Walker Cup partner: Rickie ‘loves big stage’
One of the criteria Corey Pavin undoubtedly considered when making his Ryder Cup captain’s pick: Can he handle the pressure?
When it comes to Rickie Fowler, the answer is ‘Yes.’ Fowler has become known for a fearless attitude, a product of spending part of his youth racing motocross. Yes, he blew a lead at the Memorial and was criticized for laying up late at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (a decision I believe was the result of overthinking, not fear).
But there’s one round – one of the few Fowler has played in the past year away from the spotlight – that says a lot about his ability when the stakes are highest. Fowler started the final round of Q-School on the cut line for a PGA Tour card. He three-putted the first hole, made eagle two holes later and shot 70 to earn his PGA Tour card.
If Fowler doesn’t perform in that final round, he’s likely not on this year’s Ryder Cup team.
“I think anyone that’s been around him realizes he doesn’t get bothered by too much,” his caddie/childhood friend, Joe Skovron, said at Q-School. “I think he’d tell you there was a little bit of nerves those first couple holes. He wasn’t as relaxed as he’d been all week, but then he . . . made the putt for eagle and he was back to being Rickie Fowler.
“A lot of times you don’t even see (the nerves) with him. He’s joking aroud, acting like it’s just another day. He has so much fun playing golf, which is different from him than a lot of other people.”
Fowler said he’ll bring energy to the Ryder Cup team, much like he did for the past two U.S. Walker Cup teams. Yes, it’s an amateur competition, but the Walker Cup is about as good a Ryder Cup simulation as there is, better than even the Presidents Cup.
Fowler went 7-1 in the past two Walker Cups. Four of his victories were by at least a 4-up margin.
“He loves the big stage,” said Billy Horschel, who teamed with Fowler to go 2-0 at the 2007 Walker Cup. “He’s a battler.”
Fowler’s Ryder Cup selection leaves many hoping for a matchup between Fowler and his fellow 21-year-old, Rory McIlroy. They’ve already played once in international competition. Fowler and McIlroy played each other at the 2007 Walker Cup. Fowler and Horschel paired to beat McIlroy and Jonny Caldwell, 2 and 1, in alternate shot in McIlroy’s home country.
Horschel remembers calming a nervous Fowler over the first few holes of the 2007 Walker Cup. Fowler was just 18 at the time, and hadn’t started his college career. But he went 3-1 to help the U.S. to a one-point victory.
As Horschel said, “Everyone gets nervous. It’s how quickly you can get over those butterflies.”
Pavin expects Fowler to do the same at the Ryder Cup.