Rickie Fowler stands out in Bay Hill crowd

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Rickie Fowler stands out in Bay Hill crowd

PGA Tour

Rickie Fowler stands out in Bay Hill crowd

ORLANDO – Fans find Rickie Fowler wherever he is on the golf course. Then they follow.

Fowler made it even easier for the fans to find him Saturday at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Standing out in mint green pants, a bright yellow polo shirt and a white hat, belt and shoes combination, he gave the fans quite a show with a third-round 65 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Roughly 30 minutes after their man had finished up, the Fowler fans had not left. They were waiting for a closer look, and hopefully a signature. At 1:30 p.m., they lined up six deep on a fence separating the players’ parking lot from the course, just south of the first tee box.

Missing Bay Hill last year was difficult for Rickie Fowler. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Fowler moved down the line in smooth, steady fashion, signing golf balls and flags, shirts and hats. He posed for photographs with some. Many of the autograph seekers are young women, and one was thrilled when he signed a clear glass bottle of some kind, which will presumably be filled with an alcoholic beverage in the not-so-distant future.

He posed for his last photo at 1:45 p.m. and headed for the locker room, capping a wild afternoon which began with a double bogey at the par-4 third and included an eagle at the par-5 16th to reach 7 under for the day. The pace on his 14-foot eagle putt on 16 was nearly perfect, slowly creeping toward the hole and finally disappearing to the delight of fans surrounding the green.

“That’s a putt you kind of have to be cautious with,” Fowler said. “It gets pretty quick at the hole. I didn’t want it running by and I wanted to try and play the break, so that’s why it was dying and just snuck in the front.”

There was nothing special about Fowler’s opening rounds of 74 and 72, but it’s been a special tournament for him. He said earlier this week he felt so bad about having to miss this event last year that he drove to Bay Hill, had lunch with Arnold Palmer and told him he wouldn’t be playing. He still remembers the look on Palmer’s face when he told him.

Rickie Fowler’s shoes nearly stole the show Saturday at Bay Hill. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“It was one of the hardest things I had to do,” Fowler said. “It’s different not having him here, but like I’ve said before … legends never die. He’s always going to be here, this tournament’s going to go on. He was a special man, and I’m happy I was able to call him a friend.”

Now, about that outfit. It included the Palmer umbrella logo on his hat, polo and belt buckle, and his white Palmer-themed Puma golf shoes are trimmed with images of Palmer. Fowler said he gave Palmer a signed hat after their lunch last year, which is still in Palmer’s office. He has two pairs of the Palmer shoes, one of which is currently being auctioned off for charity.

He’d like to keep the left shoe from the remaining pair for his home. And he’d like to keep the right shoe on the property here, hopefully next to the hat he signed for his friend who would have been thrilled with Fowler’s play and time spent with fans on a sun-kissed Saturday afternoon at Bay Hill.

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