Golf

Fowler, McIlroy settings seed for future rivalry

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)

Rory McIlroy seems to bring out the best in Rickie Fowler.

Fowler rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt to beat McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff Sunday in the Wells Fargo Championship, marking his first career win on the PGA Tour and his second as a professional. The other was in the Korea Open in 2011 when Fowler topped McIlroy down the stretch and won by six strokes.

McIlroy and Fowler are considered by some golf's future and if that proves to be true they're beginning to build a nice little rivalry, albeit a friendly one.

''We've always had a great camaraderie, been good buddies,'' Fowler said. ''I definitely respect him as a player and I feel like he respects me as well - at least I hope so. I've had a lot of fun playing against him and hopefully we'll have a lot more tournaments like this where we're battling back and forth.''

McIlroy said he was thrilled for Fowler.

''It's great to see,'' McIlroy said. ''He probably has went through a lot of scrutiny and a lot of pressure trying to get that first win out of the way. Hopefully that'll ease the pressure a little bit.''

Added Fowler: ''Now I've got some credibility.''

Despite the playoff loss, McIlroy reclaimed his No. 1 spot in the world ranking.

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SIMPSON STRUGGLES: Webb Simpson entered the final round with a one-stroke lead and for the first time in his career didn't close the deal, even though he had several chances to make a move down the stretch.

However, four bogeys proved to be the undoing for the Quail Hollow Club member, who lives a mile from the clubhouse.

Simpson needed a birdie on the 18th hole to get into a four-way playoff, but his tee shot landed in the right rough and he missed a 23-footer to finish one shot back at 13 under after a 73.

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WESTWOOD RUN FALLS SHORT: Lee Westwood began the final round nine shots back, but made a charge to trim the lead to two before third-round leader Webb Simpson even teed off.

Westwood started the day playing the first 10 holes in 7 under. The run stopped there. He played the final eight holes in 1 over, finishing the tournament at 11-under 277.

''It was a great front nine, wasn't it?'' Westwood said. ''Put me in with a chance of winning the tournament. There were some brutal flags out there on that back nine, and it's been tough. Wind is swirling a little bit, and the greens are just getting faster

''Yeah, you'd like to attack around this golf course, but it just won't allow it sometimes.''

Westwood said a strong tournament was important considering he was breaking in a new caddie Cayce Kerr, who's filling in for injured Billy Foster.

The English star said that is important heading into The Players Championship.

''He's getting to know me and getting used to my game a little bit, which is nice,'' Westwood said. ''It was important to birdie one of the last three on Friday to make the cut and give my caddie a couple more days to get used to my game. Obviously, next week is a big week, and clubbing around there doesn't get any easier, so it's good we have the next two days.''

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CURTIS ON HIS WAY UP: Ben Curtis has gone from not having a card a month ago to being one of the hottest players on tour.

Curtis shot a 67 to finish at 11 under for another top-10 finish. That comes after Curtis won the Texas Open two weeks ago and tied for 13th last week in the Zurich Classic. He has played the last three tournaments in 32 under.

''I'm playing well,'' Curtis said. ''And I felt like I left a lot out there. Golf is a funny game. My game is coming around and I'm making some putts finally. It really helps me get my confidence back. I must be doing something right.''

Curtis said this is his best stretch since 2008 when he made the Ryder Cup team and he's hitting the ball better than ever.

''Golf is a streaky game,'' Curtis said.

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MICKELSON CAN'T GET HOT: Phil Mickelson came in having finished in the top 10 in six of nine tournaments at Quail Hollow, but couldn't put anything together Sunday. He finished with a 71 and at 6 under for the tournament.

''I didn't get any hot runs,'' Mickelson said.

Mickelson said he lost the tournament long before Sunday.

''And the first day (Thursday) I let a really good opportunity go because the conditions we had in the morning were so calm and the greens were soft that it was an opportunity to score really low and I didn't take advantage of it,'' Mickelson said.

Mickelson heads to St. Augustine, Fla., for induction into World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday.

As for his acceptance speech, Mickelson said he hasn't quite started working on it.

''Um, I was going to work on it (Sunday) night,'' he said, sheepishly.

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DIVOTS: Fowler became the third player to make the Wells Fargo Championship his first tour win, joining McIlroy and Anthony Kim. ... McIlroy has finished in the top three in four of his five starts this season on the PGA Tour. ... Nick Watney was eighth for his second top-10 finish of the season.

Tagged: Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Ben Curtis

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