Posted on: June 3, 2011 5:34 pm

Fowler's pal also good with a crooked stick

DUBLIN, Ohio -- When Rickie Fowler holed out from the fairway in the first round of the Memorial Tournament on Thursday, he took the ball and casually flipped it to perhaps the biggest guy on the property.

"Here," Fowler said, "even trade."

After he finished up his second round, which left him six shots off the 36-hole lead, it all made a lot more sense.

The burly guy in question is Florida Panthers forward David Booth, one of the better players in the National Hockey League and a big golf fan. Fowler met him through a mutual acquaintance last winter at the ADT Skills Challenge, an unofficial competition in South Florida, where Fowler now resides.

Fowler attended a couple of NHL games in Miami this year and sat right on the glass, and Booth flashed him a fist pump at the 22-year-old golfer after scoring a goal just a few feet away from where Fowler was seated.

Booth came out and watched Fowler play at Doral earlier this year and the golfer flashed a few fist pumps back at Booth after birdie putts fell.

"Cool guy," Fowler said.

As for the ball, after one of the NHL games he attended, Booth had given Fowler a stick that he had used on the ice to score a goal.

So now they are even.

Category: Golf
Posted on: June 3, 2011 5:31 pm
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Posted on: June 3, 2011 11:59 am

Fowler shines at Memorial with late coach on mind

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Rickie Fowler reached into his golf bag on Friday morning and produced his cell phone, then started rifling through the applications until he found what he was looking for.

He finally found the photo that had been sent along to him by his parents and sister a few days ago.

The trio of family members was positioned under a huge tree at the driving range where Fowler had learned the game as a kid from the local pro, a venerable guy named Barry McDonnell, who died last week in Southern California after having a heart attack.

It was under the same tree that Fowler and McDonnell worked together during the formative years of the kid's career, set apart from the rest of the customers who were banging balls on the range. Fowler had been hitting balls at the range for a while when McDonnell began coaching him at age 7, when he was too little to control his adult-sized driver at the top of his swing arc.

They worked together every few months, Fowler said, though golf wasn't always at the fore of the lesson.

"He was more of a guidance counselor," Fowler said before his round on Friday at the Memorial Tournament, where he began the day two strokes off the lead. "He kept me in line."

A memorial service is set for next week in California and Fowler will head back to Murrietta, where he grew up and learned the game from the veteran teacher. Fowler said McDonnell was 77 and that there was no formal funeral.

"I sort of wish they had -- it would have been cool to scatter his ashes under the tree or something," Fowler said.

Yeah, that same tree where Fowler's family had posed for the photo.

McDonnell taught Fowler, 22, how to play the game intuitively, and in an era of cookie-cutter and robo-swings, Fowler definitely smacks of a distinct homegrown flavor.

That flat loop at the top of his swing is a direct result of playing with grown-up drivers at a young age, when Fowler couldn't quite maneuver at the top of his swing because he was so little.

With all the back story, it would indeed be a fitting week for the rising star to win his first PGA Tour event. Fowler could do the black-armband thing on the weekend if he wins as a gesture to his old swing coach and mentor.

"Working on it," Fowler said.

Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 5:34 pm

Fowler, Barnes facing steep historical grade

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Although opinions vary, a couple of contenders this weekend at Augusta National are trying to make Masters history.

Or not.

According to Augusta National tournament officials, the last player to have made the Masters his first professional tour victory was in 1948, when Claude Harmon, a club pro and father of Butch Harmon, won the tournament.

However, research by the Augusta Chronicle indicates that Harmon previously won events at what eventually became the Westchester tour stop on the PGA Tour. Even the event's many European winners over the years all had won previously on that tour.

By any standard, the road to a maiden tour win for players like Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes, two players in the top 10 after 36 holes, is going to be a difficult one. Neither player has won a professional event on the Nationwide or PGA circuits.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:40 pm

Fowler's cash dash finally comes to an end

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- One of the more impressive streaks for a young player on the PGA Tour ended Friday in blustery South Florida.

Rickie Fowler, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year, missed the cut by a good margin after rounds of 76 and 72 at the Honda Classic, ending a feeding frenzy at the money trough for the flashy American.

Fowler, one of the heroes of the Ryder Cup team last fall, had finished in the money in 15 straight starts, although the tour only counts 13 of them, the eighth-longest active streak on tour. It began in the middle of the 2010 season. He'd made the cut in all four starts this year.

Then again, the credibility of the informatrion can certainly be called into question. The PGA Tour website lists Lee Westwood as having the second-longest streak of made cuts (20 in succession) and Andrew Coltart as being tied with Fowler.

Neither is a PGA Tour member. Lovely.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:16 pm

Fowler gives Mickelson the pink slip

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rickie Fowler might have to make the concierge call.

The most colorfully attired American in the game, Fowler showed up for his second-round battle at the Accenture Match Play Championship against world No. 5 Phil Mickelson looking like a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

Mickelson, being congenitally predisposed to crack wise on just about everything, took particular note of Fowler's pink shoes.

All of a sudden, after dismantling Mickelson 6 and 5 on Thursday, there's a question about whether the 22-year-old brought enough color-coordinated outfits to get through the week. Making his first appearance in the event, the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year might have to do some recycling. He's looking like he could stick around into the weekend, too.

"Well, the hotel offers dry cleaning," Fowler cracked. "So I'll be OK."

he cleaned Mickelson's clock, that's for sure. Already 4 up through 10 holes, Fowler eagled the 11th when he laced a 4-iron to 20 feet and converted. Two holes later, with the same iron in hand, he knocked his approach to within two feet for a conceded eagle to win the match.

