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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

In The Swing: Fowler comes of age

Sunday’s Wells Fargo Championship win could signal the dawning of a great rivalry between the Californian and Rory McIlroy.

Fowler at Quail Hollow Club on Sunday.
Fowler at Quail Hollow Club on Sunday.
Image: Gerry Broome/AP/Press Association Images

RICKIE FOWLER FINALLY got there. His win at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday was his first ever PGA Tour victory and one that he has been waiting patiently for.

Some would argue that this win was long overdue. As soon as he turned professional in 2009, just after playing the Walker Cup, it was clear that he was a young player with huge potential and that it was only a matter of time before he would register his first professional win.

That win nearly came in February of 2010 in just his first full season on Tour when he came runner up to Hunter Mahan by just one stroke at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Had he converted there, it may have opened the floodgates and given him the confidence to go on and win more, but as it was, he has had to wait until now to get that big W.

In the meatime, his attitude does not seem to waivered at all and at no point did you get the sense that he was getting frustrated at not getting the win everyone knew he was capable of getting. It requires great patience to persist and not try and force the issue, and that patience has now been rewarded.

As he said himself in his post-round interview, “I definitely felt like I was very patient with it. At times I felt like I pushed a little bit, where like this week I sat back and made sure I got a lot out of the round on Friday, whereas times before I may have gotten a little bit more frustrated and tried to push a little too hard and ended up shooting 76 when I pulled out a 72. Come today I’m four shots back.”

There will now be much hype as to whether Fowler and Rory McIlroy, who Fowler beat in the playoff, can form a great rivalry that will last well into the future. At the moment, they are both marketed as the two young hot-shots in the game and they are the two players at the forefront of everyone’s mind when you think about the really young generation of golfers.

Fowler still has some way to go, however,  before he reaches McIlroy’s level. It was interesting to hear him say on Sunday after the round that “Rory is the top ranked young player right now, I’m probably the one that sticks out most with color. Now I’m a PGA Tour winner. So I’ve got some credibility.”

Maybe the rivalrly is not quite there yet, but Fowler undoubtedly would like to be going toe-to-toe with McIlroy, as he did on Sunday, on a weekly basis.

The most important think for Fowler, however, in the short term, is the relief he will get from having registered that first win. It will allow him to play a bit more freely from week to week and there will certainly be a little less pressure, or rather a different kind of pressure.

One of his goals for this season, for example, must surely be to make the US Ryder Cup team for the 2012 renewal in September. He was a Captain’s pick, somewhat controversially so, for the 2010 event at Caltic Manor, but proved his worth against Edoardo Molinari on the final day as he reeled off four birdies in a row over the final four holes to claim half a point. Ultimately his efforts were in vain but it showed a certain steel and determination for such a young man.

Rory McIlroy will rue the fact that he was not able to register his second win of the season. Two shots behind the lead going into the final day, it was two bogeys in the mid section of the front nine that really hindered him building momentum early on and letting the rest of the field know that he was the man to beat.

It will be another learning experience for him, but those are the type of situations that you would really like to see him close out. He reclaims his number one spot in the world rankings, but that is probably of much less importance for him now that he has held it once already. Sunday would have been all about chasing that W.

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