Fowler not acting his age with so much recent TOUR success

May 13, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Kids these days. They grow up so fast.

Rickie Fowler certainly has, or rather is, right before our eyes.

Never mind his maturity inside the ropes in nearly winning his first PLAYERS Championship and for the second straight week, or on the outside of them when he hung around the scoring area until Matt Kuchar finished so he could congratulate him.

This wasn't the first time Fowler didn't act his age.

When he was a teenager growing up in Southern California, Fowler always wanted to wear pants when he played golf even if all the other kids were wearing shorts.

After breaking three bones in his ankle and injuring his wrist in a dirt bike accident three weeks before high school golf tryouts, it was Rickie who told his dad to sell the bike.

"Ever since he was 15 years old, everyone said he acted more like a 25-year-old," Fowler's father Rod said.

The last two weeks, Fowler hasn't played like his age either.

After going 67 PGA TOUR starts without a victory, Fowler is starting to look a little like another popular 20-something who is from Northern Ireland.

That's not to suggest Fowler is in the same class as Major McIlroy, but he at least made the cut here. McIlroy didn't.

Like Rory, Rickie is showing a propensity to learn quickly.

Fowler missed the cut in his first two PLAYERS Championships. This week, he led the field in greens in regulation and consequently birdies on his way to a tie for second two strokes behind Kuchar.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself and my game right now," Fowler said. "I feel like I'm managing myself around the golf course and throughout the tournament better, getting myself in the right positions, and not giving away tournaments and keeping myself in them."

Sunday he nearly did with a double bogey on the fifth hole and another bogey on the seventh.

Four holes later, however, Fowler made back-to-back birdies after getting up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the par-5 11th and sticking his approach to 5 feet on the par-4 12th.

"He's got that never-give-up kind of attitude," said Ben Curtis, who played alongside Fowler on Sunday. "Even though we both struggled the first nine holes, you could just see as long as he has a chance to make a few birdies coming in he's going to give it a run. There are very few guys that do that."

And they all go by singular names: Tiger, Phil, Rory, Jack. They also go by another name: Great.

Rickie has a ways to go before he joins that group, but he's well on his way after these recent performances.

Every road starts somewhere, so why not now for Fowler's? But the truth is he's been on the fast track his whole life.

In his first-ever tournament, Fowler's mom had to talk organizers into letting him play because he was only 4 1/2 years old and the age limit was 5. He finished in the top three.

"They let him keep coming out after that," Rod Fowler said.

In high school, Fowler set a California Interscholastic Federation scoring record with a 10-under 62, and his scoring average improved every year.

Sometimes we forget it was only five years ago Fowler was still in high school.

There was a time when Kuchar was, in a sense, Fowler, too.

Kuchar won the 1997 U.S. Amateur and went on to finish as the low am in the following years' Masters.

Then he went eight years with just one victory.

This is just Fowler's third season, and he's excited for what the future holds. We should be, too.

"I'm finally getting things clicking," Fowler said. "It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun to be in the moment, and that's why we play the game."

And he's why we watch.