by Jeff Skinner
In between rain delays and the raindrops at Muirfield Village we were treated to the new face of cool on the PGA Tour. A young, dapper, confident Rickie Fowler shot a 66 to go with his 65 in the first round and he leads a resurgent Justin Rose by three strokes. Fowler tied the 36 hole record of 131 at Jack’s place and Nicklaus was impressed, “I’ve never shot 131 around here.”
Fowler is at the forefront of a youth movement in golf. He and Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa have shown that they can compete on the biggest of stages with much older and experienced players. Fowler is doing it with his own style, both with his game and his clothes.
He looks more like Zach Efron than Zach Johnson and plays like a kid trying to hole every shot. His style has been compared to Lanny Wadkins who never saw a pin he didn’t shoot at. He’s only 5 feet 9 inches tall and 150 pounds but his fast swing speed allows him to pound the ball. He averages 293 with the driver so far this year and this week he his hitting the greens and putting very well. That’s a combination that may be hard to beat.
His fashion style is best described as a cutting edge combination of “skater boy meets European golfer.” Fowler still shows his Motocross roots with his flat brimmed hat and super fast play. He liked going fast on his bikes and he plays as fast as anyone on tour. He’ll pick his target and let it rip and so far the results this week have been extraordinary.
Fowler was asked to compare college to his pro experience. “Golf is golf. I show up at tournaments to win. I didn’t exactly expect myself — I guess I had high expectations for myself, but I didn’t — you know, I wasn’t sure how everything was going to play out, especially with having to go to Q School and play through the fall series.
You don’t know if you’re going to get your card. You’re not sure if you’re going to have status. Nothing was set in stone. So I had no clue what was going to happen when I turned pro in September. I just knew I had a couple starts, and I was going to get to play a few times and go to Q School from there.
So having a great time. I love playing golf, and I’ve always dreamt of playing on the PGA Tour. So it’s pretty cool.”
There are golfers and there are personalities on the tour. Fowler was asked about his fashion style and being in the spotlight. “Well, I mean, I’ve always dressed different. I come from a different background. I didn’t grow up at a country club, so I was always wearing kind of whatever I wanted. I grew up riding racing dirt bikes. So kind of edgy in a way.
I just kind of — I pick out what I want to wear. Every once in a while, put a little something in for bigger tournaments. What you see is what you get. It’s me. I just love being out here. I don’t mind the spotlight.
Some people would think it would put pressure on me, but I’ve dealt with expectations through junior golf, amateur golf, and college golf. So far, so good.”
Fowler is in a great position for his first win and a big win it would be. The Memorial is a special place to win for any player, no matter his age. It won’t be enough to get Fowler into the U.S. Open though. He has a 36 hole qualifier on Monday to get to Pebble Beach. I bet he shows up in some cool threads with a new trophy in the car. That would be pretty cool.