Chris Stoud scores well to start Sentry Tournament of Champions

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Fowler, 29, said he liked the current vibe on Tour.

Fired up by the slight, Fowler responded by romping to victory in the prestigious Players Championship and has continued his fine form going into 2018, recently dominating a star-studded field in the Hero World Challenge. He gained entry into the TOC by winning the Safeway Open in Napa at the start of this PGA Tour season. But he made seven birdies from there, none longer than 10 feet, for 68.

No one is more aware of the absence than Rickie himself who addressed the conspicuous gap in an interview before the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Wednesday.

"There's definitely different, not groups, guys have their two, three, or four close friends out here maybe, and I feel like I get along with just about anyone", Fowler said on Wednesday ahead of the Tournament of Champions. So that's the main goal this year.

"There needs to be some better weekends if [he's to be] top come Sunday afternoon", he added.

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Thomas, who won both Hawaii events a year ago, was well placed on four under with six holes remaining, but wild shots at 13 and 15 led to penalty drops and a pair of double-bogeys while he dropped another stroke at 17 before a birdie at the last saw him sign for a 75.

Fowler finished in the top 11 in three of last year's four majors, but faltered at some point over the weekend.

"I hit my irons as well as some of the best on tour and if I'm able to keep it in play, and give myself good positions to attack hole locations I'm going to get a lot of birdie opportunities".

Even though Johnson, Spieth, Thomas and Matsuyama are among those who won multiple times a year ago, winning is not getting any easier. So finally getting to have JT and Jordan congratulate me at the Hero [World Challenge], felt good.

But if Rickie can tighten up this statistic in the new year, that 2018 major could well be within his reach.

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