KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – Adam Scott is a former Masters Champion and Tyrell Hatton is number 8 in the official golf rankings. On Thursday, they spent 18 holes of a major championship listening to fans cheer on the 128th player in the world.
Lots of people love Rickie Fowler, which is why many people don’t. Almost anyone in golf will say that Fowler is as nice a person as he is at the game, who is prone to small, friendly actions and who is constantly aware that other people have feelings too. Yet it is rumored that he is a marketing creation – a player with only five PGA Tour wins and what appears to be ten times as many referrals. Regular viewers of the PGA Tour are used to Fowler being in a “featured group” for television whether they want to see him or not, and commercial breaks just bring another onslaught from Fowler. It’s annoying that he became a star by wearing light colored clothes, had a pretty face, and (these days) sporting a mustache that looks like it has grown just to show that it could make him look good .
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That’s right, but it also shows how well Fowler played. He won the Players Championship and fought in all major subjects. He came here this week in a terrible break-in, so bad that he smiled when asked if he had any problems in the past few months and said, “Well, it’s definitely been more than a couple of months.”
It has. Fowler wasn’t invited to the Masters and needed a special invitation to this week’s PGA Championship. He relied on some famous friends while he passed out; He saw part of the Masters with Tiger Woods and played a lot of golf with Michael Jordan at Jordan’s new course, The Grove XXIII. Fowler said playing with Jordan is a great way to prepare as he has to give Jordan 10 punches which Jordan is too good to make, money is always at stake and challenging, good with MJ to play chirping in your ear.
“He’s not silent,” said Fowler.
The best way for Fowler to get critics on his side would be to enlist majors. But the next best thing, bizarrely, might be to do what he did: play like a PGA Tour fringe player for a while. It erases the perception that he’s only heading for third place. Golf fans generally appreciate it when players struggle and succeed. If Fowler regains his form, he could go from over-the-top to the charming underdog.
He appeared to be on his way back on Thursday, finishing 1-0 on a brutal ocean course. But even Fowler understands this was just one lap.
His fall was confusing. “When I started being outside the top 50 in the world, it didn’t start being in Augusta,” he said. “I had to deal with it for a few months.” In his words, he only recently started playing golf instead of playing “golf swing” – developing strategies and taking shots instead of thinking about the mechanics.
He’s been as bad off as in years. That’s confusing too, but it’s pretty normal too. Players who work so hard to fix their swing tend to lose their sharpness on the greens. It happened to Jordan Spieth in the last few years. Fowler said he spent “three or four hours” on the practice greens this week, apart from preparing for the course, to get his putting feeling back.
Once Fowler regains his game, he can resume the challenge that preceded his demise: finishing a major. It is possible that, as critics say, he was consumed too much by car chases. But it’s just as likely that his sensitivity and tendency to empathize with others makes it harder to develop a Jordanian mentality.
Maybe he doesn’t need that mentality. He came here determined to take advantage of his special invitation – not just by playing well, but by appreciating it.
“In a way, it’s just a perspective and an understanding that I can do this for a living,” he said. “And that’s great. I’ve had a great run out here so far. I definitely want more. But at the end of the day we can play an awesome game to make a living … we damn good out here and we’re having fun. Go play golf. “
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