'Overrated' Fowler gives his critics a rebuttal
May 07, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Rickie Fowler shot 3-under 69 in his opening round at THE PLAYERS Championship. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Is Rickie Fowler overrated? It depends who you ask.
In a recent Sports Illustrated poll, Fowler and Ian Poulter were voted by their peers as the most overrated players on the PGA TOUR with both receiving 24 percent of the vote.
Fowler has one career victory on TOUR. Poulter has two.
Fowler’s response after a 3-under 69 to sit just two strokes off the lead in the opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship?
“I guess top fives in four majors aren’t that good,” he said. “So one of three isn’t that good. … I’ll take care of my business and be just fine.”
Poulter, by the way, shot a 71.
Back to Fowler, who was referring to last year, when he tied for fifth at the Masters, was runner-up at the U.S. Open and Open Championship and tied for third at the PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other players to have finished in the top five in all four majors in the same year.
The 26-year-old Fowler is polite, affable and well-liked among players and fans. He is rarely, if ever, the target of criticism and has a voice inside the team room at the Ryder Cup. He said he wasn’t irritated by the survey -- though his eyes told a slightly different story -- and that he’s just going to try to play as well as he can.
In the opening round at TPC Sawgrass, he did play well.
Fowler birdied four of his first eight holes and added two more at Nos. 1 and 2 after making the turn. He was 6 under through 11 holes and atop the leaderboard.
Then came the par-3 third, where Fowler missed the green way to the right, left his next shot short, scooted his chip 28 feet past the hole and two-putted for double bogey.
Each of the next two holes, he missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet. On the par-3 eighth, Fowler missed another chance from 13 feet.
Still in good shape with one hole to go, Fowler pushed his tee shot on the par-5 ninth and the ball found the creek that divides the fairway. He had a chance to save par but hit an indifferent wedge from 115 yards to 25 feet and missed the putt. Bogey.
Afterward, Fowler said he was “happy” when asked if he was satisfied or dissatisfied with how he played, but there was hesitation in his voice.
“Off to a good, solid start and in a good position,” he continued. “But also not too satisfied because I kind of gave away quite a bit there. Could have been a really good round today.”
Therein lies the rub for many.
Could have been, but wasn’t. Good, but not great -- at least when being compared to contemporaries like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or even Patrick Reed. All had ballyhooed amateur careers and have lived up to expectations at the next level.
Fowler did, too, and is paid a princely sum of approximately a few million bucks a year to be the face of Puma and is also sponsored by Red Bull. He is a social media rock star, dates a model and drives fast cars, among them a tricked-out Ferrari. He also has more than $16 million in earnings on TOUR but still just the one win in 141 starts on TOUR (ironically, perhaps, over McIlroy in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012). Two if you include the one he got at the Kolon Korea Open in 2011.
If UCLA football coach Henry Sanders was still around, he would be chirping that winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Apparently others feel the same, especially in the wake of the Woods era of twisted dominance.
But golf isn’t as black and white as a football game, and Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime player. Being on any list with Nicklaus and Woods is a pretty stout accomplishment.
Will Fowler be a rival of McIlroy, Spieth and company for years to come?
“There are a lot of really good young players right now so you're going to see a group of 10 or so guys where any given week there could be two guys out in contention, and that's the rivalry for the week,” Fowler said. “But I would say, obviously, Rory and Jordan have distanced themselves as of right now, being 1 and 2 in the world -- Rory especially, with the way he's played the past year, year and a half. So some of us have some work to do to even talk about a rivalry, but I'm up for it.”
Three years ago, Fowler tied for second at THE PLAYERS Championship. He’s off to a good start this year, too.
Is he overrated? It depends who you ask and what their definition is, but come some Sunday, maybe this Sunday, it’s going to be a moot question.
Rickie Fowler interview after Round 1 of THE PLAYERS