A victory on Tour is next order of business for Fowler

Rickie Fowler watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Should you consider pressing the panic button or hyperventilating with anxiety on his behalf, here is something to consider: Given a conservative estimation and presuming he remains healthy and motivated to play golf, Rickie Fowler has 25 years and approximately 500 tournaments in front of him.

There. Feel better about the kid being 0-for-71 when it comes to trying to win a PGA Tour tournament.

Breathing easier?

Fowler is pleased for you, though he wants you to know that he doesn’t share your fears for his career, as much as he appreciates your interest.

“I definitely feel like with the amount of people expecting or thinking that I can win, it’s a compliment,” Fowler said moments after his birdie at the 18th hole put him into a share of the clubhouse lead at the Wells Fargo Championship. “But I’m not too worried about the talk that goes on about when my first win is coming.”

Fowler, of course, is both blessed and cursed.

Blessed to be young and talented in a game that is constantly in need of young and talented players and has the wherewithal to get them out here.

But cursed to have come along at a time when a few predecessors had set a bar that was silly high and shouldn’t be used for comparison's sake. Specifically, we’re talking about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, still the two biggest attractions in the game after having roared onto the PGA Tour with emphatic success.

By the time he had played in 72 PGA Tour tournaments, Woods was 23 and had won six times, one of them a major. By the time he had played in 72 PGA Tour tournaments, Mickelson was 24 and had won four times. Impressive stuff which can sometime blur perspective, and look no further than Fowler. He is 23 and a legitimate star attraction out here, but as he tees it up this week at the Quail Hollow Club, he has yet to win on the PGA Tour – that morsel of information gets tossed his way as if he should apologize for it.

He shouldn’t, of course, and there are times when Fowler will have fun with it.

“I won in Korea. I beat Rory. I couldn’t let him win,” Fowler pointed out to a few rounds of laughter, a reference to his only pro victory, last fall’s Kolon Korea Open.

But Fowler calls the PGA Tour home. It’s the best circuit in the world, and his record on it is what matters most. So, for the record: There have been 15 top 10s, a few very close calls, piles of cash, tens of thousands of adoring fans in flat-brimmed hats and electric colors. But no victories. None.

Now before you suggest the kid choose another line of work, consider this: He’s still seven years younger than Vijay Singh was when the Big Fijian won his first PGA Tour tournament, and so far as can be determined, Singh did OK without a blazing start.

Fact is, Fowler already has poured a remarkable foundation in a short period of time. He has maintained a steady presence inside the top 50 in the world order; he has played in nine majors (seven in a row) and recorded two finishes inside the top 15; and he has played in a Ryder Cup. And just in case you need to be reminded, there’s a huge element of entertainment at stake out here, and the kid from Murietta, Calif., comes up aces in that respect.

Oh, and he has forged a rapport with media and fans that speaks volumes for his maturity.

Clearly, a victory is the next order of business, but it’s not like he spends all of his free time trying to figure out why his bids haven’t come to fruition.

After all, it’s golf.

“It’s tough to put 72 holes holes of great golf together,” Fowler said. “Just waiting for that time to come, keep playing well. I wouldn’t be surprised if a win is just around the corner, and once it does, hopefully the doors will open and we’ll go from there.”

So, could the old adage be true, that the toughest victory is the first one?

Fowler smiled and said, “I definitely think that Korea was a good steppingstone toward that.”

On this day, he had jump-started his round with a splendid 6-iron from 177 yards to eagle the par-5 seventh en route to a 6-under 66. It was a score matched by four others in the morning, when Quail Hollow hardly bared its teeth. At least until Ryan Moore came in with a 65 in the afternoon, Fowler had entertained visions of having at least a share of the lead after a round on the PGA Tour for the seventh time. But the fact that none of them have come after a fourth round is no cause for panic.

Now, should that still be true years from now – say, in May of 2019, when he’s 30 – OK, Fowler probably will beat you to the panic button.

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