Hats off to colorful Rickie Fowler at Deutsche Bank
NORTON — Wearing his trademark giant Puma ballcap — which looks like an orange kiddie pool cover — Rickie Fowler won the Deutsche Bank Championship Monday.
Fowler, the crowd favorite at TPC Boston, vaulted past former tourney champ Henrik Stenson on the 16th hole to triumph on a blazing hot Labor Day afternoon.
With all due respect to the solid, stoic Swede (we've loved Stenson since he donated $25,000 to The One Fund after winning this event in 2013) it was more fun to see Fowler prevail. A Tiger-starved golf world needs more Rickie, and less Henrik.
Sorry. But you know it's true. With Tiger Woods's world ranking down to 266, golf needs a double shot of what the late George Frazier called duende.
Golf needs swagger. Style. Celebrity. Star power. A little more Kardashian, if you don't mind.
This is why we root for Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and/or Jason Day ("I'm trying to be a small fourth in there,'' said Fowler). We need someone to be the Next One. Baby Boomers grew up with Arnie and Jack. Lee Trevino got our attention by wearing a BandAid on his forearm (to cover the tattooed name of his ex-wife) at every tournament. Then, in the 1990s, Woods exploded on the scene and became one of the most famous athletes in the world. Golf interest peaked in New England at the end of the 20th century when Our Guys beat Their Guys in the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club.
Folks in Norton tapped into this craze with a real championship tour event, first played at the spectacular TPC Boston in 2003. It was a very big deal to have all the game's big names coming to Boston for Labor Day weekend. The tournament usually was blessed with great weather and it didn't hurt to have Tiger win the thing in 2006, followed by Phil Mickelson in 2007. Vijay Singh served as a nice villain victor in 2004 and 2008, and as recently as three years ago we had McIlroy, everybody's favorite Irishman, winning the Boston tournament.
Fowler is colorful. His radar-screen-sized ballcap makes him look a little like a human bobblehead doll. He wears orange on the final day of each tournament, an homage to his days at Oklahoma State University. He once wore his cap backward at a Masters news conference, only to have an Augusta member spin the cap around to the more conventional position while Fowler was seated at the dais.
Asked about the size of his cap, Fowler smiled and said, "I don't know if I should give away my hat size. I have a small noggin. I wear a size 7. I know, I'm a little kid.''
If he's wearing a 7, his actual hat size must be 6.
Fowler is 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 150 pounds, which only makes his hat look even bigger. He was born in California and his ethnicity includes one grandparent who is Japanese and another who is Navajo Native American. He taught himself to play golf and earned some fame doing ads for Crowne Plaza ("It's good to be Rickie") and as one of the Golf Boys in a charity-fueled YouTube video. He's been featured in ESPN's "These Guys Are Good" commercials. He is only 26 and already has made more than $18 million on the tour. He is sometimes compared with tennis' Anna Kournikova — a player famous for style over substance — but he earned some props by cracking the top five in all four majors in 2014, then winning The Players Championship at Sawgrass last May.
Noting that an anonymous PGA player poll identified him as the most overrated player on the tour, Fowler said, "Being called overrated? Thanks for the poll, I guess.''
Meanwhile, Stenson is . . . not as interesting. Up until he won the Deutsche Bank two years ago, the most interesting thing about Henrik was the unfortunate fact that he lost more than $8 million in the Stanford Financial Group Ponzi scheme in 2009. After his Deutsche Bank win, he went on to win the 2013 FedEx Cup, worth $10 million. And hardly anybody remembers.
Stenson kept his lead for the first 15 holes Monday, then plopped his tee shot into the water on the par-3 16th. Fowler vaulted into the lead when Stenson two-putted for a double bogey.
The man in the orange hat held serve on 17 and 18. He won it with a not-too-dramatic 1-footer for par.
"I felt very calm out there,''' said Fowler. "I knew what I had to do.''
After his news conference, Fowler (68—269) delivered a case of champagne (Taittinger) to the press tent, then made an appearance in the tent and delivered a toast to reporters. It reminded me of something a young Bill Rodgers would have done after winning a Boston Marathon in the 1970s. Smooth. Classy.
Thanks, kid. But we would have written great stuff about you anyway.