Anyone think Rickie's overrated now?
Thanks to a sizzling and dramatic finish, Rickie Fowler quieted the critics by winning THE PLAYERS
May 10, 2015
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Rickie Fowler reacts after holing the winning putt on the 17th green to claim THE PLAYERS in a dramatic playoff. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Overrated? Rickie Fowler can now offer proof to the contrary.
His own locker in the Champions room at TPC Sawgrass. A custom portrait in the massive clubhouse. One of the 14 clubs he’ll donate from his winning bag, on display on the first floor. His own plaque in the Circle of Champions near the practice facilities.
And the crystal trophy, produced by the House of Waterford in Ireland. It sat within arm’s length of Fowler late Sunday night, the most immediate reward for winning THE PLAYERS Championship in one wild and incredible final day.
“If there was any question,” said Fowler, who began affectionately patting the top of the trophy, “I think this right here answers anything you need to know.”
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP: Final results, points | The Upshot | Daily Wrap-up | Fowler's family, girlfriend share win | What's in Fowler's bag? | 17th hole in review | Woods sees progress | Garcia comes up short | Photo gallery | FedExCup standings
Five days ago, they said he was overrated. That his popularity was writing checks his success couldn’t cash. That’s what the Sports Illustrated poll of PGA TOUR pros had proclaimed. Having been unable to build on his lone win three years ago at the Wells Fargo Championship, Fowler was in danger of transforming from promising youngster to one-hit wonder.
Publicly, Fowler shrugged off the results. But deep down, he was probably seething. He needed something to defend his reputation.
He delivered on Sunday. Delivered like no other winner on TOUR has delivered in more than 30 years.
Five shots off the lead, Fowler hit the ignition switch. Buoyed by a par save out of a tough fairway bunker at the previous hole, he rolled in a 12-1/2 foot birdie putt at the 13th. Then he made par on the tough 14th.
“I was out of the golf tournament through 12 holes,” Fowler said, “and we managed to fight our way back in.”
He walked off the 18th green with the lead at 12 under, then walked nearly the entire path to the scoring area while hugging his girlfriend, Alexis Randock. He signed his card, and then was met outside by Billy Horschel.
They embraced and then Horschel offered some words of praise. Only a few were suitable for children.
“I just said bleeping happy for you, you know, bleep bleep stuff and bleep, bleep, bleep,” Horschel said. “There wasn’t a lot of non-bleeps in there.
“I was jacked for him.”
Rickie Fowler blistered the back nine and played his final six holes in 6 under during regulation. (PGA TOUR)
But the celebration had to be muted. The rest of the field, having slumbered through most of the final round, took Fowler’s cue and finally seemed to wake up.
Sergio Garcia, the leader most of the day after a front-nine string of birdies, made a 44-footer for birdie at the 17th. It was the longest putt he made all year. Kevin Kisner also birdied the 17th. Both were now tied with Fowler – and Kisner even had a chance to win outright on the final hole of regulation, missing a birdie putt from inside 10 feet.
That forced the first three-hole aggregate playoff in PLAYERS history, the format having changed from sudden death before last year’s tournament. Fowler and Kisner birdied the 17th and Garcia didn’t, proving to be the decisive factor for his elimination one hole later.
Back to 17, which was now sudden death. Fowler had conquered it all week. Kisner went first, delivering a nice tee shot inside 13 feet. Fowler’s was better, inside 5 feet. You know which one sank the putt. It was Fowler’s third birdie of the day at 17, and his fifth in sixth trips to the hole this week.
“Big thanks to 17,” Fowler said. “It was a big help this week.”
Funny how the TOUR’s most famous hole and one of its most popular golfers came together on Sunday to produce the most scintillating finish in PLAYERS history.
And funny how Rickie Fowler just happens to win the same week he’s labeled as overrated.
“I was always looked at as only having one win on TOUR,” Fowler said. “I always felt that I needed to put myself in position to win more often, and I did that last year (with top-5s in each major). I wasn’t able to end up as the last guy standing.
“It feels good to be in that position.”
As for who exactly voted Fowler as most overrated, well, it wasn’t Horschel.
“I don’t know what people were thinking about when they thought he was overrated,” the reigning FedExCup champ said. “He’s such a humble guy and such a good guy. He doesn’t brag about anything he does.”
Certainly he has plenty to brag about now. Any questions about Fowler being overrated disappeared along with the ball on that final putt at 17.
Overrated doesn’t play the final six holes of the Stadium Course in 6 under. Overrated doesn’t flinch when he must deliver a shot of a lifetime onto a little island green. Overrated doesn’t claim the TOUR’s biggest tournament prize on a hot, humid Mother’s Day, daylight rapidly sneaking away, pressure turned to maximum levels.
“I really don’t know the whole story, but I heard the remnants of it this weekend,” Kisner replied when asked about the poll. “Obviously, he’s not overrated….
“What is he supposed to be rated? What’s the threshold here on who calls what’s overrated? I wouldn’t get too worried about that.”
Fowler isn’t worried about it. Not anymore. He’s tapping the top of the crystal trophy and wondering when to schedule his sitting for the champion’s portrait.
Rickie Fowler delivers down the stretch to win at THE PLAYERS