LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Born in California and turned into a star at Oklahoma State, Rickie Fowler still manages a comfortable connection to the origins of the game.
"I love links golf, probably my favorite," Fowler said Wednesday. "I just like the amount of options you have while out playing a links golf course."
It might sound like somewhat of a canned response, but the 23-year-old Fowler has already done plenty to back up those sentiments in two Open Championship appearances, as well as a successful Walker Cup performance in 2007 at Royal County Down. His T-5 at Royal St. George's last year was one of only two top-five finishes in 2011 and he finished T-14 at St. Andrews in 2010 -- despite shooting a 79 in his first-ever Open round.
Photo by Getty Images
Since then, Fowler has a stroke average of a shade over 69 in the game's oldest major -- something you might not expect from a guy who at his pre-tournament press conference wore perhaps the brightest blue hat ever seen at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Always among the leaders in flash, Fowler's overall game has also come a long way since that first Open appearance, especially in the past three months. Fowler picked up his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship and backed that up with a T-2 at the Players and a T-5 at Colonial. It appears that a year after contending in a major for the first time at another English course, Fowler is ready to take the next step.
So can a guy whose biggest contribution to golf history thus far might be his role in the sport's first-ever "boy band" have his name etched on one of world's most historic trophies? On top of his love and success of links golf, Fowler is also buoyed this week by the fact the last three major winners are fellow young -- at least youngish when counting Bubba Watson -- Americans.
"It's been a lot of fun to watch, but also just kind of a kick in the butt to get out and make me want it more," he said. ". . . It is fun to watch them win and watch some of your good friends win, but at the same time you'd rather be there than them."
-- Alex Myers