Rickie Fowler turned in a five-under 66 on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale. And did it with a broken heart.
Before teeing off at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Fowler posted on Instagram that Griffin Connell, a fan he met in 2013 and has kept in touch with ever since, had passed away last week.
"He was just a huge fan of the game," Fowler told reporters after his round. "I claim him as being my No. 1 fan, so he had a special place with me and Joe (Skovron, Fowler’s caddie). We looked forward to seeing him and the family every week out here at the tournament every year. So it's unfortunate that we don't have him here this week because he was fun to see."
Griffin was born with an airway disorder, and had to undergo multiple surgeries throughout his life. His obituary stated he was an "inspiration to all with his larger than life personality and unwavering determination." Fowler honored him with a pin on his cap.
“He was just pumped and excited to be out there watching us,” Fowler said. “And it just puts things into perspective. He could care less if I played well or bad, he was always supporting us."
It was a sentiment tested on Thursday morning when Fowler came to the notorious 16th hole. Fowler's tee shot found a greenside bunker, and he failed to save par. A performance that garnered its share of catcalls from the raucous crowd.
“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said,” Fowler said about the stadium setting. "The normal boos for missing a green, that’s fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum.”
However, Fowler stated, it's hard to get upset about such matters, especially with Griffin on his mind.
"It just kind of humbles you, grounds you a bit, and makes you realize that there's a lot bigger things than just playing golf.”