Rickie Fowler’s fan base is already huge. It’s because of the way he plays (booming 300-yard drives with a 5-foot-9 body) and the way he looks (bright colors and big smiles) and the way he wins (The Players Championship, Abu Dhab, etc.).
If it’s possible, the Jupiter resident will have even more supporters now when he plays in the Honda Classic Feb. 25-28, and all because of the way he reacted to a devastating defeat.
Fowler lost a playoff on Super Sunday to Hideki Matsuyama, another of the world’s rising stars, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
That was after making a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to force a playoff, and after making a 12-foot putt to save par on the third extra hole. Disaster struck twice on the 17th hole, however, when Fowler hit a drive into the water in regulation and did it again on what was the fourth playoff hole.
All of that Rickie could handle, but he was overcome by emotion in the press room afterwards at the thought of letting down family members, including a grandfather, who had come to see him win. Here’s the video from PGA.com.
That’s an authentic reaction and one that was difficult for Rickie to show in front of the cameras. Easier to blow off the postgame talk, or to make not real effort at expressing his thoughts, like Cam Newton after the Super Bowl.
This kind of thing appeals to anyone who wonders if our sports stars are in any way like the rest of us.
Fowler is real enough to worry that he might have let somebody down, and moved to tears by it even on a day that somebody handed him a $702,000 check for second place.
Matsuyama is in the Honda field, too, and it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to pair him with Rickie in the opening rounds. Matsuyama, who will turn 24 during tournament week at PGA National, is No. 12 in the World Golf Rankings. Fowler is No. 4.
Matsuyama’s only previous Honda appearance was in 2014, when he shot an opening 70 but withdrew with a wrist injury prior to the second round.