Category Archives: Rickie Fowler

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2017 U.S. Open Preview

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Photos: www.erinhills.com

Like Chambers Bay in 2015, Erin Hills is a first-time U.S. Open venue and a relative unknown to the pros as it has little tournament history. It hosted a U.S. Amateur in 2011 as a preparation for the Open.

The heavily bunkered, tree-less course, which opened in 2006, by description sounds comparable to Oakmont, last year’s U.S. Open venue, where Dustin Johnson’s length and short-game prowess powered him to a break through major championship.

That win catapulted Johnson to the most dominant stretch of his career and the world No. 1 ranking. That momentum was stalled at the Masters after a freak fall caused him to withdraw with a back injury. Can he return to form on a course that will play to his strengths – namely length? Or will another big bomber raise the trophy?

On Thurs., we start to find out. Here’s a look at the leading storylines heading into the first U.S. Open ever in the state of Wisconsin.

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The Unknown – The knowns are these: the rough is thick and the course in long, because that’s what a traditional U.S. Open set up is. But practically everything else about the longest course in U.S. Open history (7,741 yards) remains a mystery.

The pros will be using their practice rounds to get used to the new layout and particularly its treacherous bunkers, of which there are three types, the nuances of its rolling terrain and the sight lines for a number of blind semi-blind approaches.

The course is such an unknown that ESPN golf analyst Andy North, a Wisconsin native, gave a 30-shot range for predicting the winning score.

“We really don’t know if it’s going to be closer to 15-over or 15-under,” he said.

Of note: the last major played in Wisconsin, the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits, saw Jason Day post a major championship scoring record of 20-under.

Will someone solve Erin Hills and go on a similar birdie binge or will it be a week that sees a barrage of bogeys? We seem to have a true wildcard course on our hands, but there’s no such mystery about the favorite: It’s Dustin Johnson.

A Double For D.J.? – There hasn’t been repeat champion at the U.S Open since Curtis Strange defended in 1989. Will the 117th Open see Johnson snap that streak?

The fairways are reportedly twice as wide as the ones Johnson dominated at Oakmont a year, so the set-up is friendly to his prodigious length, but it’s his improved wedge and short game that has really been the game changer for his 2017 dominance.

Johnson, however, hasn’t seemed to have quite the same sharpness since returning to competition after the Masters. He missed the cut at his last event (the Memorial), but some analysts viewed that as a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to get a head start on his Open preparation.

We’ll soon see if that extra preparation pays off and Johnson can reclaim the dominating form he had going into the Masters, before which he had reeled off three straight victories.

If D.J. is right, are you betting against him? His putting has improved as well this year and he’s part of a Tour trend.

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Photo: Golf Digest

How They Roll – Rory McIlroy is the latest to add a mallet putter to his bag in a last-minute equipment change this week. The mallet is becoming the preferred style on Tour. Putting is always key, but a hot putter could really get on a roll this week due to the impeccable course conditions.

Erin Hills has been closed since October to ensure premium conditions for the Open, especially on the greens, which, unlike Chambers Bay, are yielding compliments from the pros. The pros who figures out the greens the fastest could gain an early edge. Martin Kaymer solved Pinehurst once by putting from off the greens.

Who will wield the magic wand this week that will lead to victory this week? Will it be a past major winner or a championship newcomer like it has been in the previous six majors?

Break On Through, Take 7? – Sergio Garcia’s win at the Masters pushed the streak of first-time major winners to six. Can another first-timer get hot and continue the streak? Rickie Fowler? John Rahm? Justin Thomas?

Understandably, the Tour’s top bombers dominate the list of favorites. Will one of them prevail if D.J. can’t recapture his A game? If bogeys abound, it could turn into a real scramble (think British Open) and the bounces could favor another first-timer. But if U.S. Open experience prevails …

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Can recent history repeat? – Before D.J., the previous three U.S. Open winners were Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose. Rory McIlroy is also a past champion and the holder of the Open scoring record, 16-under in 2011.