Mickelson, who has made a point of being a big brother figure to his fellow Southern Californian, gushed about Fowler's attaributes afterward.

"He's really a complete player and he put  it all together today," Mickelson said. "I just really like the guy and I think he'll do a lot for American golf."

For Mickelson, it was another disappointing setback in a so-so winter stretch. He has played in the match-play event 11 times and only once advanced past the third round.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2011 6:00 pm

Director takes wheels off Fowler in cool TV spot

SAN DIEGO -- There's no doubt in Rickie Fowler's mind that, had it been allowed, he could have handled every stunt required to complete the decidedly offbeat TV commercial in which he is set to appear.

Instead, the director used a stunt rider.

In fact, had the new moto-golf TV spot shot by Puma been left to Fowler, a former competitive dirt-bike racer, it would have been even more memorable. Not that it stinks by any means.

Fowler, the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, is already an emerging star and one of the biggest gallery draws on tour, especially with the younger set. The TV commercial is only going to help.

"I would have liked to have shot the whole commercial on my own," Fowler said Wednesday, the day before his 2011 tournament debut at the Farmers Insurance Open. "You can think it's me on the bike shooting the whole commercial. You can keep that rumor going, however you want to do it."

Fowler, who starred for the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup last fall, wasn't a big freestyle rider as far as aerial stunts, and was more into racing. But he feels like he could easily have handled the stunts required in the spot.

"The commercial would have been fairly easy to do," he said. "There wasn't much going on there. Just a little jump and a little nose wheelie. Nothing too crazy."

The stunt rider flies out of a greenside bunker, lands on the nose of the bike and rolls forward toward the ball, which is perhaps 4 feet from the hole. With the back wheel still in the air, the front wheel nudges the ball into the cup.

Here'e the clip: http://tinyurl.com/4h7h9wq

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 12, 2010 4:35 pm

Merritt keeps hopes for card, $1 million alive

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Like Troy Merritt didn’t have enough information rattling around in his dome already.

Attempting to stave off a trip to Qualifying School by remaining in the top 125 in PGA Tour earnings, the slender rookie was doing quite the juggling act as he played the back nine of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic on Friday.

He had to keep his job before he worried about the fat bonus that was within his grasp.

Merritt began his back nine on the Magnolia Course outside the projected cutline, which is when the sirens began seriously ringing. He started the week at No. 121 in earnings, four spots inside the protected number for those hoping to retain their playing cards for 2011.

Then there was the not-so-middling matter of the $1 million Kodak Challenge, which Merritt was leading entering the week. By the time he played the designated Kodak hole on Friday afternoon, the 430-yard, par-4 17th, he was in a three-way tie with Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley for the prize money.

Merritt missed a 15-footer for birdie on the 17th that would have all but cemented the cool million, but birdied the 18th to move to 4 under par overall, at least ensuring that he would play on the weekend and get two more cracks at making a likely clinching birdie on the hole. It also greatly improved his chances of retaining his card.

It was a hellacious two hours.

“It was the most stressful day I’ve had in a long, long time,” Merritt said.

Merritt was outside the projected cutline when he birdied the 15th to get to 3 under, which put him squarely on the number. He knocked a wedge to within 15 feet on the 17th, where Baddeley and Fowler had already made birdies this week to tie him on the cumulative Kodak scoreboard, which has been kept at 30 selected holes at various tour stops in 2010.

Merritt babied his putt and it slipped just below the hole,t insisted that he could not afford to give it a bold run, since his weekend fate and tour card were hardly secure. Nobody wants to face a three-foot comebacker for par under those circumstances.
“When you are right on the cutline, you’ve got to a little more tentative with it,” he said.

When Merritt eyed the scoreboard next to the 18th green, he saw that he was in a tie for 65th and figured the cutline might move yet again. He rolled in a 29-footer for birdie.

“One hole too late,” he said.

Not really. His card takes priority over the bonus cash, which was reinforced when he saw the scoreboard on the 18th.

“I didn’t want it [the cut] to move to 4 without me there,” he said.

Fellow rookie Fowler got a lucky break on the 17th hole, playing in the group just ahead of Merritt. He yanked his driver off the tee, but it somehow sailed through the trees and left him with an easy pitch to the green. He rolled in a six-footer for birdie to tie Merritt and Badds at a cumulative 17-under for the year on the designated holes.

“Pulled  it,” Fowler said of his drive, grinning. “But it all worked out.”

The 17th tee on the weekend is expected to be moved back to 485 yards. Since Badds and Fowler have posted birdies and an eagle from the fairway is incredibly unlikely for either player at that yardage, Merritt is realistically the only player who can break the tie. He still has two legit cracks at recording a birdie on the hole.

“Now we gotta do it with a 6-iron or 5-iron,” he said.

If he fails to make a birdie on the weekend, the trio will stage a playoff after the tournament concludes on Sunday night, playing the 17th until a winner is determined. It’s a winner-take-all prize. Baddeley birdied the 17th on Thursday to move into a tie with Merritt.

Fowler’s caddie, Joe Skovron, was on the practice putting green when Merritt finished and was happy to see that Merritt had made the cut and kept alive his chances of retaining his card. It also means Merritt gets two more precious cracks at a potential winning birdie.

“If he makes birdie on that hole from the back tee,” Skovron said, “he deserves to win the money.”

Category: Golf
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