Newsmaker of the Year, No. 8: Rickie Fowler

By Randall MellDecember 10, 2015, 12:00 pm

Rickie Fowler wasn’t the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year

He didn’t win a major in 2015.

He didn’t do enough to challenge Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day for “Big Three” consideration.

He did, however, deliver the most spectacular performance of the season during a breakout year that recast him as one of the game’s most formidable and deserving young stars. The key word there is “deserving,” because even some of Fowler’s peers apparently didn’t believe he was worthy of all the hype he received before delivering three impressive victories this year.

Fowler began redefining himself with his spectacular finish at The Players Championship in May, winning with one of the boldest Sunday charges you’ll ever see. Named early that week with Ian Poulter as the most overrated players in the game in a magazine player survey, Fowler delivered the most eloquent answers to all his critics. He hit more clutch shots coming down the stretch at TPC Sawgrass than most players will hit in a year, more than some will hit in an entire career.

Fowler won The Players with a birdie at the fourth playoff hole, sticking a gap wedge to 4 feet and 8 inches at the famed 17th. He played the island hole three times that Sunday and birdied it all three times, twice in the playoff. He birdied 15 and eagled 16 in regulation, and then birdied both 17 and 18 to get into the playoff with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner.

“Obviously, he’s not overrated,” Kisner said afterward. “I think he proved that.”

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee liked the manner in which Fowler answered his critics.

“I cannot remember a more in-your-face victory,” Chamblee said.

Butch Harmon, who began working as Fowler’s swing coach about 16 months before the victory, wondered who voted Fowler most overrated.

“They must feel silly now,” Harmon told Sky TV.

The Players wasn’t Fowler’s lone statement.

A year after recording top-five finishes in each of the major championships, Fowler broke through to win on three large stages in 2015, just not major championship stages. That’s about all Fowler didn’t do while proving himself a formidable closer this year. He closed out memorably in all three of his victories.

After winning The Players, Fowler won the Scottish Open in July with birdies at three of the final four holes. He beat the strong field assembled in Scotland a week before the Open Championship. Two months after that, Fowler came from three shots behind Henrik Stenson on the back nine at the Deutsche Bank Championship to win a FedEx Cup event.

“It’s been a good year as far as being able to get the door knocked down,” Fowler said. “Last year, I put myself in positions to win, and this year I finally took care of business. I’ve been able to rack up a few trophies.”

Harmon knew what The Players would do for Fowler.

“He got so much confidence at The Players, not only in what he’s doing, but in what he can do in competition,” Harmon told USA Today. “He believes in himself now. The beauty of Rickie now is he knows how good he is. He knows all the hard work he’s done has paid off.”

Fowler will be looking to make his mark next on the majors after reaching most of his goals in 2015.

“The only goal I didn’t get was winning a major,” he said. “I guess we’ll keep that one on the list for next year.”

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”