Rose is on something akin to a major hot streak of his own. He finished runner-up to Garcia at Augusta and previously won the gold medal in the Rio Olympics playing under course conditions that sound a bit similar to what he’ll be facing this week at Erin Hills. GolfWeek actually has Rose listed as its No. 2 pick behind D.J. and ahead of Jason Day to raise the trophy this week (that’s a TaylorMade trio, by the way) and then rounds out its top five with Spieth and McIlroy.

Will one of the favorites prevail or will we major-victory rookies resume their rise at the majors? We’ll start to get some clues when the major fun begins on Thurs.

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Maderas: 2016 Masters Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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Photo: www.pgatour.com

Part of the charm of Masters week is the nostalgia and history that comes along with it, and in that sense this one packs a little more than most.

The print and television run-up this week has included revisiting Jack Nicklaus’ legendary 1986 Masters victory on its 30th anniversary. Included in the coverage is an excellent tribute documentary the Golf Channel aired Tuesday night.

Will this year’s event be another one for the ages? It certainly seems to have that potential.

Several past Master champions come in playing well – Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, etc. Will they make more history or will the green jacket find a new closet? On Thursday, we start to find out. Here’s a look at a few storylines for the week and then Chris Mayson seeks to pick a repeat winner at August (he called Spieth a year ago).

Will Day Have His Day? – Can the hottest player in golf double up on majors with a win at Augusta? He took last week off to arrive early and practice at a place where he’s had a solid history (T2 in 2011; 3rd in 2013), but never a victory.

A past championship here is the only thing Day doesn’t have going for him as he rolls into Augusta having definitively declared since winning the 2015 PGA Championship that it’s indeed a different day for his game. Can we make the Masters leap?

Jordan Rules Again? – The odds of a Jordan Spieth repeat seem a little easier to fathom with his impeccable putting stroke returning to form, but his ball striking has been uneven and a source of audible frustration on the course. Nobody has repeated here since – guess who? – Tiger in 2001-2002.

What Spieth accomplished a year ago, much less what it led to, will be hard to recapture, but he has the confidence of having done it against a field playing at its peak – and putting is always at a premium at Augusta. When he’s right, he reminds us of that guy who won back in 1986.

Stat: Spieth’s winning total of 18-under was the best since Woods posted that number in 1997. How low will the winner have to go this year?

Will Phil Thrill Again? – Mickelson retooled his swing after a year where his game peaked for majors but rarely for regular tour events.

This year, Phil, save for a second-round flameout at the Farmers, has been consistently in contention leading up to Augusta. We know Phil has the veteran saavy and short game to tame the course, but will his new swing be enough to put him over the top once more?

Phil’s last major victory was the 2013 British Open after a back-nine charge. Will he muster another at age 45 and six years removed from his last Masters win?

Speaking Of Lefties –
Starting with Mike Weir in 2003, half the champions since have been lefties. Tiger-proofing the course made it friendly for left-handers and Phil and Bubba Watson in particular have cashed in. Will Bubba bomb his way around Augusta again and make enough putts to win? He’s been putting well enough that he’s among the favorites again.

Au-Gust-A: Will Weather Determine The Winner? – There’s a bit of rain in the forecast for Thursday and high winds through Saturday. The winds are notoriously baffling at Augusta, which certainly would seem to hand an advantage to players with a longer history here who have seen the course under a range of conditions. Several in the field fit that saavy veteran pedigree (Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, etc.). The player Chris Mayson has in mind will be making his seventh Masters start.

Now onto Chris’s predictions:

I can’t believe it’s Masters time already. It truly signals that summer is right around the corner, and the best players in the world will be hoping that their games are starting to peak or are peaking! It seems that this Masters is a little more up for grabs than past Masters, and I am having a hard time really identifying a true front runner.
Typically Jordan Spieth would be a firm favorite but his form in 2016 has been patchy at best. But a solid tied 13th last week shows his game isn’t far away, and he will be more than determined to defend his crown this week.

Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will be high on everyone’s list, and well they should be. Day has been on a tear the last month and is the new world No. 1, and Rory always seems to play well at Augusta. Bubba Watson loves Augusta too, but he has been hampered with a sinus infection that has haltered his preparations.

There’s a saying on tour that if you want to know who is going to win this week, then look who finished second last week. That was Henrik Stenson, and he has been playing very well of late including a third-place finish at Bay Hill two weeks before. He is certainly trending up and he will be hoping to complete the 3rd-2nd-1st streak. I am not going to pick him, though, because he is not a stellar putter, and that is needed rounded Augusta.

There were many contenders who will be very happy with last week’s work including Phil Mickelson (13th), Rickie Fowler (10th), Patrick Reed (10th), but I am going to go with the man who finished third last week and has been on the cusp of a major championship for some time now…….Dustin Johnson. DJ hits the ball far off the tee, which is a must at Augusta, has silky hands around the green and is an underrated putter. He seems to have a great demeanor to not get flustered, and I feel that Day and McIlroy want this championship too badly. DJ is my pick for the 2016 Masters.

Corey Ross is the Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media at Maderas. He will be live tweeting the Masters two days. Follow @maderasgolf for details.

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Southland: The Story Behind Rickie Fowler’s Hi-Tops

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While the golf world continues to debate whether it’s being ruled by a Big Three or Four, when it comes to fashion and flair, it’s a Big One.

Cobra Puma’s Rickie Fowler has long had the most emulated look on tour amongst fans and in January, he gave them another reason to walk in his shoes – literally.

A hi-top shoe Fowler unveiled at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua proved an instant hit and will now get a chance to back it up in sales when it hits store shelves in June.

But Cobra Puma CEO and President Bob Philion is already counting on the impact of the new IGNITE shoe to be nothing less than major.

“The feedback and response has been tremendous,” Philion said.

With a “perfect-fit” Velcro strap, the shoe recalls the look of an 1980s-90s-ish hi-top basketball shoe, but it’s for the course, not the court. Tour players Keegan Bradly and Michelle Wie have been reported to have worn something similar.

The idea for Rickie’s shoe stemmed from a conversation Philion and Fowler had last year in Japan. Fowler, long an influential voice for Cobra Puma style, expressed an interest in his course style reflecting more of his personal style. He then mentioned he wears high tops off the course.

“He expressed an interest in wearing a hi-top cleated shoe on the course,” Philion said. “The result is the IGNITE hi-top, which we paired with a jogger style pant. We work closely with our Tour players throughout the development and design process to ensure we’re pushing the limits of when it comes to performance and style. That’s very important to us as a brand.”

Cobra Puma Head of Footwear and Accessories Grant Knudson said the media buzz the shoes created at Kapalua coincided with a hugely positive fan response on social media.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it for a shoe,” Knudson said. “The shoes went viral. It was truly lightning in a bottle. It has blown everyone’s expectations away.”

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In its current design, the shoes is in black and white, which is a bit understated given Cobra Puma’s splashy use of pastels. Knudson said color may be incorporated into future designs, but the initial offering will only be black and white.

When the staff projected the target demographics for the shoe, Knudson said ages 12 to 30, Fowler’s usual target, was projected, but the interest has actually trended much older.

Knudson said the shoe was originally thought of fashion over function. The staff discounted older golfers who had lower body instability or injury and see the shoe as having an orthopedic advantage on the course.

“That was something we didn’t foresee,” Knudson said. “People are looking at it as a way to perform better, and it has started a conversation internally of what really is the best shoe for people to wear. This shoe has some excellent potential benefits.”

We’ll all start to learn more when the shoes, which will retail for $200, hit store shelves.
Further stoking the shoe’s popularity and visibility, Knudson said, is Fowler’s continued strong start to the season, which has included a win in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Golf Championship.

Adding a retail victory will only underscore for Knudson that Fowler’s career is soaring on all levels.

Knudson said, “Rickie’s truly at the top of his game right now.”