Wednesday Thoughts: Is This a Must-Win Week for Rickie Fowler?

Rickie Fowler: At what age does a pro golfer cease to be a “young player”?  Fowler will be 27 years old at the end of this year.  I think it is time to move past the “young Rickie Fowler” stage.  Consider that, at the same age, Webb Simpson had three PGA Tour wins, including a U.S. Open and a playoff event.  Now, contrast the amount of media and sponsor attention (and the former leads to the latter) Simpson gets/got in comparison to Fowler.

It’s time to stop giving Fowler a free ride because he wears orange pants.  He has two professional wins to his name, one of them on the OneAsia Tour.  And those two wins came three years ago.  Last year Fowler got a lot of attention for finishing in the top five of the four majors.  Too much attention.

Look, there are many levels of professional golfers.  All of them are worthy of praise.  However, not all of them are worthy of the endorsement money Fowler is collecting.  I don’t think two wins three years ago, along with four top-five major finishes last year, is exactly the stuff of legends.

This week is the New Orleans Open, the weakest full-field, non-alternate PGA Tour event of the year so far.  I’ll say it:  Rickie Fowler needs to post a win or else the golf media needs to start covering him as any other one-win PGA Tour pro.  Fowler is no longer a kid.  We should no longer waste time talking about his potential as if he is a rookie like Justin Thomas or Daniel Berger.

With 21-year-old Justin Spieth winning right-and-left, the 26-year-old Fowler has never looked older.  It’s time to win.  DJ, Rose, and Day are in the field, but, hey, this is the PGA Tour.  Every player is good.

A person can make a fantastic living playing professional golf without winning much.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But, in fairness to the players who do win, the media needs to stop creating stories that go against the reality of winning.  It’s wrong when they do it with Tiger Woods, and it’s wrong when they do it with Rickie Fowler.

Fowler can show he deserves the media attention and endorsement contracts by winning.  Anything less and it’s time to admit Rickie is much more like Charles Howell III (and, let’s be clear, that’s damn admirable) than he is to Jim Furyk, and certainly than he is to Rory McIlroy.

Rookie of the Year:  I think it comes down to Justin Thomas or Daniel Berger.  (Wait.  Is Koepka a rookie?)  I’m for Justin Thomas, so I would love to see him pick up a win this week.  Berger is also in the field.

Match Play:  This is always one of my favorite events.  I truly felt the Wednesday of the Match Play was the best day of the golf year, with 32 head-to-head matchups among the game’s top players.  I don’t like the format change this year, but neither do I hate it.  On the bright side, we’ll get 32 matches on each of the first three days.  The downside is that the matches won’t have the do-or-die aspect of years past.  Anyway, the groupings will be announced next Monday.  Luke Donald and Tim Clark have announced they are not playing, so Jimenez and F. Molinari are in.  Mikko Ilonen is now first alternate.

I’m really looking forward to the EuroTourash players further embarrassing jalnichols.  If they all exit in the first round, however, there will be no need to mention it, of course.

Whiners:  There is still much residual whining from the I Only Watch When Tiger Plays crowd.  It’s so arbitrary as to be laughable.  I was thinking how they used to complain that “nobodies” were winning.  They complained about the damnable “parity.”    When Rory started dominating, it was that he wasn’t American.  This year’s fashion seems to be that “no one can win from a 54-hole lead.”   This is because “name” players have won so frequently this year.

Stupidstics:  That’s the term I came up with for the meaningless statistics we are inundated with these days.  Their use certainly is not confined to golf.  You hear things like, “I like the Dolphins because their winning percentage is 92.4% when they are playing a team that just played two road games outside of their own division with one or more of them being a night game, and when neither QB had more than four years of starting experience.”  Yeah, that’s super meaningful.

In the golf world, Golf Channel’s Justin Ray is the king of stupidstics.  Here’s a sample:

Since 1940, no player age 21/younger has ever had 2 wins & runner-up in 3-start stretch on @PGATOUR – Spieth would be 1st with Houston W.

Wow!  Historic!  Well, it would have been “historic” if it had actually happened.

Spieth Marketability:  Fascinating article from the Dallas Morning News about Jordan Spieth’s marketability numbers.  Lots of good stuff.  This was interesting:

“Golf has never been considered influential or trendsetting,” he says. “To see Jordan at No. 10 in trendsetting with Katy Perry, Macklemore and Emma Watson, and then to see him rank 12th in influence next to Justin Timberlake and Ellen DeGeneres, that’s crazy for a 21-year-old golfer. Simply astounding.”

