Rickie Fowler knows he is yet to reach his full potential especially in terms of getting it done at Major Championships.
Rickie Fowler Exclusive: “I Know I Can Get It Done”
From the outside, Rickie Fowler has it all: a beautiful wife, the adoration of the golf world and five PGA Tour wins. He’s been a part of an American Ryder Cup victory. He also has a social media presence most athletes can only dream of. He has grown the game of golf in ways that can never be properly quantified.
But at the age of 31 – and with more than a decade on the PGA Tour under his stylish Cobra Puma belt – how does the man himself rate his own career out of ten?
“I’d say it has been successful,” the affable American tells Golf Monthly. “But it has definitely not been ten out of ten.”
Star in the making
In 2009, Fowler entered golf’s professional ranks with more notoriety than most. Most of the hype was because of his glittering amateur career. He was top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 36 weeks between 2007 and 2008.
He was a stand-out college player at the renowned Oklahoma State University, winning five significant collegiate events. He also made his Major debut in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut and finished in a tie for 60th as an amateur.
But the buzz surrounding Fowler also came from his ultra-cool persona away from the course. With Californian good looks, a sharp fashion sense and a history of competing in motocross, Fowler was not the typical American golfer rolled out of the college production line. He had pizazz and a personality that instantly resonated with young people.
But after five years on the PGA Tour, Fowler was the subject of a cruel anonymous survey in 2015. Within a poll of PGA Tour players was the unfortunate question, “Who is the most overrated player on tour?” Fowler was tied for the top candidate with Mr Ryder Cup Ian Poulter.
It was considered by many to be a cheap shot on a player that had done nothing but demonstrate a love for the game – whose game travelled and adapted to different continents and playing conditions.
But at that point, Fowler had only won once on the PGA Tour, at the Wells Fargo event at North Carolina’s famed Quail Hollow course in 2012. His profile was certainly bigger than his trophy cabinet and that seemed to rub some of his peers the wrong way.
But Fowler silenced his critics in stunning fashion when he won the elite Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass one week after the survey was published. It was poetic justice for Fowler, but it was only the beginning.
He channelled his inner links specialist to win the Scottish Open in July and then the Deutsche Bank Championship to rise to World No.5.
“Since I was called overrated, I’ve won three times,” Fowler quipped to reporters at the time at TPC Boston. “So, thanks for the poll, I guess!”
Fulfilling his potential
Five years after the poll and with a total of nine professional wins, the Murietta, California native doesn’t hold grudges. Nor does Fowler consider his career ‘overrated’ or disappointing by any stretch.
“For me, it’s not all about golf, trophies and finishes,” Fowler continues. “It’s about having an influence off the course; growing the game and leaving it in a better spot than when you found it. But with everything factored in, I’d rate my career about a seven or eight – well above average.”
But that’s not to say Fowler doesn’t want to win more.
“My goal is definitely to win more. I think winning is one way to measure success, it’s just that winning out here doesn’t always happen as often as people might think. A multiple-win season would be great for this year.”
Another way to measure success is at golf’s four Majors. Winning them puts you in the history books. But contending in them regularly without getting the job done carries a stigma.
Fowler owns runner-up results in The Masters, US Open and Open Championship among a total of 11 top-ten results on the biggest stage. He is determined to shed the dreaded ‘best player without a Major’ tag.
“A big goal for me would be to get a Major and knock that off; I really like where I’m at in my career right now,” Fowler continues. “I know I can get it done. Of course, I have to be in the right place at the right time. I have to be in contention. I have to put myself there. I’ve been there plenty of times and I’ve been in a position to win a few of them. There have been a lot of good finishes.”
Fans of Fowler can’t help but think the Major venues in 2020 and 2021 set up well for his game.
He is always a factor at Augusta National given he is one of the best putters in the game and has wonderful shot-shaping creativity with his irons. But he also has a versatile game that travels and handles poor conditions well.
Many are predicting a foggy, damp and cold USPGA Championship when it heads to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Then there’s The Open in 2021 at Royal St George’s, where Fowler tied for fifth when it last hosted the championship in 2011.
“One of the best rounds in Open golf I’ve ever played was the Saturday there,” he says. “I’m looking forward to getting back with, hopefully, better weather.”
With two top-five results and another top-ten at the US Open, the lightning-quick greens and brutal scoring at Winged Foot in New York should also favour Fowler’s scrambling ability.
Fowler’s focus is not just on the PGA Tour and the Majors. He has his work cut out trying to qualify for Team USA in a year featuring the Ryder Cup and what would have also been the Olympic Games, which has since been postponed to 2021.
Fowler is currently well outside the top eight who qualify for the Ryder Cup side. Although he is a favourite within the team, having played four Ryder Cups, he doesn’t want to rely on one of four captain’s picks.
Currently Fowler also sits well back of the four players Team USA will have eligible for the Olympics in Tokyo in July 2021. But the summer Games mean a lot to Fowler given he competed at Rio 2016 and even got a tattoo of the Olympic rings immediately after it.
The Californian has a tough task in front of him to make both teams but he is determined to get wins to help qualification regardless.
“Do that and I feel like a lot of other things will fall into place; it will help me move up the world rankings and have a chance for the Olympics and also to get points to be there for the Ryder Cup. I want to be there for the Ryder Cup. I’d love to be back for another Olympics. Making birdies and playing well answers a lot of questions,” Fowler says.
Happy wife and a happy life
Fowler began dating Allison Stokke, a former pole vaulter at the University of California and current fitness model, in 2017. The couple became engaged in June 2018. In October 2019, Fowler married Stokke on a beach and he says marriage has him feeling more grounded than ever.
“In my position, and at the stage of my career that I’m in, getting married can only help,” Fowler says. “I feel like I’m in a great position in my life with Allison. She is awesome. She makes life easier and more fun. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s only going to help me on the course.”
Fowler is also more comfortable in his own skin than he has ever been. He has embraced the fact he may not win as often as people think, but is quite happy with his ambassadorial role in the sport. It is his tribute to the late, great Arnold Palmer.
He established the Rickie Fowler Foundation in 2011 to help aid both the Japanese and Native American communities. The foundation focuses on expanding educational opportunities for each separate heritage and offers opportunities for at-risk youth.
Through the foundation, Fowler also set up a scholarship to Oklahoma State University in 2017. It is called the Rickie Fowler Grand Challenge Scholars programme and an inaugural gift of $100,000 was made to the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.
His plan is to continue contributing to the fund so it grows to $1million.
“That’s our responsibility, not just as golfers but professional athletes. You should leave your sport at least as good as it was when you came in,” Fowler says.
“That’s how sports grow. It’s not all done by one person, other than maybe Tiger Woods [laughs]. But we have had people set the stage for us like Jack and like Arnie. So, for me, it’s more than just about playing good golf and winning tournaments… although that is a big part of being remembered on the golf course.
“I think it’s a combination of playing well, stacking up those trophies and also being remembered. You look at someone like Arnie – an amazing career, but he was remembered for much more than winning.”
Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.