Rickie Fowler is a man decorated purely in his own style. He’s radiant and relevant to the widest demographic that makes its way onto the golf course, and with that comes the responsibility to keep pushing the envelope.
Sure, he may be decorated in an orange polo shirts or orange high-top baseball cap today, but tomorrow is a new story, and his success in the sporting sense is only part of the package where the Californian is concerned.
The 30-year-old is unique and that’s no mistake – he has never wanted to follow the crowd or be like anyone else… with the exception of golf coach and teacher that followed around when growing up. In Barry McDonnell, who sadly passed away in 2011, Fowler’s image as a golfer was set, and his recent success is arguably the greatest tribute he could offer to his mentor.
A number one amateur for 36 weeks, the Florida-based hitter has risen as high as number four in the world ratings. Here, he breaks cover over the battle between classification and silverware, and reveals who he believes to be the greatest golfer of all time.
RSNG Tell us about your his friendship and rivalry with Rory McIlroy?
RICKY FOWLER, GOLFER ‘Well, it all started when we played against each other at the 2007 Walker Cup in Rory’s home country of Northern Ireland then it went on from there.’
‘Rory turned pro right after that event, and I waited until 2009 and over the last 10 years we have gotten to know each other really well and it’s been fun. But at the same time, we are trying to beat each other as bad as possible.’
RSNG How do you view golf in line with other sports?
RF ‘It is moving constantly. All sports move constantly. If something big happens in a sport it will get talked about, it drives its own publicity and that’s great, but the only thing that will keep a sport or a pursuit or a pastime at that level is something that stretches much further back.’
‘The reality is that golf is probably exactly where it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s not a team sport, and that holds it back; and it’s not a regular sport… as in players are in action half the year so there isn’t the sort of longevity that you might have with something like the NFL or MLS.’
‘It’s like anything, when you’re away for a while, people forget about you. Harsh but fair.’
‘I don’t want to be one guy hanging out off the course and another playing on The Tour – I want to be the same in both places, I don’t want to be an act’
RSNG As a professional and famous golfer in the game, is it possible for you to just play at August National golf course any time?
RF ‘I wouldn’t say at just any time, but I can ask a couple of the people in the shop there, politely, if I can play the course. If I am qualified to play in the tournament for that year, then I am able to contact them to request to play and I can actually bring someone with me to walk the course, with me.’
‘If I do play, I would usually take my caddie to walk with me and they would have one of their caddies come with us, also, to carry the clubs for me.’
‘So, I will just give them a call, tell them what day I would like to come up and play and usually they will say: “yes,” and we will go from there.’
‘It’s an absolute privilege to play there and next year, it will be my 10th time at the Masters. After finishing second, that meant that I have now managed to finish in the top three at each of the majors, without winning, and that’s my goal – to win a major.’
‘To win at Augusta – where I always seem to play well recently and have only missed the cut once in my career – that would be an amazing feeling, I imagine.’
RSNG Talking about caddies, this season there was a quite public spat between Jordan Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, at the US Open – what did you make of that?
RF ‘Yeah, Jordan and Michael are always very vocal on the course and they will regularly speak to each other about shots. It does look like it can be very serious and that situation in particular, it did look like a big debate.’
‘All in all, I think that Jordan has done a pretty good job of making it clear how much he needs and what he wants from a caddie, because it is a very important thing to have a good caddie. To be able to talk about things – no matter in what way, though usually not in a bad fallout, kind of way, haha – and get all of those things out of the way, is vital.’
‘The main thing is that all of that is said and done and you are then able to focus on the thing in front of you.’
RSNG How did you style come about?
RF ‘Buddy Antonopoulos, who was the pro golfer at Medalist at the time, started throwing the style on me and I did a moustache for Movember a number of years back… a great cause. When it was time to shave it off and the golf season was over, I was having a bit of fun with the facial hair and style.’
‘My look and style is important, and it is part of my brand and also part of who I am, but at the same time I have also got to be myself. I can’t be someone that I’m not and I have to play as myself out there when I am on the course.’
‘I don’t want to be one guy hanging out off the course and another playing on the tour. I want to be the same in both places, I don’t want to be an act.
‘It’s amazing to go to play events and, over the last 10 years, see loads of kids in the galleries who are dressed up as me, in orange, or who have the same hats as me. But at the same time, I want to be followed because of who I am, not because of who I am trying to be.’
‘I also want to relay that message to kids, they should always be themselves, they shouldn’t think that they need to be someone else.’
RSNG Who most influenced you growing up?
RF ‘That was probably my original coach when I was learning the game – the person who taught me how to play golf, Barry McDonnell. Barry passed away about seven years ago now, but he was a very old school guy and he was someone who, outside of my family, was one of the most influential people to me, growing up.’
‘That old school mentality was one of the things which he put into my game and my approach to golf, so very similar to Arnie Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and he was a big fan of Ben Hogan.’
‘Barry loving those players and the eras that they played in, always had a big effect on me to look back on history and fully understand and appreciate just what we are able to do now, because of those players.’
RSNG Who would you say, in your opinion, is the greatest golfer of all-time?
RF ‘Well, if you were to make that choice by the number of majors won in golf, then Jack Nicklaus has that record. You take a look at the dominance by Tiger Woods in his pomp and I didn’t even personally get the chance to see Tiger play around the turn of the millennium, as I was only 11 years old.’
‘But the players I currently play with on the tour, the caddies, the commentators, coaches, spectators, everyone who did see Tiger on the course at around about that time, they freely admit that that was some of the best golf they have ever seen and witnessed.’
‘They said he was simply unbeatable in his prime and I think that when you lead some of the categories within the game, such as greens in regulation, hitting more fairways than anyone else, the best level of putting, I think he may even have been the straightest hitter off the tee, as well.’
‘If you do all of that, consistently – then you’re only ever going to win.’
‘I want to end my career in the Hall of Fame and to do that I would need to win major championships and PGA Tour events’
RSNG What would you rather achieve… a very long-run of being number in the world rankings or win major championships?
RF ‘No question about it at all, I would like to win majors. At the end of every season or year, me, my caddie and my agent have a meeting and get-together and we will talk about where we think we are at, at that time, how we have performed over the period, what we want to achieve going forward.’
‘So, there have been a few times where I have re-iterated that I would never turn down the opportunity to be the number one golfer in the world, that would be great. But ultimately, I want to end my career in the Hall of Fame and to do that, it means I would need to win major championships and PGA Tour events.’
‘However, number one golfer would surely come along there at some point if I was playing good golf, being consistent and winning a lot. But as I say, number is not the goal, but it is something which should really come along as part of playing well.’
‘When people look back over time and they see who won the trophies from all of the events and the jackets from Augusta, that is the thing which stands the test of time and they remember the winners. There isn’t really a trophy for reaching the top of the world rankings, to be honest.’
WHAT NEXT? Reckon emulating Ricky Fowler’s much-discussed style means just dressing a bit brighter? Think again – this guy has tech connectivity around the home sussed as well…