By Kevin Currie, Senior Golf Editor
Hoylake, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Rickie Fowler is putting together one of the best major championship seasons a player could have without actually winning one of the big four.
He is the only player this year that has finished inside the top five in the first three majors. The last player to do that was Tiger Woods in 2005.
Fowler shared fifth at the Masters, and has tied for second at U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
The 2012 Wells Fargo Championship winner rallied for his share of second. If he had a better front nine, who knows what could have happened on the final nine. Fowler had one birdie and eight pars on the front nine.
Fowler had pair of birdie chances from inside 12 feet on the front nine, but failed to convert. Despite those missed chances, Fowler knew the championship would come down to the back nine on Sunday
"Getting to the back nine, that is where the tournament really starts. I made a good birdie at 10, and he (matched me). I knew once we turned and went back into the wind from 11 on, if I could play under par and maybe make some good swings, maybe I could put a little bit pressure on (McIlroy)," said Fowler. "But he drove the ball pretty well all day. He was tough to catch."
Though he failed to win, Fowler posted his third straight top-5 finish in a major. He has also finished inside the top 10 in four of the last six majors. overall.
WOODS, MICKELSON GO OPPOSITE WAYS IN FINAL ROUND
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson entered the final round well off the pace at the Open Championship and they went in opposite directions on Sunday.
Woods struggled to a 3-over 75 to end at 6-over 294. He ended in 69th and posted his worst finish as a professional in a major championship. He tied for 82nd at the 1996 U.S. Open as an amateur.
The three-time champion was making his second start since back surgery, and his first major championship start of the season.
Mickelson, last year's Open champion, birdied all four par-5s en route to a 4- under 68 in the final round. He ended at 5-under 283 and tied for 22nd.
Both players are on the outside of the top nine in the Ryder Cup standings and this was a big week with double points. Nine of the 11 players ahead of Mickelson made the cut, so he won't move very far in those standings.
Woods needed a big week because he is also well outside the top 125 on the FedExCup points list. He is 212th in those standings and no player that far down the rankings at this point in the year has made it to the playoffs since the new format in 2009.
Both players will likely make two more starts before the playoffs. Those will come at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.
WATSON, AGAIN, PUTS ON A SHOW
Five-time champion Tom Watson put together a stellar final round at the Open Championship on Sunday.
The U.S. Ryder Cup captain opened with a bogey at the first, but came right back with a birdie on the second. He birdied the par-5 fifth for the fourth day in a row.
Watson also birdied the seventh to make the turn at plus-3 for the championship. After eight straight pars, he birdied the 16th. Watson also birdied the par-5 18th to end at 1-over 289.
"It gives good me encouragement for the Senior Open Championship. It's fun to finish with a birdie and finish the way I did and get ready to go to the next tournament," said Watson, who has won three Senior British Open titles. "I was trying to get back to even-par. I had a long putt obviously at the last hole, but it would have been nice to shoot 67 and end at even-par. But I played a really solid round of golf today."
He finished ahead of one player on his Ryder Cup team, Matt Kuchar, and two players trying to make that squad - Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker.
* Open champion Rory McIlroy has won two straight majors in wire-to-wire fashion. He has won three legs of the grand slam - 2011 U.S. Open, Open Championship and 2013 PGA Championship - by a combined 18 strokes.
* McIlroy will move to No. 2 in the world rankings thanks to the win.
* Fowler was the only player in the field with four rounds in the 60s.
* The toughest hole in the final round was the par-4 14th, which averaged 4.29 strokes on the day. For the week, the par-4 seventh was the most difficult as it averaged 4.37 strokes.
* For the second time this week, the par-5 10th was the easiest hole as it averaged 4.24 strokes on Sunday. For the championship, the 10th was the easiest hole as it played to an average of 4.59 strokes.
* Next year's Open Championship will be contested on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Louis Oosthuizen was a runaway winner there in 2010.
07/20 16:22:21 ET