Fowler has won $553,700 in his two PGA Tour starts as a pro, which would put him 135th on this year’s money list. Fowler needs to win enough money at Disney to move him among the top 125 to earn exempt status next year and avoid Q-School. David Duval holds down the 125th spot with $623,824 in earnings.
Fowler, 20, who left Oklahoma State after two seasons, tied for seventh at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in his first PGA Tour start as a pro. He tied for second with Jamie Lovemark in his second start at the Frys.com Open, losing in a playoff to Troy Matteson. Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Fowler this week for a quick round:
Your full name is Rickie Yutaka Fowler. Tell us about your middle name.
It’s my grandpa’s name. It’s Japanese. My grandpa’s full Japanese. I’m a quarter Japanese.
Your grandfather got you started in golf, right?
Yes, he got me started at age 3, when he was just picking up the game. He took me to the range with him.
Your dad, Rod, won the Baja 1000 on a four-wheeler and got you started on dirt bikes when you were 3. How did growing up in motocross and on dirt bikes shape your personality and the way you play golf?
I think it made me the quick player that I am. I just kind of step up and go. I don’t take too much time or over-think shots.
Your coaches say you also play with a fearlessness. Your dad says that is linked to the thrill-seeking you got on a cycle.
Definitely, the way you handle yourself on the track, making jumps on a cycle, I think it’s why the way I play is a little different from others, not as traditional. I stay fairly aggressive, and I like to take my chances.
When did you race in your last motocross event?
I didn’t do too much racing, a little bit here and there. I was probably right around 14 or 15. I mainly rode for fun. I had a lot of buddies I rode with who are now racing as pros. I didn’t get into racing a lot, most of the stuff I did was out play riding.
What’s the biggest rush you got riding?
Being in the air, doing stunts, taking risks.
Doesn’t your whole family ride, your dad and mom and little sister?
Yes, the whole family rides. We used to take rides together in the desert in the winter. We would take five to 10 trips a year. We haven’t all gone together for awhile, but my dad still rides on a weekly basis. My mom and sister and I are busier now, but I still like to hop on a bike every once in awhile and play around, but I’m a little more conservative.
What do you ride?
My dad’s bike, my sister’s bike, one of the play bikes. There’s a 450, a 250F or a little 150F. We have a variety.
We know about your dad, but your mom, Lynn, is a big influence in your life. Tell us what she’s passed on to you.
She’s a very focused, meticulous person, very calm. She spends a lot of time on the road with me. She keeps me level headed and humble and from getting too far ahead of myself.
Barry McDonnell, the Murrieta Valley (Calif.) driving range instructor and the only swing coach you’ve ever known, says you had that long, flowing hair the first time he met you as a little tyke. Have you always worn your hair long and is there some Samson-like power in it?
I used to spike my hair in middle school, but I’ve had long hair my whole life. It’s who I am. I am not trying to be anything crazy. I get some grief sometimes for it, but a lot of people like it. I am just doing my own thing and not worrying too much if people hate it or like it.
Mike McGraw, your coach at Oklahoma State, says you are a shot maker, that even though you hit it a long way, you like to play creatively, to work the ball and shape shots more than most players your age. Where does that come from?
It mainly came from Barry growing up on the driving range. Instead of hitting shot after shot straight, or trying to do the same thing over and over, we worked on moving the ball right to left, or left to right, or high, or low. We worked on control and knowing where the clubface is at and where the ball is going to go.
You’ve made a couple big checks already. Have you splurged on anything?
No, I helped my parents get my sister a car. I made that purchase. I’m not sure if I’ll get paid back or not.
What kind of car?
Lexus RX 350.
Nice, anything for yourself?
Got some hours for my jet.
The washout of the Viking Classic means the Children’s Miracle Network Classic is your last chance to win your Tour card without going to Q-School. Did the washout ratchet up the pressure?
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play, but I was coming off a good week. I have one event to get in the top 125 or go to the final stage. I’m really looking forward to Disney, it will be great tournament.