Walker Cup star Fowler has sights set on Ryder Cup berth in record time

rickie fowler
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Rickie Fowler was decked out in eye-popping purple for his Scandinavian Masters debut last month.
PA Sport


Published: Monday, August 02, 2010 | 9:23 p.m.

You cannot miss Rickie Fowler when he plays golf. Big cap, big hair, garishly bright clothes.

For the final round of the British Open, he was all orange -- shirt, trousers, shoes, cap, necklace, watch. Even his watch reminded him of his days at Oklahoma State.

The week after that, Swedish fans saw him decked out in purple on Day 1 of the Nordean Scandinavia Masters, and lime green on Day 2. But that was as far as he got in his first European Tour appearance outside a major.

Disappointing though that was for the 21-year-old American rookie, there are exciting times ahead.

This week sees the young multi-millionaire play his first World Golf Championship event, then comes the PGA Championship, then the FedExCup playoffs and then -- maybe -- the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

If he produces the goods in the coming weeks Fowler, already in the world's top 40, could become the first player since Tiger Woods to go straight from the Walker Cup to the Ryder Cup. And in terms of time between one and the other, he would set a new record.

Woods was a member of the losing United States amateur side at Royal Porthcawl in 1995, when he famously lost a singles to short-hitting Gary Wolstenholme by going out of bounds on the final hole. Two years later - and five months after winning the Masters by 12 shots in his first major as a professional -- he tasted defeat in his Ryder Cup debut at Valderrama as well, going down in the singles on that occasion to Costantino Rocca.

Fowler made his Walker Cup entrance at Royal County Down in 2007. The USA won and he took three points out of four, beating Rory McIlroy in foursomes, but losing to Rhys Davies in singles. He could yet face both again back in Wales, of course.

The Californian was only 18 at the time and decided to stay amateur long enough to earn a second appearance at Merion last September. On that occasion, he won four points out of four as the Americans trounced Britain and Ireland, giving him the same seven points out of eight total that Luke Donald achieved. He could face him in October as well, of course.

With the Walker and Ryder Cups no longer played in the same year -- that changed when the 2001 terrorism attacks led to the postponement of the Ryder Cup at The Belfry -- Fowler can go from one to the other in just over a year.

With three second places already, the most recent of them to Justin Rose at the Memorial in Ohio, he is 15th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The top eight automatically earn places after the PGA Championship next week, with Captain Corey Pavin then waiting three more tournaments before selecting his four wild cards.

"When I first turned professional, I wasn't thinking Ryder Cup," said Fowler. "I was focused on getting my card. I played a few autumn events and almost made enough, but had to go to the third stage of Q-School.

"Once I got through that and started getting some good finishes this season, I knew it was a Ryder Cup year and people started asking questions,” he explained. "Now it's one of my main goals. It can't be a long list of players who have gone straight from one to the other, but for the moment I'm just enjoying playing against the best players in the world."

Even winning the Scandinavian Masters wouldn’t have moved him up the standings, because only PGA Tour events count in the points race, but Fowler was okay with that.

"I want to get chances to play around the world,” he said. "I was invited a month or two ago, but I wasn't in the Open back then, so I wasn't planning on coming over just for a week in Sweden. But it worked out -- I got into the Open after the John Deere Classic and we called Sweden back and asked if we still had the opportunity."

St. Andrews did advance his claims, though. A massive 16 strokes behind McIlroy after an opening 79, Fowler climbed all the way to 14th, his last three rounds of 67, 71 and 67 being even better than runaway winner Louis Oosthuizen managed.

"That was a lot of fun," he said. "I love playing links golf. I grew up on a local driving range back home and basically just learned golf by hitting shots. High and low, left and right -- that's basically links golf. You can use the course to your advantage when you can keep the ball down and move it both ways."

He left Scotland with a special memory, too. The Road Hole 17th had cost him a double bogey on the first day after he four-putted it -- and that after going out of bounds on the 16th and making a triple-bogey 7 -- but it was a different story on the last day.

"I think it's the longest putt I've ever made," he said of his birdie. "I was about five paces off the green and the pin was 38 paces on, so do the math -- about 129 feet or so. Pretty cool -- I got a lot of revenge."