Rickie Fowler brings flashy golf to Aronimink

Rickie Fowler last visited the Philadelphia area in September, wearing the official uniform of the United States team that defeated Great Britain and Ireland thanks to a wonderful performance by the former Oklahoma State star.

He showed up again in the area Wednesday for his Pro-Am round at the AT&T National wearing a white golf shirt with green and purple polka dots, a purple and white cap covering a mop of brown hair, and purple and green golf shoes.

Rickie Fowler tees off at Aronimink on Wednesday. "I'm just out there having fun, hitting golf shots," the 21-year-old said.

Yes, Fowler, 21, has created a style that makes him one of the most noticeable players on the PGA Tour. But there's more - far more - to his golf than his clothes, as his record over 23 career tour events last fall and this season will attest.

He has finished second three times, twice this year, including the Memorial Tournament where he led going into the final round but lost by 3 strokes to Justin Rose. Rose had a 66 in the final round.

"Justin played well on Sunday, and there wasn't much I could do about it," Fowler said. "Ultimately, it's more experience just being in contention, and it's going to definitely help down the road with playing well. I'll be more comfortable contending."

Buddy Marucci, the 2009 Walker Cup captain from Merion, said he feels it's just a matter of time before Fowler lands in the winner's circle.

"He's just done terrific," Marucci said. "His career has been wonderful so far. He's a breath of fresh air for the tour. It's just a matter of time before he breaks through and wins. Probably his best attribute is that he's unflappable. He takes everything in stride. That's a nice quality to have on the golf course."

Fowler said it's important to him to be on an even keel when he plays.

"That's one of the biggest things I work on, especially not showing anger," he said. "Obviously, if I make a couple of birdies in a row, or I'm in contention, I'm going to show some emotion, show I'm a little pumped up.

"Other than that, there's no reason to show that you're angry or something like that. If you hit a bad shot, it's kind of known that you weren't trying to do that. So you kind of go from there and move on."

Fowler, who grew up in Southern California, took up golf when he was 3. He also enjoyed racing dirt bikes and motocross as a youth but gave them up when he was 15 because "I broke my foot and blew out my knee . . . that's when I kind of went 100 percent toward golf."

Fowler played at Oklahoma State for two seasons but had his mind made up to turn pro after last year's Walker Cup, in which he went 4-0. In his second tour event as a professional, he got into a three-way playoff at the Frys.com Open but lost. He also was edged out by 1 shot at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.

This season, he ranks fifth in greens in regulation (69.83 percent), 12th in money earned (more than $2 million), and 13th in FedExCup points.

Fowler quickly has become a gallery favorite. The television cameras earlier this year caught him slapping palms with fans as he moved from one green to the next tee.

"I'm pretty easygoing out there," he said. "Some guys are in the zone and do their thing and don't really think too much about what's going on outside of that. But I'm just out there having fun, hitting golf shots, and I definitely like to keep the crowd involved."

And yes, there are the clothes. All his combinations are distinctive, including the all-orange attire he wears on Sundays, a tribute to the color of his college alma mater. He said he's gotten some nicknames on different outfits.

"Some of the blue outfits . . . when Ryo [Ishikawa] and I wore them, they called us Teen-aged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Papa Smurf, M&M's, different kind of stuff like that," he said. "So far, most people enjoy the outfits. They like to find out what's coming the next day. Then you have to deal with some of the haters. But it doesn't matter. I like what I'm wearing."

Fowler said the fans have been "great, awesome" to him, including a couple from Merion who recalled his Walker Cup performance.

"It's definitely a warm welcome coming back," he said. "It's nice to come back to a place where I played where I've played well so it gives me a good reason to look forward to a good week."

And he continues to set goals in this, his rookie season. "Week-in and week-out, it's trying to win, being in contention," he said. "I want to work my way through FedEx Cup. I want to play the Tour Championship and then after that, definitely the Ryder Cup."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com