Norton, MA—Earlier this year a poll of PGA Tour professionals listed Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter as the two most overrated players in world golf. Fowler sent a clear message earlier this year—winning the Players Championship in dramatic fashion—not long after the poll was made public.
The charismatic 26-year-old golfer with a penchant for colorful clothing followed-up on that big time win with his first serious foreign victory—claiming the Scottish Open at Gullane this past July with a sizzling finish that included a final hole birdie to win the event by one.
Now, with all the talk of a new “big three” in golf with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, Fowler has seen fit to push his credentials ahead—claiming this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship by one-shot over third round leader Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Fowler’s win elevates him to 5th in the world rankings and 3rd on the Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs.
The win at TPC Boston was a testament to Fowler’s willpower. Rickie trailed by as many three strokes on the back nine and never held the lead until Stenson made a serious blunder with his approach to the water-fronted par-3 16th. His tee shot fluttered in the breeze and came splashing down in a frontal pond. The resulting double-bogey leap-frogged Fowler to the lead and he maintained the margin with two closing pars as Stenson could not birdie either of the final two holes.
Prior to this year Fowler had just one win on the PGA Tour—the ’12 Wells Fargo event. To paraphrase the Texan expression, some had seen Rickie as “all hat and no cattle.” Those assertions are now long since gone.
For Stenson, the defeat is stinging. The Swede finished 2nd at last week’s Barclays and after a solid 66 in the 3rd round it looked like Henrik would once again win at TPC Boston, having won here previously in ’13. Throughout much of the final round, Stenson kept Fowler at bay and when he birdied the 10th with a 15-foot birdie and increased the margin to three it appeared the cushion would be safe. On the very next hole—the demanding uphill par-3 11th—Stenson’s approach was pulled left of the green and he failed to pitch and putt for his par. Fowler countered brilliantly, playing a fairway metal club and sticking his approach on the 234-yard hole to 15 feet. Once Stenson had concluded with a double-bogey five, Fowler made the most of his opportunity and flushed his putt to the bottom of hole. From that point, the game was on between just these two players
Fowler’s four round total of 269 featured a model of consistency for the four rounds: 67,67,67 and a concluding 68.
The Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs will now take one week off before heading to the immediate Chicago area for the BMW Championship at Conway Farms. Fowler showed plenty of maturity in not focusing attention on what some thought of his golf game. Rickie showed his detractors where it counts—winning on the golf course against the best the sport can produce. Fowler has demonstrated a serious penchant not to flinch when the key moments are called upon. Although he doesn’t sport a major championship triumph at this moment it is clear his name is in the conversation for ’16 and beyond. The “big three” may have to make room—Rickie is knocking on the door and wants to be included. Onward to Chicago.
M. James Ward, a member of Golf Writer’s Association of America (GWAA) and past member of Met Golf Writer’s Association (MGWA), has reported on golf’s grandest events since 1980 in a variety of forums.