With more than 230,000 followers on Twitter, a role in the “Golf Boys” hit video and a wardrobe that sets him apart from his peers, Rickie Fowler was missing one key thing until a few weeks ago: victory as a professional.
The American crossed that off his to-do list with a six-stroke win over U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy in the Korea Open on Oct. 9. After a five-week break, he returns at the Australian PGA Championship for his first professional tournament Down Under.
AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
The Australian PGA Championship is one of the three crown jewels of professional golf in Australia.
Fowler arrived last weekend with his family for some sightseeing and played nine holes with Greg Norman on Tuesday as he prepares for a star-stocked tournament that features British Open champion Darren Clarke.
Others in the field include Norman, the Presidents Cup International captain; Australian stars Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley; and Presidents Cup teammates K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang of South Korea. Also playing is Bubba Watson, who helped lead the United States to victory over the Internationals at Royal Melbourne last week.
On Wednesday following his morning pro-am, Fowler, sporting a new mustache to help the “Movember” charity cause, said the greens at Coolum were playing “slower and softer” than he liked.
“I’m looking forward to it staying firm and getting quicker,” Fowler said. “There is a lot of variety off the tee so I don’t think I’ll just hit driver off everywhere, so I’m looking forward to the week. Hopefully the rain will stay away so the course can firm up a bit.”
It’s Fowler’s third visit to Australia -- he won the world amateur team title at Adelaide in 2008 and played in another amateur event at Melbourne’s Yarra Yara course the following year.
He returns as one of the most popular young golfers, a star on social media long before he won that first pro tournament in South Korea, and before he played in the next-to-last group Sunday at this year’s British Open, finishing tied for fifth behind Clarke at Royal St. George’s.
“Social media has been great for athletes and celebrities to kind of give fans and followers the kind of glimpse inside their life,” the 22-year-old Fowler said. “You can show as much or hide as much as you want, but as long as you can control it and use it the right way, it is a great way to grow your fan base and for your fans to feel a bit closer to you.”
No doubt his fans and those of three other PGA Tour golfers -- Ben Crane, Watson and Hunter Mahan -- felt a bit closer with the release of their Golf Boys video.
It’s been a huge Internet hit and has received more than 2.7 million hits on YouTube. An American insurance company has pledged to donate $1,000 to charities for every 100,000 views of the “Oh Oh Oh” video. So far that total is up to $27,000.
“Putting music videos together and putting them on YouTube, people get to see that we have some fun personalities,” Fowler said. “We are not just that ‘get a ball in the hole quickly and win golf tournaments.’ We like to have a good time. I guess you could say we are just like anyone else. We are goofy, that’s for sure.”
Fowler said a sequel to “Oh Oh Oh” could happen.
“It is just tough to get the four of us together,” he said. “We are all pretty busy and traveling around and not playing all the same tournaments. Finding 24 hours where we can all be in the same place at the same time is tough.”
That won’t happen with Watson, at least, on Thursday in the first round at Coolum. Fowler will tee off with Day and Yang.
Watson will play the first two days with Australian Open champion Greg Chalmers and fellow Australian John Senden, followed by the marquee grouping of Scott, Norman and Clarke.