It might be hard to believe, but Rickie Fowler is now entering his fifth full season on the PGA Tour in 2013-14. He’s an icon in the youth movement that golf is experiencing, and for better or worse, you can’t go to nearly any golf course without seeing people decked out in his trademark orange getup.
Of course, it’s probably also hard to believe that the 2010 Rookie of the Year has only won one time on Tour, at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. He followed that performance up with a runner-up at The PLAYERS Championship, but only has one top-five finish since then.
Fowler started off 2013 with two top-tens at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Farmers Insurance Open, leading many people (myself included) to believe that it could be a breakout season, but with four missed cuts and general inconsistency, he failed to live up to the big expectations. To me, it’s not a question of whether Fowler has the talent to be a major force on the Tour – he clearly does. But will he actually step up and make it happen in 2014?
It all starts for him this year at Torrey Pines. In his four previous Farmers appearances, he’s never finished outside the top 20, and you can’t replace the confidence that comes from great results. Fowler also recently earned a Masters invitation after finishing the year at 40th in the Official World Golf Ranking, so he’ll likely be playing all four majors once again this season. His best finish was his tie for tenth in the U.S. Open, but he showed fairly well at the Masters and the PGA Championship as well. He’ll have plenty of motivation to start the build towards Augusta.
You also might not realize it, but Fowler’s biggest strength last season was actually his putting. While he only hit 62% of his greens in regulation, Fowler ranked 24th in strokes gained – putting and 14th in total putting. If he can find his way to the putting surface more efficiently in 2014, he can avoid big numbers like his Sunday 78 at the Masters and stay in contention.
2014 may not be a make-or-break year for 25-year-old Fowler, but eventually he’ll have to cash in on his immense talent. He’s a streaky player, but if he makes a few more of the bounces go his way, he could be due for a big season.