Patient Fowler working toward first win
The only thing missing from Rickie Fowler's Rookie of the Year season in 2010 was his first PGA Tour victory. He's still searching for it.
The 22-year-old rising star has been close, with six finishes in the top five since he turned pro late in 2009. This week, he returns to the Memorial Tournament, where last year he missed perhaps his best chance to win.
None of those close calls has come this season, but the happy-go-lucky Fowler doesn't seem to be worried about any sophomore jinx.
"Well, obviously, I want to win," said Fowler, whose best finish this season was eighth in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. "I want to be known as a great player, and I want to be a winner.
"So, you know, I think we are on track with playing well. We have been in contention a lot of times. . . . I just think it's kind of keep knocking at the door and it will eventually open."
Fowler lost in a playoff to Troy Matteson in the Frys.com Open, his second tournament after turning pro following the Walker Cup in October 2009. Then he finished second in the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open. But the Memorial was his best opportunity for a win, given that he had a three-stroke lead through 54 holes.
Fowler closed with a 1-over-par 73 as Justin Rose claimed the victory with a 66.
That left Fowler with his third runner-up finish, and he's trying to remain patient as his first PGA Tour victory continues to elude him.
"I've talked to some guys, but you kind have to learn (to win) on your own," said Fowler, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world for 36 weeks in 2007 and 2008 while attending Oklahoma State.
"It's not something that's taught. You can either win or you can't. I've won on the junior, amateur and college level. I'm come out here and been in a couple of playoffs and had a couple close finishes. Just got to get out there and get the job done on your own."
His biggest problem this season has been struggling on the weekend, especially in the final round, after putting himself in position. His 66 in the final round of the Cadillac is the only time he has broken 70 on Sunday in 12 stroke-play events.
Fowler closed with a 74 in the Farmers Insurance Open, a 78 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a 74 in the Masters and a 73 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
His final-round average of 71.89 ranks 116th on the PGA Tour.
With the resilience of youth, he shakes it off quickly. Asked by a reporter how long it takes a 22-year-old to recover after he had a disappointing round in the Masters, Fowler said: "I think a couple more minutes."
Even though he has been unable to break through for that first victory, Fowler is enjoying life as a pro and is flying high these days.
And not only because he flew in an F-16 one day last week with Col. Scott Rooks of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, returning to base without having to use his air-sickness bag.
It was not simply a joyride.
The Air National Guard was looking for someone who could get the attention of the college-aged recruits it is trying to attract, and Fowler has something of a rock-star image, in golf terms.
"He's right in our target audience for the people we are trying to reach," Rooks said.
Fowler is attractive to younger audiences with his flair for the game, his long mop of hair, his bright clothes and the cap he flips around after his round so fans can see his face and the advertisement for his website on the back.
That got him into a little hot water at Augusta National and the Quail Hollow Club earlier this year. Members of the stuffy clubs asked him to turn the hat back around.
"I am such a troublemaker," he joked.
Not really. Fowler, whose approach to the game and to life is a breath of fresh air for the PGA Tour, turned his hat back around on both occasions without an argument.
He has plenty of respect for the traditions of the game and is trying to be a role model.
"I want to have a positive influence on others, especially younger junior golfers and others, and draw people into the game," he said. "It seems like we are starting out and heading in the right direction."
Even without a victory, this kid is a winner.