Fowler a unique combo of style and substance
NORTON, Mass. – You will find him in white and electric yellow, white and neon green, or, as was the case Saturday, white and vibrant orange.
But looking in at the rock star-like show that is Rickie Fowler is different. Never, it seems, is it black and white. That’s because it appears as if everyone is smitten with the young man.
“I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it again,” Bo Van Pelt said. “As great a player as he is, he’s even a better person.”
Paired alongside Fowler for a second straight day at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Van Pelt realizes he was pretty much along for the ride. And while he birdied three of his last four holes to shoot 68 and assure himself another cut made in the playoffs, Van Pelt isn’t offended to think that the crowd didn’t take much notice, enamored that they were with Fowler.
“If he’s the future of golf, then golf is in good hands,” Van Pelt said after watching yet another PGA Tour day filled with those flat-billed, colorful Puma hats pulled down tight. It’s impossible to not notice, Van Pelt said.
“Hey, my kids are the same way. I’ve got probably eight of those Puma hats for my sons and my nephews.”
Now Van Pelt, 36, and Fowler, 22, may be a half-generation apart, but they are connected forever with their Oklahoma State allegiance. It’s through the Stillwater deal that they’ve known each other for a while and Van Pelt doesn’t deny that he’s impartial. He’s a huge fan.
Fact is, he’s not alone, and that strikes at the heart of the enjoyment of watching the Fowler gallery. There was a mother yesterday who had three young boys with her, each with a Fowler Puma hat, one orange, one purple, one white. When at the 13th green Fowler’s caddie, Joe Skovron, tossed a ball toward the three boys and they secured the prize, you could have thought that Powerball had been hit. There was a similar reaction at the 16th tee when Fowler bumped fists with a young boy, to which was added this comment: “Hey, Rickie, can you hook me up with your broken tee?”
Skovron is used to it, yet that doesn’t mean he’s not amazed, both by the overwhelming affection galleries have toward Fowler and the unfailing respect that his player constantly extends to fans, especially the young ones.
“He handles it all so well,” Skovron said. “He’s genuine.”
Just as genuine is this – the kid’s got game. Lots of game. And the fact that he seems to execute with such flair, enthusiasm, and passion makes him even easier to embrace. You can be safe in assuming tournament officials here at TPC Boston are smiling at the prospects of Fowler remaining in the hunt for that elusive first PGA Tour win.
“In the first two rounds, obviously you can’t really win it,” Fowler said. “But we’ve put ourselves in good position.”
Indeed he has, thanks to a bogey-free trip of 4 under 67 that has him 7 under halfway through the second FedEx Cup playoff tournament. But while there was much to like about the way Fowler began the day – four birdies in eight holes – perhaps what was more impressive is the way he held things together over the final 10 holes when he unleashed a few loose drives and a couple scratchy shots.
“I agree,” Skovron said. “Those are what keep rounds going. Inside of 15 feet he’s been terrific for two days.”
Suddenly struggling to make birdies, Fowler starting at the ninth hole was instead forced to lag putt from extreme lengths. He two-putted for par from 80 feet at the ninth, 98 feet at the 10th, 49 feet at the par 3 11th, and 67 feet at the 12th. Mixing the formula up a bit, he saved par from a greenside bunker at the 13th, but negotiated another long two-putt at the 14th, this time from 42 feet.
“Slowed down a bit the last 10 holes,” Fowler said. “(But) I made some good up-and-downs and kept the round going.”
No save was better than the one at the 15th, because Fowler caught a flyer from the right rough and flew the green from 130 yards and opted to play a flop shot that would have made Phil Mickelson proud. Some 50 feet from the hole, Fowler hoisted his shot a mile high and it came to rest within inches.
For all the times it is mentioned that Fowler needs to finally win, that you don’t want the top 10s to pile up too high (he’s at 13), easily lost is this: The young man is in just his 53rd PGA Tour tournament as a professional and two years ago at this time he was prepping for a Walker Cup date at Merion.
Patience, patience, and focus instead on the sort of skill sets that Fowler brings to the course. At 17, for instance, a splendid par 4 of 412 yards where the fairway winds around rocks and bunkers both left and right, Fowler hit a sizzling knock-down tee shot that came to rest 256 yards away, center cut. But at 18, a par 5 that can be attacked, Fowler launched it high and far, a blast that covered 334 yards.
OK, so he didn’t take advantage, because a 7 iron from 199 yards landed woefully short.
“It didn’t come out as we’d hoped,” Skovron said.
But true to the way in which he played, Fowler deftly two-putted from 41 feet to run his bogey-free stretch to 24 holes.
And true to the way in which the PGA Tour landscape is turning more colorful every week, the orange, green, yellow, white, blue, and purple Puma hat crowd saluted their hero.