T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Rickie Fowler leads social chatter
Rickie Fowler may have shot even par Thursday at Pinehurst, but he was a clear leader in the social conversation.
The avid Tweeter and Instagrammer was mentioned 2,624 times from midnight to 10 p.m. on the first round of play, thanks to his choice or attire, which honored the late Payne Stewart, who won here in 1999. PGA.com tracks the social chatter on its own Social Caddy, a U.S. Open leaderboard feature that is essentially a social listening product that actively scans chatter around the majors.
The technology looks at names, pictures, hashtags and quotes, and identifies trends in how people are communicating about players and the event. Player to Player communication is given special attention, as it usually spawns a trend of user activity on Twitter. At the end, we're able to get a really good look at the event and how people at home talk about it.
In the 9 o'clock hour on Thursday -- presumably once everyone settled into their office and got behind their computers -- Fowler's name was mentioned 488 times on the Social Caddy.
As a nod to Stewart, who died in a tragic plane accident four months after his win, Fowler wore the plus-4 knickers during Round 1 that Stewart made famous.
"What's really neat for users is when something happens that doesn't make it on air, but it appears on Social Caddy, in which your curiosity takes over and you find out what it is," said Rob Smith, Sr. Product Manager at PGA.com. "Henrik Stenson getting on the par-5 13th hole in two at Oak Hill during the 2013 PGA Championship was one of those events. Steven Bowditch's first PGA Tour win at the Valero was another, in which all sorts of local stats poured in after his victory."
Thursday's big Fowler bump started when the official Twitter account of Pinehurst Resort tweeted out this picture of Fowler on the practice green:
— Pinehurst Resort (@PinehurstResort) June 12, 2014
Fowler sent out this tweet just before the picture was taken:
Payne was one of my all time favorites...it's going to be fun remembering what he did around this place! #USOpen
— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowlerPGA) June 12, 2014
Phil Mickelson had been the most talked about player going into Round 1. He finished runner up to Stewart in the 1999 U.S. Open -- the first of a record six runner-up finishes in the national championship. Should Mickelson win this week, he would complete the career grand slam.
Here's a look at the top 10 mentions Thursday, according to Social Caddy:
1. Rickie Fowler -- 2,624
2. Phil Mickelson -- 1,541
3. Martin Kaymer -- 1,005
4. Jordan Spieth -- 779
5. Rory McIlroy -- 591
6. Justin Rose -- 439
7. Bubba Watson -- 417
8. Graeme McDowell -- 406
9. Adam Scott -- 386
10. Keegan Bradley -- 363