Jim Neveau, TGW Columnist
Let it never be said that Rickie Fowler is all sizzle and no steak. He dispelled those notions with an impressive Sunday finish at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club, shooting a 69 en route to finishing in a tie for 1st with new world #1 Rory McIlroy and DA Points, who bogeyed the final hole to allow the playoff to take place.
In that playoff, McIlroy and Points both hit their approach shots well away from the hole, but Fowler, as is his style, went for it. He lofted a gorgeous wedge shot to within four feet of the cup, and when he drained the birdie putt, he secured his first career PGA Tour victory and also gave a fitting pay-off to the legions of young fans in brightly colored gear that followed him along the path to the victory.
Coming on the heels of Bubba Watson’s improbable victory at The Masters in April, Fowler’s victory may just well be yet another sign that post-Tiger Woods PGA golf is alive and well. Whereas Watson is already in his 30′s and seems to be settling into his new life as a father (he dropped out of Quail Hollow after Augusta, and he also withdrew from The Players last week), Fowler is still raw and very young at the age of 23. He has already been the subject of his own ad for the Tour, and he has also cut ads for Cobra and Puma despite his lack of a victory on his resume. All of those things, however, seem like just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Rickie could do for the sport.
All you have to do to see the potential impact that Fowler has is to look back at the show he put on at the Phoenix Open in February. At the raucous 16th hole, Fowler wore two hats and hit a gorgeous shot into that green. He then unzipped his golf bag and started throwing green Puma hats into the stands. The place went absolutely bonkers, and you could see that fans react to this kid in a way that they just don’t seem to react to anyone else.
It’s his appeal to young golf fans that is his most intriguing asset. The former motocross racer has the haircut of a young kid, and his brash demeanor and homegrown golf swing fit well with the younger generation’s ethos. When you couple that with his penchant for wearing bright clothing and swilling Red Bull at every opportunity, you have a player who is tailor made to grow the game amongst a demographic that the Tour has aggressively courted ever since Woods burst onto the scene at the age of 20.
The company that is likely going to benefit the most from this victory will be Puma. The company isn’t exactly swimming in capital right now, but with a bright young star like Fowler wearing their apparel, they may have a golden marketing goose to take advantage of. People can’t seem to get enough of the hats and shirts that Fowler sports on a weekly basis, and orders are only going to go up as the photos of Rickie hoisting the tournament trophy while sporting his bright orange get-up make the rounds.
It is rare to find someone who can make the game of golf seem cool and sexy, but if anyone can do it, it’s the heartthrob in orange from Oklahoma. Fowler may have been known for his flash before his victory, but now he has to be known by a different title: perennial contender.