Backing style with substance

Despite the bright purples, greens, yellows and always orange on Sunday, the Rickie Fowler star was in danger of fading on tour if the American golfer’s performances could not find a way of being as hip as his look. That all changed in 2014, as Robin Barwick reports

For Rickie Fowler, the 2014 season has filled him with pride, but it has also been tinged with frustration.

The 25-year-old American golfer recorded his fourth major near miss of the year at the PGA Championship at Kentucky’s Valhalla Golf Club in August, and he is finding these misses get more painful as they come. This year, he has finished tied for fifth in the Masters, tied for second in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and then tied for 3rd in the PGA Championship.

Fowler is the only golfer to have finished in the top five of all four majors this year. On one side of the coin, he joins the finest of golfing company in this extremely impressive display of consistency in the world’s most important four tournaments, as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other golfers to have achieved the same feat. On the flip side though, when Nicklaus and Woods finished so well in all four majors in the same year, both of them won at least one of them.

“The PGA is the one that hurts most for me in the majors this year,” said Fowler at Valhalla. “In the first three it was a lot of fun to be in great positions and to have great finishes, but here I really felt I could go out there and win it. It stings. Still, to look back on the year, it was pretty awesome through the majors and something I can be proud of.”

As an amateur, Fowler was a Walker Cup star for the United States in 2007 and 2009, leading the American team to two victories, and he joined the PGA Tour with a splash of colour, swagger and Hollywood looks in 2010. Then followed four years of very good golf as Fowler adjusted to the rigours of tour golf, but it was not great golf, with one PGA Tour title to his name to date, the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.

In December last year, a frustrated Fowler started working with coach Butch Harmon, and now with a take-away that is more on plane and a shorter backswing, he has become a serious major contender.

“When I started working with Butch, the main focus was to do whatever it takes to get ready for the Masters, even if that meant missing six straight cuts. The ultimate goal is to be in contention in the majors, and to have chances to win them.

“It is my backswing we have worked on the most, in order to make sure my club is in a good position at the top of the swing. Butch always wants me to have my hands as far away from my head as possible, and to shorten my backswing, and then it means I can simply turn through the ball and hit it.

“Butch is the best at what he does. He has taken a lot of players to the top of their games, and to number one in the world, and when I am on the range with him he tells a lot of stories and keeps it light-hearted and we have a lot of fun.”

Now Fowler is getting more attention than ever, as his looks, dress sense and performances have all started to match.

Irish commentator David Feherty, the funny man of American golf broadcasting, has described Fowler as “a parking cone with hair”.

“You should hear what he says off-air,” says Fowler. “They are even funnier.”

“It’s cool to think that people want my autograph and that they want pictures taken with me. That is a lot more fun than if people didn’t want my autograph or picture. It’s awesome to see people dressing like me too. It happens everywhere I go. A lot of kids in the US wear my gear and even at tournaments abroad like the Scottish Open and the Open Championship I have a great following. Whether you are having a good day on the golf course or a bad day, it is really cool to look out and see people supporting you to the extent they are even wearing the clothes.”

Fowler wears Puma apparel from head to toe, as he has done since turning professional, and on the PGA Tour he will routinely have 13 or 14 pairs of shoes to choose from, and around 15 pairs of trousers, and the Californian says he does his own washing and ironing too.

“I definitely welcome the attention I get,” he adds. “I don’t exactly seek it – it’s just me being me. But it’s been a fun ride. Signing on with Puma right when I turned pro has been a great fit for me.”

“Rickie is a fantastic ambassador for Cobra Puma Golf, and throughout the year his consistent performances and brilliance in the majors have given us great exposure,” says Stuart Gower, who works on marketing for Cobra Puma Golf in the UK. “His input in the 2014 Puma collections has added real style and substance, while the flashes of orange on the final day in tournaments have be synonymous with his continual challenge for the game’s top prizes.”

All Fowler needs to do in 2015 is accessorise with a major trophy. That would complete the ensemble.

Rickie on the road