Fowler takes playoff for first PGA Tour win

By Doug FergusonMay 7, 2012, 12:06 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler has never been afraid to put it all on the line.

The thrill-seeking passion for motocross as a teenager. The head-turning clothing he brought to the PGA Tour as a rookie, such as the bright orange ensemble from head-to-toe on Sundays. With a chance to finally break through for his first Tour win, the kid showed his true colors.

In a three-way playoff that featured U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the 23-year-old Fowler gambled with a 51-degree wedge that had to be perfect on an 18th hole at Quail Hollow that had yielded only four birdies all day.

And it was.

Fowler stuffed his shot to 4 feet for a birdie on the first extra hole to beat McIlroy and D.A. Points and win the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday. It was his first Tour win in his 67th start as a pro, bringing him a small measure of relief and a big dose of credibility.

''I didn't want to play it safe,'' Fowler said. ''I had a good number (133 yards), and I was aiming right of the hole with the wind coming out of the right, and if I hit a perfect shot, it comes down right on the stick. ... I hit a perfect shot at the right time, and I was going for it.''

McIlroy, who returned to No. 1 in the world, used Quail Hollow as a launching pad toward stardom when he won here two years ago. Perhaps this is the start of a rivalry for years between a pair of 23-year-olds who bring power, flair and exuberance to the game.

''I'm looking forward to playing with Rory for a long time,'' said Fowler, who closed with a 3-under 69. ''It's awesome. It's a long wait but well worth it.''

McIlroy established himself on the same green two years ago, a 20-year-old who closed out a record 62 by making a 40-foot putt for his first Tour win and the biggest of his career, until adding a record-breaking U.S. Open title last summer at Congressional.

This time, it was Fowler's turn.

''You wouldn't call the 18th today a birdie hole with that pin,'' McIlroy said. ''For Rickie to go out and play that hole the way he did, he deserved to win.''

Along for the ride was Points, a 35-year-old who had the tournament in his grasp until ending 40 straight holes without a bogey by making one at the worst time. He had a one-shot lead going to the 18th in regulation, hit his approach in a bunker and never came close to a par. He shot a 71.

McIlroy had a shot at winning in regulation and missed a 15-foot birdie putt, giving him a 70.

In the playoff, all three hit the fairway, with McIlroy hitting a 3-wood that traveled nearly 340 yards. Points and McIlroy were well off the mark and had to work hard to get their two-putt pars. Fowler came up with the best shot of his career.

''The shot he hit was spectacular,'' Points said.

Even though they're the same age, McIlroy has a two-year head start on Fowler. They were in the Walker Cup together in 2007, and McIlroy turned pro that fall. Fowler didn't turn pro until two years ago. The only other time Fowler won as a pro was last year at the Korea Open, where he also beat McIlroy.

The difference was winning, and McIlroy still has a big edge.

As he entered the press conference, Fowler put his hat on backward, smiled and said, ''Told you it was coming.''

''It's a good feeling right now,'' Fowler said. ''Definitely some relief, satisfaction. I'm definitely happy. It's not a bad thing, winning. It's kind of fun.''

Fowler and McIlroy both recovered from late bogeys to get in the playoff.

Fowler had the outright lead until he went bunker-to-bunker on the 16th hole, the second time drawing a plugged lie, and missed a 10-foot par putt. He had a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole, though it never had a chance. He was the first one in at 14-under 274.

McIlroy went long of the green on the par-3 17th and missed an 8-foot par putt, but when Points struggled on the 18th, McIlroy had a putt for the win.

Webb Simpson, the 54-hole leader who lives a mile from Quail Hollow, made a mess of the eighth hole for a bogey and three-putted the 11th to fall back. Back-to-back birdies late in his round kept his hopes alive, and he had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th to join the playoff. It missed, and he had a 73 to finish alone in fourth.

Ryan Moore, who played in the final group with Simpson, didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole and shot a 74. He tied for fifth with Lee Westwood (66) and Ben Curtis (67), who finished before the leaders got to the back nine.

For all his endorsements and marketing prowess, Fowler was starting to hear whispers about when he was going to win. What carried him along was patience and impeccable manners, which have made him a favorite among his peers.

Making this win even sweeter was having his mother, Lynn, and girlfriend Alexandra Brown (daughter of Tour winner Olin Browne) in the gallery.

''I'm over the top,'' his mother said, fighting back tears. ''I'm relieved for him because this is an expectation from the people, the fans, the tournament staff directors. And now he can hopefully carry on and do the work that he likes to do.''

On the back nine, it was clear this was a three-man race, and all had their shots at winning.

''I think it was just a matter of time before he won,'' McIlroy said. ''It seems like this tournament produces first-time winners - Anthony Kim, myself, now Rickie. It's great to see. He probably has went through a little bit of scrutiny and a lot of pressure trying to get that first win. But now that win is out of the way. Hopefully, that will ease the pressure a little bit.''

Fowler said he never felt the pressure of waiting 2 1/2 years for his first win. The longest wait might have been for his shot in the playoff to descend from the cloudy sky, so he could make sure it had enough to take the stream out of play.

''It was a little bit of a gamble,'' he said.

Fowler earned $1.17 million and best of all, achieved his primary goal of winning on Tour. That should help him reach his other marks this year, getting to the Tour Championship for the first time and perhaps getting another spot on the Ryder Cup team.

He was picked in 2010 - the first Tour rookie ever selected by a captain - and showed his promise by winning the last four holes to earn a halve in his singles match. McIlroy is far more accomplished, with a major championship and a return to No. 1 in the world.

But as a generational shift in golf continues, this could be a rivalry worth watching.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people


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Growing family

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Departure from TaylorMade


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Squashed beef with Paddy

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Victory at Valderrama


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm