YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


The golfing future is bright, indeed, for Rickie Fowler

The slender 22-year-old from Murrieta, known for his neon-hued clothing, is fast becoming known for his golf game. He's ranked 31st in the world, has already played in a Ryder Cup and, at three strokes off the pace at Torrey Pines, is positioned for his first PGA Tour victory.

January 28, 2011|Bill Dwyre
  • Rickie Fowler follows through on his tee shot at the second hole Friday during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South Course.
Rickie Fowler follows through on his tee shot at the second hole Friday during… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

From La Jolla — A 22-year-old who weighs 150 pounds, has hair flowing from under his cap and dresses in fluorescent clothes does not exactly trigger visions of the next coming of Jack Nicklaus.

But when the conversation gets to the future of golf, Rickie Fowler has to be included.

Fowler is certainly in the conversation about who might prevail in this weekend's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He added a one-under-par 71 on Friday to his superb opening-round 65, and his eight-under 136 total is three shots behind that of leader Bill Haas.

Only Haas and Anthony Kim, with his 68-67, have better two-round scores than Fowler and six others, and Fowler was about an inch wide of joining Kim at 135. That's how much his birdie putt missed on No. 18. Five holes earlier, a birdie putt to share second place would have been unthinkable.

The view looking west from behind the monster par-five 13th of Torrey Pines South Course is of rolling green fairways, a plunging valley to the north and the bright, blue Pacific Ocean everywhere else. Approaching golfers march toward their tee shots like tiny dots on a landscape.

Except for Fowler. Thursday, he was a pink parade. Friday, his shirt was electric blue, at least a shade or two brighter than the Pacific behind him. He is the PGA Tour's walking neon sign.

Friday's offering from his Puma clothing contract accented his shirt with white pants with soft blue lines forming a windowpane pattern. The white cap was decorated with a blue Puma tiger and the shoes were Puma white with blue. Even the belt and blue wristband matched.

And none of that matters, other than as a talking point and image-builder, if the man in the clothing can't play.

Fowler can.

At 22, he is ranked No. 31 in the world. He joined the tour in 2009 and not only won $2.9 million last year, but also was a captain's selection for last fall's Ryder Cup in Wales. Instead of shriveling up and disappearing into the woodwork while the veterans did all the heavy lifting, Fowler jumped further into public consciousness with a four-birdie finish against Italy's Edoardo Molinari that was worth a crucial half-point for the United States.

"That gave me a lot of confidence," Fowler says now, in a classic understatement of youth.

Fowler twice got to eight under par on the front nine of Friday's round, but then slipped on the back nine and reached a low point on the 13th. His drive trickled off line and settled into a fairway trap. He got it out of there and into the deep valley below the hole, but his approach to the green went long and settled on the fringe some 35 feet away. Then he lagged badly, missed the four-footer for par and had suddenly floated well back into the pack at six under.

Others much more experienced might have folded. Not Fowler. He walked to the next hole, slapped a few extended hands in the gallery and, along the way, stopped to sign an autograph for a soldier in uniform.

"You're going to hit good putts and you're going to miss," he said later. "Putts are going to bump out here."

On the short par-four 14th, he drove it in the rough, left his approach well short on the green, and did the same with his lag putt. But then he did what all the great ones do at key moments. He saved par from seven feet.

"That gave me momentum on the last holes," he said.

With that momentum, he made birdie putts of 25 and seven feet on Nos. 16 and 17 and shot back up the leaderboard.

His father was a dirt bike champion; his middle name of Yutaka comes from his grandfather, whose name is Taka Tanaka; and his skills were evident as long ago as his freshman year at Murrieta High, when he shot a 10-under 62.

He is already one of the better golfers not to have won a major, which is a terrible burden to put on somebody age 22, especially when he hasn't even won any tour event. But Fowler is nothing if not poised and realistic about who and where he is.

"I've got to get one [a tour victory] out of the way," Fowler said. "That would open the floodgates for me."

That could be anytime in the future. Like, maybe Sunday.

Los Angeles Times Articles