Bunker Shots A pro debut and a brave new world


Rickie Fowler makes his pro debut this week. In honor of his teacher, a driving range pro, we frame the coming week’s storylines with quotes from the movie Tin Cup.

Tin Cup’s prized pupil goes pro

“I tend to think of the golf swing as a poem.” – Roy McAvoy

Rickie Fowler should be riding high into Idaho this week for the Nationwide Tour’s Albertsons Boise Open.

Four days after closing his stellar amateur career in dramatic fashion at the Walker Cup, he will tee it up for the first time as a pro.

With the PGA Tour off for a week for rest and relaxation before the Tour Championship, more eyeballs than normal are likely to be trained on the Nationwide Tour event, especially if this 20-year-old standout gets in contention. Fowler was 4-0 at the Walker Cup. A month before that, he nearly won as an amateur on the Nationwide Tour, losing on the second hole of a playoff to Derek Lamely at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. He's the only player to win the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's top collegian as a freshman and is leaving Oklahoma State after two seasons.

What fans who have never seen Fowler before will notice is that his swing is distinctive, with a flat takeaway, slightly laid off.

Fowler learned to play hitting balls when he was 3 with his grandfather, Taka Tanaka, at Murrieta Valley Golf Range near his home in Murrieta, Calif. His father, Rod, cut down some clubs but not a driver.

“He played with a full length ladies’ driver,” Taka said.

It might explain that flat takeaway, but Rickie’s father, Rod, said wielding the big driver made the boy better.

“Rickie was winning quarters off his grandfather and me when he was 7,” Rod said.

Taka’s favorite story of Rickie’s upbringing in golf was when the boy was 10 and won $100 off a friend of Rod’s. Taka said the man watched Rickie awkwardly swinging the big driver and told Rickie if he could hit a green 200 yards away with it he would give him $100.

“A few minutes later, the guy was peeling out a $100 bill and giving it to Rickie,” Taka said.

Rickie’s only swing coach was Barry McDonnell of Murrieta Valley Golf Range, the facility Taka first took Rickie to play. Rod said McDonnell taught Rickie to play by feel. That also helps explain the uniqueness of Fowler’s swing.

Welcome to a brave new world

“I’m just thinking about how to get in your heart.” – Roy McAvoy

With a week off before the Tour Championship, 10 players can ponder what great rewards are within grasp besides the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus or the $1.35 million first-place tournament check.

Ten players will be making their first appearance in the Tour Championship next week.

Their playoff run thrusts them to an elite level with a chance to stay there. They have a chance to keep stockpiling money and world rankings points that can get them into major championships and World Golf Championships they’ve never played before.

Of the 30 players who will tee it up next week, Marc Leishman’s the only one who hasn’t played in a major. Dustin Johnson had played in just one before this season. Johnson and Brian Gay had never played in a WGC event before this year. Leishman, Marino and Jason Dufner are still looking to tee it up in a WGC event for the first time. Every player in next week’s Tour Championship is assured of getting into next year’s WGC-CA Championship by virtue of making it among the top 30 in FedEx Cup points. They also are all guaranteed spots in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.

The South Korean Express keeps on churning

“This is the choice it comes down to; this is our immortality.” – Roy McAvoy

Jiyai Shin continued South Korea’s LPGA dominance with her victory Sunday at the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship.

It’s the eighth LPGA event won by a South Korean this year, the country’s seventh title in the last 12 events.

Shin’s now atop the LPGA money list and Rolex Player of the Year points list and will be looking to pad her totals when she tees it up at the Samsung World Championship at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., this week.

Paula Creamer’s the defending champion and will be looking to end a drought that has seen Americans go 12 consecutive LPGA events without a victory.

Shin is bidding to become the first LPGA player to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the same season since Nancy Lopez did it in 1978.

Welcome to a brave new world, Part II

“Greatness courts failure.” – Roy McAvoy

Amanda Blumenherst leads the field of women’s prospects looking to prove themselves at LPGA Q-School.

The former Duke standout and ’08 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion will be among 139 players teeing it up in the year’s first LPGA Sectional Qualifier beginning Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif. It’s a 72-hole event with a 36-hole cut with the top 30 players advancing to Q-School finals Dec. 2-6 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. The second LPGA Tour Sectional Qualifier will be Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at Plantation Golf and Country Club’s Bobcat and Panther Courses in Venice, Fla.