Fowler a fan favourite even before win

Rickie Fowler celebrates making a birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Rory McIlroy and...

Rickie Fowler celebrates making a birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points during the final round to win the Wells Fargo Championship. (GETTY)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

Anxious to capitalize on Bubba Watson’s improbable victory at Augusta National, Ping rushed to mass-produce a special-edition pink driver.

 

They’ll start shipping on the first day of June.

Turns out, it might already be too late.

Pink Power, meet the Orange Crush.

Just four weeks after watching his good pal, Watson, hit a heroic hook to win a playoff at the Masters, 23-year-old Rickie Fowler logged a bit of overtime of his own to eke out a one-stroke triumph at the Wells Fargo Championship.

No offence to D.A. Points, but Sunday’s playoff at Quail Hollow will be remembered as a showdown between golf’s brightest young star — that’d be reigning U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy — and its brightest dresser.

And now Fowler, best known for his flat-brimmed hats and orange outfits, has a PGA Tour title to go with his Puma endorsement deal.

“Well, Rory is the top-ranked young player right now,” Fowler told reporters. “I’m probably the one that sticks out most with colour. Now, I’m a PGA Tour winner, so I’ve got some credibility.”

What sets Fowler apart from other first-time winners is that he’s far from an unknown commodity.

The hype of his impressive amateur career didn’t hurt, but Tiger Woods was cool because he won twice in his first seven appearances as a professional.

Fowler made 67 starts on the PGA Tour before finally collecting a trophy — for what it’s worth, he did win the OneAsia Tour’s Kolon Korea Open last October — but he became a superstar anyway.

The Orange Crush certainly didn’t start Sunday, and it’s not slowing down now.

Consider, for example, the scene at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open in Vancouver.

Luke Donald, at the time the top-ranked golfer in the world, headlined a deeper-than-usual field for Canada’s national championship. Big names such as Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Charl Schwartzel also showed up. Same goes for long-bombing bad-boy John Daly.

But anybody who walked the grounds at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club will tell you the undisputed fan favourite — at least until Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., made a spirited attempt at ending Canada’s title drought on the final day — was Fowler.

It was never to hard to identify his supporters.

“It’s always cool seeing the little guys running around out there with the Puma hat a little too big for them,” Fowler told QMI Agency that week.

Some of those same little guys probably have Cobra’s orange-tinged golf gear on their wish-list for their next birthday.

Heck, they might be working on their own scraggly moustaches.

Thing is, Fowler’s win at the Wells Fargo Championship didn’t necessarily cause any of that. The next generation of golfers had already picked their guy.

You can bet the brass at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., wouldn’t mind seeing a few more Sunday showdowns between Fowler and McIlroy, the 23-year-old who leapfrogged back into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with his share of second at Quail Hollow, but Rickie’s popularity isn’t pinned to his on-course performance.

The win? That’s a bonus. A lot of kids were planning to wear a flat-brimmed Puma hat to their next junior lesson regardless.

“This is who I am. I don’t want to be anyone who I’m not and don’t want to be marketed any way that doesn’t represent me,” Fowler said. “Obviously, I have some great sponsors and a good partnership with Puma, who helped me show who I am on the course. Now, we’ve got the win, so we’re good to go.”

And he’s got a flock of young fans ready to follow.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @GilbertsonGolf 


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