For the better part of the last 4 years, the PGA tour has struggled to attract new fans and gain popularity. Changes to the world golf ranking system, alterations in the Fed Ex Cup point race, and the demise of Tiger Woods have all contributed to this “dark age” of golf.
Golf, specifically the American golf culture, needs an American player to step up and help rekindle the enthusiasm and plight of the American golf fan. 22 year old Rickie Fowler might be just what the doctor ordered.
Fowler broke though with his long awaited first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship just 3 weeks ago, defeating D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy in a thrilling playoff. The win came at the most unlikely of times, as Fowler had missed 2 consecutive cuts in the weeks leading up to the Wells Fargo Championship.
Rickie has been excruciatingly close to winning on the PGA Tour many times prior to his win at the Wells Fargo, finishing runner up in 5 tournaments from his tour debut in May of 2010 to the end of September of 2011. In just his 3rd start on tour, Fowler entered the final round of Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament with a 3 shot lead on Englishman Justin Rose in 2010. Fowler, just 21 at the time, was attempting to become the youngest American winner on tour since Tiger Woods won the AT&T National tournament at the age of 20.
Fowler shot a final round 73, finishing second to Rose. However, Justin Rose had some powerful and telling words of his fellow competitor Fowler upon the rounds completion.
“Rickie is going to be a special player. He already is, once he finds the mindset needed to win a tournament, and he will, he could go on a serious roll. Unbelievably talented player,” Rose said of Fowler.
In September 2010, he was chosen as a captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. At age 21 years and 9 months when the matches began, Fowler became the youngest U.S. Ryder Cup player of all time, and only European Sergio García was younger when he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999. On the final day of competition, with the American side trailing by 2 matches, Rickie birdied the final 5 holes to win his match against Eduardo Molinari. Fowler won PGA Tour rookie of the year, claiming the award over Rory McIlroy.
In the pouring rain and howling English winds at the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s, Fowler finished the tournament at even par, good for a top 5 finish, his best career finish ever at a major. He went on to finish in the top 25 in the Fed Ex Cup rankings.
2012 has been a special season for Rickie Fowler. A week after his breakthrough victory at the Wells Fargo, he finished 2nd alone at the Players Championship. A week after that in the Crowne Plaza Invitational, he finished in a tie for 4th. He is currently 8th on the money list and 6th in the Fed Ex Cup Standings. Rickie Fowler has finally arrived.
While Fowler’s play certainly speaks for itself, his personality really has helped draw fans back into the game. He wears loud clothes, something he says he has always done. He sports clad-orange pants, shoes, and shirt on Sunday’s representing his alma mater, Oklahoma State. He has the “it” factor people always talk about.
Fowler is one of four golfers in the “Golf Boys” group along with fellow PGA Tour players Ben Crane, Masters Champion Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan. The Golf Boys released a YouTube video of the song “Oh Oh Oh” on the eve of the 2011 U.S. Open. Their goal in releasing the video was to “put the fun back in the game.”
After Bubba Watson was victorious at the Masters in early April, Fowler was there on the 10th green to celebrate his friend’s tremendous accomplishment. Watson and Fowler have always been close, and Fowler credits Watson with help molding him into more of a “fans player.”
People have been looking for the next big American fan favorite in the game of golf. With his bright outfits and very outgoing personality, as well as his success on the course, Rickie Fowler might just be the next big thing.