Can Rickie Fowler finally buck that first-win monkey?

Shane Bacon
July 3, 2011

It's probably not fair to say that Rickie Fowler, a 22-year-old in just his second full season on the PGA Tour, is in desperate need of a win, but the only person you can really blame for that is Fowler himself.

The man with the monochromatic outfits and dreamy golf swing might look like a kid most of the time (remember when he got in trouble for wearing his hat backwards?), but the expectations he brought on tour, when in just his second start as a pro on the PGA Tour found Fowler in a playoff, are extremely veteran. People have wondered this year if Rickie had the stuff  to close, and as we saw with Rory McIlroy at Augusta National, holding a lead at a big event isn't the easiest. But McIlroy was able to buck that just a few months later, taking home his first major championship, and while the AT&T National isn't exactly the U.S. Open, it would mean a lot for American golf.

Face it, the youth of American golf is starting to resemble the American men's tennis scene; a lot of names but not a lot of results. Fowler is the United States future in golf, and while we keep seeing names like McIlroy, Ishikawa and Manassero making waves on different continents, Fowler has sputtered on this one.

But that could change on Sunday if Fowler could maintain what he's done for three days at Aronimink. Tied for the lead, Fowler won't exactly be fending off no names like he did at that 2009 Open in Arizona. Rickie is tied with Nick Watney, and has the likes of K.J. Choi, Steve Marino and Webb Simpson chasing him in what is set up to be one of the more dramatic finishes in 2011 (and remember, this year can best be described as one big playoff).

Hopefully Fowler can win. It'll soften all the talk on when he's going to breakthrough, and it'll help him get past that first one and on to bigger and better things. Remember, this is a kid that birdied his last four holes at the Ryder Cup to give the United States a fighting chance, so he isn't exactly the type to wilt under pressure.

If he wins, it'll put American golf back on the map, and give us someone to put with those other names above.