest professionals win tournament titles a small minority of the time, making each one of these close calls vitally important. When they don't go according to plan, it can often feel like a lost opportunity.
All of which begs the question: How do players bounce back from these tough losses?
"Sticking to game plans, not wavering from what you've decided to do," said Fowler, who posted an opening 2-under 69 to begin his Deutsche Bank Championship title defense tied for 38th on Friday. "I feel like I've always been pretty positive on the golf course, not getting down on myself and trying not to dwell on the past. They all sound like clichés, but those are key things out there."
Again, he's hardly the only player who has had to deal with the travails of trying to bounce back. In fact, ask any great player and they'll instantly recall a loss that hurt more than others.
Jordan Spieth's toughest defeat was a historic one. He led the Masters by 5 strokes with nine holes to play in April, only to eventually lose by 3.
"Recognizing the longevity of a career, recognizing how many chances you're going to get, and that kind of time and the poor memories, the poor experiences like this year at the Masters, if you keep your head down, keep doing your job, it will end up diminishing because you'll end up getting back to that high point again," said Spieth, who won three starts later at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. "The more times you prevail, the less you think about what happened in those tough times."
He might not have received equal gratification from the event he won, but sometimes a tough loss can lead to an even bigger win afterward.
When asked about this phenomenon, Zach Johnson instantly recalled a circumstance from last year.
"I was really, really upset after the John Deere Classic last year," he said of finishing 1 shot out of a playoff. "I was bitter. It stuck with me for a little bit. You have to embrace the anger. You have to embrace the fact that you gave it your all and didn't win. You can be mad about it, but you've got to get over it pretty quickly, because the positive is that you had a chance to win a golf tournament, which isn't easy."
Johnson took the positives with him and hopped on a plane to Scotland soon afterward. The very next week, he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
As for his best advice for anyone coming off a tough loss, Johnson said, "If you really want to dumb it down, you've just got to eliminate outcomes. Regardless of what you finish, find why you were in that position to win and stick to it."
There's no player in the current generation more closely associated with heartache on the golf course than Phil Mickelson. Despite 42 PGA Tour wins, including five major titles, his half-dozen U.S. Open runner-up results and other various near-misses have helped define his legacy just as much.
"One of the things that's always fueled me is that failure pisses me off," Mickelson admitted. "It makes me work harder to try and overcome that. It was really a big thing for me in 2013, when I lost the U.S. Open; I was really down about that. But it inspired me to work harder, and I ended up having one of the greatest weeks of my life [winning] The Open. So you just have to use it as fuel as opposed to feeling defeated."
As for bouncing back, Mickelson said there is no secret formula.
"There's no magic; you just have to be resilient and you just have to accept it," Mickelson said. "People are going to use failure as one of two things -- they're going to either be depressed about it and pack their bags and go home, or they're going to be motivated to work harder and not let that happen again to make up for the failure."