Always Be Yourself, Just Like Rickie Fowler

Be aggressive. Go for it. Hit it as hard as you can, find it, and hit it again. They're all the cliches that a lot of golf fans want in their tour trotting heroes. It was the bravado of Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer and, today, of Phil Mickelson that intrigues fans. In the face of so many challenges on a golf course that make most amateurs reach for their Uroclub, these pros pee instead into the wind and go for broke.

Rickie Fowler is a player who has shown as much aggression as these players in his brief professional career. Though the sample size is very small, Fowler has clearly demonstrated bravado's modern cousin, swagger. That is until Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Fowler put his tee ball on the par 5 15th hole into the fairway. Faced with around a 230-yard carry over a pond guarding short and far left of the green, Fowler chose to test his wedge game. He laid up. Fans shudder at the notion. The wunderkin was playing to his strengths, though. Getting a number between 75 and 100 yards to the hole, Fowler is 24th on the Tour in proximity to the pin. Between 225 and 250 yards? 157th.

Odds are that Fowler didn't categorically know where he stood in those categories, but years of experience clearly told him that going for it was not the prudent play. That's not what the golf fan wants to hear. It's the perfect kind of fodder for golf writers and commentators to question. Particularly since Fowler went on to lose the tournament by a shot to Hunter Mahan, the question becomes even juicier: how come the guy dressed like a safety cone on Sunday stopped himself in the crosswalk?

The answer is the same reason that he would be aggressive any other time. It's because Fowler felt most comfortable playing to his strengths. Mickelson is a risk taker because his short game can often bail him out of jail. Palmer and Snead, too, believed in the power of their short games to get them out of trouble. Fowler believed on 15 that his short game was the better option that the long game.

So he turned out to be wrong? What about an of the other shots he struck throughout the week? How come he didn't eagle 17 like Lee Janzen? What a goof.

Rickie Fowler is (a) too good and (b) too young to have his methods questioned at 21-years-old.

Surely golf fans were pestered by Tiger Woods' opening 40 in the 1997 Masters. Then he got his act together, smashed Augusta National's second nine in 30, and ruined the Vegas odds for the Masters until at least 2020. That's not to say that Fowler and the Phoenix Open are anything like Woods and the Masters. They're completely different situations, but had Woods questioned himself after the ninth on that Thursday, Woods probably never would have broken through on the back nine, intimidated Colin Montgomerie into an awful third round, and cruised to victory.

Rickie Fowler might not pan out to be Tiger Woods, but he at least deserves the respect to not question a single decision out of 266 over the course of a week. Save that kind of second guessing for when Fowler stands on the 18th at Winged Foot with a driver in his hand. Quite frankly, the safe play would have served Mickelson a lot better that day. He could have taken a page from Fowler, played that hole like a par five, and would not be Snakebitten, Jr. in USGA lore.

Phil was himself, though. People are still questioning that move. It can't help that Mickelson has not won a major since, though he did further cement himself as Lil Snead at Bethpage last summer.

Fowler was himself on a much smaller stage. It proved not to result in a title, but it gave him more experience at the doorstep. The experience of being there — again, at age 21 — is invaluable. Also, it is inevitable that Fowler will not only win on the PGA Tour soon, but he may well also assail the claims of any pro in his cohort that would like for you to believe that they are the future of the sport.

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