Considering his performance in 2023, this PGA Tour season has been especially disappointing for Rickie Fowler. After an encouraging 64 in the opening round of the Travelers Championship on Thursday, Fowler said he identified the primary culprit.

“Putting was something that I could rely on last year, something I've tried to get back to where I was, as well as other parts of the game,” he said at TPC River Highlands following his third bogey-free round of the year. “But I feel like a lot of it can go back to not putting well.

“Putting well helps free up other things. You're not seeing putts go in and it kind of adds some extra stress to having to hit greens or hit it closer, chip it close, that circle gets quite a bit bigger once you see some go in. I've been close on driving and ball striking.”

One year ago, Fowler out-dueled Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic — his only PGA Tour triumph since 2019. Fowler's form earned him a coveted place on the United States Ryder Cup team.

Through 16 events this season, Fowler has just one top-20 — a T18 at the RBC Heritage. He's entering the Travelers coming off missed cuts at the Memorial and U.S. Open. He finished T63 at the PGA Championship and was not a factor at the Masters.

Fowler ranks 111th in strokes gained: total on the PGA Tour in 2024. His putting ranks 131st. He has also dropped to 125th on DataGolf's rankings.

“It's been a struggle,” Fowler acknowledged.

On Thursday, Fowler was one of several golfers to bask in the birdie-fest at TPC River Highlands. He landed 14 greens in regulation and went 4/4 on scrambling. As the afternoon groups were wrapping up, Fowler ranked 5th in the field in putting, gaining over three strikes on the field with his flat stick.

Tom Kim (-8, 62) ended up topping the leaderboard thanks to his own sterling bogey-free showing in the afternoon. Akshay Bhatia and Will Zalatoris are tied with Fowler at 6-under. Seven golfers carded 5-under 65s.

“I wasn't really that easy out there today,” said Kim. “It was actually pretty windy.”

Fowler was off and running after back-to-back birdies on the par-4 second and par-4 third.

“Started to see some balls go in, and making putts kind of frees up the rest of the game to where you don't feel like you have to be perfect,” he said. “Yeah, just kind of kept it fairly simple.”

“Sometimes I would almost rather that than birdie the first hole because then it's kind of downhill from there.”

Fowler's 24-foot birdie on par-4 seventh was a highlight. As was his 39-foot footer on the par-4 17th:

“Putting was something that I could rely on last year, something I've tried to get back to. I feel like a lot of it can go back to not putting well.

“Finally some actually went in instead of dodging the hole,” he said.

Fowler and Davis Riley (+1) will begin their second round at 11:55 a.m. ET.