In return to the American Express, focused Rickie Fowler finds leader board

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It has been six years since Rickie Fowler last played in the American Express golf tournament. But on Thursday, Fowler displayed no rust from that time off.

Fowler announced his return to the desert with a 7-under par 65 at La Quinta Country Club, putting him just one shot out of the lead on what was for the American Express a relatively calm day of scoring. But the 65 was just what Fowler was looking for in his first round in the desert since 2014.

“I just thought it would be a good kind of work (for a) couple weeks,” Fowler said. “I’ve been out here staying at the Madison Club (in La Quinta) since last Tuesday, so been able to get a lot of work in. And two events that I played well at, that I struggled as of late at Farmers (Insurance) down at Torrey (and at Phoenix), so I wanted to make sure that I was ready to go for Torrey.”

That philosophy of using the American Express and the perfect desert weather is exactly what host Phil Mickelson has preached for the last few years. And it worked for Fowler on Thursday, putting him just one shot behind leaders Zac Blair and Grayson Murray.

Murray shot perhaps the round of the day, an 8-under 64 at the Stadium Course at…

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