But on Saturday, a 22-year-old American born on links nothing like what we're seeing in Sandwich was paired with McIlroy, and while most thought Rory would be the one to make a charge, it was the other guy that did, and that same guy that the English fans seemed to embrace.
Rickie Fowler, a kid some think might be the American answer to the McIlroys and Ishikawas of the world, is currently the only man to post a round under par on a day in England that is exactly what you think of when you think of this Open Championship (Ed. Note: Dustin Johnson matched Fowler's round of 68 later in the day). High winds, nasty rain, and conditions that call for a ton of patience, Fowler did exactly what he needed to do to get himself on the first page of this leaderboard and hope that the weather continues to toughen as the leaders are only two shots away from the man with the flat-brimmed cap.
Face it, Fowler winning would be the best case scenario for American golf. A year ago at the Ryder Cup over in Wales, Fowler showed his grit and determination when he birdied the final four holes of his singles match to give the U.S. team a puncher's chance to steal back the cup, and even though it was all for naught, it gave us an idea of this young man's ability to play some golf when the pressure is turned to high.
Saturday showed another side. It showed that even when everyone else seems to be shooting themselves out of contention, including his playing partner who won the last major by a country mile, Fowler can keep his mind on what he's doing, and play in just about any weather.
Hopefully for Rickie, and Americans fans, the winds will continue to blow and the leaders will continue to take steps back to his score of 2-under. If he could snatch the Claret Jug away from some of these veterans, it might show that the new major standard is being 22.
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- Rickie Fowler
- Rory McIlroy