Mic'd Rickie Fowler delivered good stuff, even if his game did not
With a mic pack on his belt, Rickie Fowler hits out a bunker in the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Darren Carroll for Golf Digest
After golf fans got to hear players mic’d up for a pair of exhibition matches last month—and, on occasion, some delightful trash talk in the process—many were clamoring for the same treatment once the shots counted for real.
At the fan-less Charles Schwab Challenge on Thursday, as the PGA Tour resumed its season after a 91-day hiatus because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they got a taste. With Jon Rahm chipping from right of the green at the par-3 eighth at Colonial Country Club and the ball about to drop into the cup, a nearby voice piped up, “Pretty f---kin’ good there.”
Only it wasn’t the guy who was wearing a microphone. It was Rahm’s playing partner Brooks Koepka, with CBS’ Jim Nantz following with a chuckle and an apology.
That the buzziest reaction of the afternoon came not from the guy who was wearing a wire—Rickie Fowler—is hardly a dig at the congenial 31-year-old who topped last year’s ranking of the 30 nicest guys on tour. But it is instructive: The best stuff always come naturally.
Of that, Fowler did his part in his way. In the process of shooting a three-over 73 that included four bogeys in the last five holes, he offered a PG-version of commentary that was mostly a terrific listen to a world so few have access to. It wasn’t explosive, but did provide added value, especially as the day wore on.
After the first two holes of silence—sans for the sounds of Fowler’s shirt moving as he walked—viewers were welcomed into the conversation as Fowler and his caddie, Joe Skovron, shared their thoughts on a 154-yard approach with a 8-iron that sailed about 10 yards too far.
Fowler: “I didn’t see it playing that much. That flew the full number.”
Skovron: “It’s hot, ball’s jumping.”
Fowler: “Not gonna trust it without seeing it first.”
Two holes later, the analysis picked up. Faced with an approach from 204 yards, Fowler and Skovron thought through club selection out loud.
Skovron: “I thought it was a stock 6. What were you thinking?”
Fowler: “I was thinking stock to a little off, as long as it’s right of it, obviously.”
Skovron: “Correct, I like all of that.”
Rickie Fowler walks with Justin Thomas during first round of Charles Schwab Challenge.
Darren Carroll for Golf Digest
Fowler went a little too far right, the ball landed 40 feet from the flag, and he dropped his head in disgust, muttering, “Stay on top of it,” before Skovron tried to provide some solace, adding, “OK, good miss.” After knocking in a 3-footer to save par, Fowler let out a couple of audible exhales.
There were more insightful moments, too.
On the approach to the sixth, Fowler and Skovron discussed the nuances of the wind. A hole later, with Fowler’s ball resting just short of a fairway bunker and 150 yards out, Fowler switched to a longer club than he originally pulled and kept the dialogue going with his caddie throughout the process.
Said Fowler: “That stance, I can’t get it back [in my stance] to where I can keep it down like I want it.” Responded Skovron: “Still try to land it at 45 [145 yards].” The ball bounced through the back of the green and Fowler’s pitch scooted 24 feet past the hole, to which he responded, “Ugh.”
It was the first of five bogeys on the day for Fowler, who made another one at the par-4 15th, where he talked viewers through a free drop from an area ruled a temporary immovable object but made a mess of the hole anyway.
If you were hoping for smack talk, self-talk or juicy conversations between shots, you definitely came to the wrong place. For one, the Charles Schwab is not a hit-and-giggle the way the charity matches were. For another, not everybody is on board with being mic’d, which has long been a major reason why players being wired didn’t happen sooner.
“That's not me,” Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Fowler, said earlier this week. “What I talk about with [caddie Jimmy Johnson] and what I talk about with the guys in my group is none of anybody else's business, no offense. If I want somebody to know what I say, I'll say it in a press conference, I'll say it in an interview or put it out on social media, whatever it is. I personally am not one that would care to get mic’d out there.”
Other players, however, said they would wear a mic, according to Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon. And the third member of the group on Thursday, Jordan Spieth, said he would be open to the idea as well, but wanted to see how it went.
He had a good seat. Finally, we did too.