Hats off to Rickie

Rickie Fowler possesses a big hat and a big game, although the latter has been a bit inconsistent throughout his pro career.

The 25-year-old Fowler is known for his loud clothes, and he made some noise at Augusta National in April when he challenged in the Masters before closing with a 1-over-par 73 to finish in a tie for fifth.

After nearly five years on the PGA Tour, he has only one victory, the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, and he hears the talk.

“I know I’m known for what I wear on the golf course,” said Fowler, who is in the field this week for the FedEx St. Jude Classic, making his final competitive preparation for the U.S. Open next week at Pinehurst No. 2. “But I want to be known as a great player. …

“I always knew it would be tough to win on Tour. (Having) guys like Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson) doesn’t help the average Tour player’s cause.”

Of course, Woods and Mickelson haven’t won this season after dominating for nearly 20 years, but neither has Fowler.

Fowler’s 2014 results are decidedly uneven, with his only other top-10 finishes a third-place result in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and solo sixth in the Shell Houston Open. He missed the cut seven times — including last week by one stroke in the Memorial.

“Yeah, it’s been a little up and down, either top six or off on the weekend,” said Fowler, who claimed his Wells Fargo victory with a birdie on the first playoff hole to turn back Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. “It’s been fun, though.

“I’m excited about the game, and … early in the year, I was actually swinging really well and wasn’t able to get the ball up and down or make any putts. Obviously there was a lot of thought that it was swing-related, but I’m actually swinging better than I ever had and for some reason couldn’t get it in the hole.”

It is no surprise that his game is a work in progress at this point, as he turned to famed instructor Butch Harmon for help in December, and there usually is a learning curve with such moves.

Fowler had not employed a swing instructor since his coach, Barry McDonnell, died in May 2011.

“I love the kid,” said Harmon, who asked his top gun, Mickelson, about adding another player to the stable before making it official. “The thing I like is he’s been saying, ‘I want to be known more for my golf than my clothes and my hat. I want to contend in majors.’

“Phil said, ‘It’s awesome. We need Rickie Fowler to play good.'”

Actually, if Fowler can get to the final round, he has a chance because he is averaging 69.75 on Sundays, but over 71 in each of the other three rounds.

While his ball-striking is coming along, Fowler isn’t thriving with the putter. He ranks 175th on the PGA Tour in putting at plus-.446 while averaging 29.09 putts per round — barely inside the top 100.

“It’s not that I stopped working on putting or the short game,” said Fowler, who made a recent visit to Paul Vizanko, a fitting specialist at Scotty Cameron’s Putter Studio, to get straightened out.

“Just a little bit of feel went away. My eyes and my alignment were pretty far off. I think I’m pretty much square now, and I think I’m able to really see my lines and trust it.”

The clothes thing is always going to be there, and every time Fowler shows up for a tournament, he sees little kids dressed up like him.

His look also became popular on Halloween.

“It’s a lot of fun to see it,” said Fowler, whose hat looks even bigger since he cut his long hair a while back. “When I sit back and think about it, it still kind of shocks me that I’m the reason that they’re dressing like me and wearing the hats and the Puma gear and stuff. It’s really cool.

“I never planned to have a big influence or impact on the game. My dream was to play on the PGA Tour, and there have been a lot of extras and bonuses that have come along with it.

“It’s cool having the kids out supporting me.”

However, the coolest thing is winning, and that is what Fowler wants most.


–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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