But Woods’ bottom-feeder numbers for just about everything but awareness don’t bode well for a comeback as a product spokesman. Yes, he’s one of the most recognized celebrities on the planet, ranked at 39 in the DBI, but almost no one trusts, likes or wants to be him.

Lanny H, Cave Dweller:  You probably don’t live in a cave like I do, but if you aren’t already familiar with this incident, it’s worth reading about.

By now, even folks who dwell in caves have heard that McHenry is worse than trailer trash.

This is pretty interesting situation.  I’ve never heard of this ESPN woman, but she’s a fine example of how horrid the sports media has become.  I thought such behavior was a silly, overblown, non-existent cliche that would be unbelievable even in a movie.  Boy, was I wrong.

Good Advices:  An interesting bit from SI where sports media types were asked what they’d change about sports coverage.  Outside of the typical ESPN Tiger Tiger Tiger nonsense, this guy makes good points:

John Buccigross, ESPN SportsCenter anchor:

Golf telecasts are woefully behind the times and in need of a major overhaul. Shot tracer needs to be utilized on nearly every swing and way too much putting is showed. Also, every major should have 18-hole, four-round coverage. I can watch every Patrick Kane shift, every Marshawn Lynch carry or every Mike Trout at-bat in every game they play if I choose. I should be able to watch all of Tiger Woods shots at a major on my big, beautiful TV. If I have to shell out $29.99 to watch it I will pay it. Golf is concerned about growing the game yet they restrict access to their best golf courses and restrict access to its best players on television.

I can’t watch Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy play all 72 holes of a major live here in 2015? I can’t watch a tournament live that’s been moved up because of weather? Who is running the show here? Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper?

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12 Responses to Wednesday Thoughts: Is This a Must-Win Week for Rickie Fowler?

  1. Ken says:

    You’re so right about Fowler. When I see him interviewed, I like him. He’s a nice, well-spoken guy and I want him to do well. But at some point, he has to deliver. I don’t care how many times he almost won. Then they’ll talk about how he had one of the greatest season in majors history??? I’d rather see him win one and miss three cuts.

    He or his agent are marketing geniuses. He is the most popular golfer with young fans. And he’s won once.

    They even talk about him focusing only on majors now, as though he were a middle-aged Mickelson or Woods. How about winning something, anything? I guess that’s what happens when you get so rich just by finishing well sometimes.

    • lannyh says:

      I am onboard with everything you wrote. I really like that Rickie came from modest means, learning to hit balls at a far-from-elite driving range, going there with his grandfather or uncle. Nothing against the Peter Uihliens of the world (his dad is CEO of Titleist’s parent company), but my upbringing had a lot more in common with Fowler’s. (Okay, mine had NOTHING in common with Uihlein’s, haha.)

  2. Ken says:

    Same here. No lessons to this day, which probably explains a lot when you see me play. When I kept a handicap, it never got below 12. The only standout thing about my game was the power. When I was in my 20s and 30s, there weren’t a lot of people who could hit it past me. I started by hitting balls just fooling around with my high school friends at the local range/putt-putt complex but didn’t actually play until I was 20.

    My dad is gone now, but I used to tell him that if he had worked a little harder, I wouldn’t have to. And I blamed him for my not being a very good golfer since he didn’t have me out there when I was five. He’d just shake his head and look kind of sad.

    • lannyh says:

      Oh, man, Putt-Putt. That’s where my interest started. A buddy and I went nearly every Dollar Day (Saturdays) one year. They would have these little tournaments and those were huge deals to us. I still remember critical putts from some of those! I have very fond memories of those days. I played a par-3 two or three times when I was in high school. My first regulation course would not have been until age 22 or 23.

  3. TrueGolfFan says:

    Yes, pro tracer needs to be used on every shot. If you can’t get every shot, then at least every tee shot. And, putts inside 10 feet must be shown from worm-cam. And announcers should get no more than 4-5 minutes of face time during a telecast.

  4. Sports-realist2 says:

    Since I don’t watch ESPN much I didn’t hear about this Mchenry chick/bitch until you put it on here….No surprise really, as some people can handle fame/power, while others clearly can’t grasp that glory is fleeting….I remember when Alex Trebek once told someone “Don’t you know who I am?” in regards to a customer service thing years ago…

  5. Speedy says:

    Rickie did the right thing in bringing Butch on board. But all Butch can do is tame it a little…making its hair-trigger less hairy. Unfortunately, the swing DNA doesn’t go away. One major for Rickie, that’s about all. Hey, that’ll be one better than another quirkster, Sergio.

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