Rickie Fowler’s family’s presence caps ‘special’ day
US star silences doubters by taking Players Championship with record-breaking finish
Rickie Fowler celebrates with his mother Lynne Fowler after winning a three-way playoff at the the Players Championship at Sawgrass. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Rickie Fowler’s mother and sister held reservations on a commercial flight from Jacksonville International to San Diego that was scheduled to leave on Sunday night at the same time the Players Championship was due to end. They had lunch with Fowler, who began the day three strokes off the lead, before his 1.25pm tee time.
Fowler played the first nine holes in even par and was losing ground to the leaders, who included Sergio Garcia. So his mother, Lynne, and younger sister, Taylor, gathered their two Shih Tzus and headed to the airport, a 45-minute drive from TPC Sawgrass.
They checked their luggage. But they did not proceed through the security line because people at the Stadium Course had sent them updates on Fowler’s progress. Scrolling through their messages, they found out he had birdied holes 13 and 15 and eagled the 16th.
He was on the 17th tee when his mother and sister made a spontaneous decision. They phoned the tournament transportation desk to see if they could get a ride back to the course. As it happened, there were courtesy cars at the airport. Within minutes, they were on their way, with Fowler’s sister behind the wheel.
Garcia won his 2008 title here on the first hole of sudden death against Paul Goydos. But starting this year, the tournament adopted a three-hole aggregate playoff. Fowler, who collected his first and only Tour victory three years ago, picked up in the playoff where he had left off in regulation.
Fowler and Kisner advanced to sudden death with scores of par-birdie-par on 16, 17 and 18. (Garcia was eliminated with three pars.) Fowler (26) won on the first hole of sudden death with a five-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th after Kisner missed his birdie attempt.
It was a toss up, which tickled Fowler more: his scorching finish or the fact his mother and sister were there at the end to celebrate with him. Fowler, who eschewed his signature Sunday outfit of Oklahoma State orange to honor Lynne on Mother’s Day with a shirt that had pink in it, said, “I assumed with my less than stellar play the first 12 holes that they were well on their way because I was out of contention.”
Their presence, he said, was “very special”. So was the timing of the victory. It came shortly after the release of an anonymous poll of his peers in which Fowler, despite his four top-five finishes in the Majors last year and his number 13 ranking, was voted, along with Ian Poulter, as the most overrated player.
The players who felt that way presumably did not include Bubba Watson, who lingered in the scoring area so he could greet Fowler after his 67. Billy Horschel, who crossed paths with Fowler on his way to sign for his closing 72, drew him near and whispered sweet expletives in his ear.
“There weren’t many non-cuss words that were said there,” Horschel said, grinning. “I just said bleeping happy for you, you know, bleep, bleep, stuff and bleep, bleep, bleep.”
Of the poll, Horschel said, “I don’t know what people were thinking when they thought he was overrated.” He added, “he’s brought a lot of people to this game of golf that weren’t here five, six years ago.”
Fowler said he laughed when he heard about the poll. “But if there’s any question,” he said, patting the crystal trophy, “I think this right here answers anything you need to know.”
Rory McIlroy closed with a 70 that left him wondering about what might have been. He played the front nine in one-over for the week, including an even-par 36 on Sunday, on his way to an 8-under 280 and a share of eighth. “If I could have gone out in 33 or 34 a couple of times, it would have made a big difference,” McIlroy said.
New York Times