Rickie Fowler left Oklahoma State after just two years, but he will be forever known as a Cowboy. So insinuated in and with such affinity for one of the best college golf programs in the land, his trademark has become his head-to-toe orange outfit on Sundays.
On the one hand, it was charming to see such loyalty to a program that had given him so much, but on the other, it always smacked of a sort of showy unseriousness. And the flamboyance in his clothing line that matched the flashiness of his swing, caused some to wonder if he would ever mature into a PGA Tour thoroughbred. Throw in his previous life racing dirt bikes, his participation in Ben Crane’s viral “Golf Boys” video (staring Crane, Fowler, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan) and you had all the makings of a candle-in-the-wind career.
But all of that is behind him now.
With his win Sunday in the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, he proved that none of that ever meant anything or ever would. It was just clothes that fully expressed who he thought himself to be. Hooray for being yourself. Hooray for proving that what you look like is not a measure of what you can do.
And what he did was pretty flashy…in a good way. He shot a 3-under 69 (with three bogeys) to get into a playoff with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. With his second shot into the green hard by a creek, he played a shot so bold everything had to be perfect to pull it off:
Well, you’re playing against two guys that are going to make good swings 97 percent of the time, so I ended up having the number where I was able to take that risk. I hit a pitching wedge in regulation from 141, and it flew just past the hole about 44 or so, and I had 33 this time around. So it was basically a 10-yard gap, which is about what I had between [my pitching wedge] and 51 [52 degree gap wedge bent to 51 degrees], and Joe, my caddie, made a good call and said if there’s any bit of help [from the wind] and you’re comfortable hitting 51, it’s a perfect club. We went with it, and it turned out perfect.
But like D.A. said, if I don’t have a little bit of help or don’t hit it perfectly, then I land short and I’m in the creek. But playing against those two guys, I know that they’re going to make birdie at some point, and I don’t want to sit there and try and make pars and stay in it. I wanted to try to — I had a good number, and I wanted to make birdie.
Points and McIlroy left themselves with very difficult putts and after quite a while, managed to two-putt. That left the stage to Fowler and he aggressively knocked his four-footer dead in the middle of the cup. It added to the lore.
Overnight leader and hometown boy, Webb Simpson, could manage no better than 1-over in an up and down round that was certainly disappointing. One of his better moments was when he hit his second shot on the par-5, 7th hole into the creek to the right of the green. He had no visible reaction to this potential round killer and, rather, began a dialogue with his fellow competitor Ryan Moore to ensure that the ball had landed inside the red line before it kicked down into the water. Very classy and he eventually saved his par. He will have learned a lot from his day.
Lee Westwood shot the low round of the day with a 6-under 66 that lobbed him up the leaderboard and into contention. And while he didn’t get the big payday he would have liked with his T5 finish, he’s very much looking forward to this week’s Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass;
Yeah, I’m playing solidly, aren’t I, won last week and third in the Masters before that. I played well this week aside from some putts, and next week is a golf course I love playing. It suits my game. I’ve been in with a chance two or three times around there, so yeah, I’m looking forward to next week.
Ben Curtis, winner in San Antonio two weeks ago and T13 in New Orleans last week still has a hot hand. He was right behind Westwood on the day with a 5-under round which gave him a share of Westwood’s T5.
Overnight contenders Ryan Moore (T5) and Nick Watney (8) both shot what must have been disappointing 2-overs. It can be disheartening to work so hard all week long to put yourself into position for a great day and then not have it go your way. On the other hand, it confirms that you are “just right there” in your development and keeps you motivated and keeps you going forward enthusiastically. And, of course, $237,250 and $201,500 goes a long way to salve the wounds.
And finally, speaking of nice checks, kudos to Monday qualifier Patrick Reed who, with his fiancee, Justine Karaine on the bag, also shot a 2-over in the final round. Karaine, a registered nurse and former high school golfer is better at reading greens than he is. That was good for a T32 and another $34,450 added to their tournament haul that began three weeks ago in San Antonio. Between that, New Orleans and now Charlotte, they managed to win $116,205. Not bad for a Monday qualifier who was playing on four hours sleep in New Orleans. And, of course, not bad as a wedding fund. Have a nice life together, kids.