When you're 22 years old, people expect you to make mistakes and learn from your experiences. It's part of growing up and becoming an adult, and no matter who you are, everyone goes through this process.
For Rickie Fowler, he's done a lot of growing up since he turned pro back in 2009. In just his second professional tournament, Fowler came within a playoff of winning his first PGA Tour title, an experience many thought would help him not only grow as a player, but also give him the knowledge to close the deal the next time around.
Since that final round in 2009, Fowler has had a number of chances to close out tournaments on Sunday and capture his first win, but every time he's put himself in a position to win, he's fallen flat in the final round.
He had a chance to do it again at the AT&T National, coming into Sunday tied with Nick Watney. Nothing Fowler had done recently made you believe he was ready to win, but given the heartache he'd experience over the last few seasons, you had to think he was ready for a breakout victory. Yet almost on cue, Fowler did what he's been known to do in recent years when put in this situation: He came unglued in the final round, closing with a 4-over 74 to finish eight shots back of Watney.
It'd be silly to question Fowler's game at this point in his career; he was beyond clutch at the 2010 Ryder Cup and has posted his fair share of high finishes. But with a handful of collapses with the lead, you have to wonder if he's ever going to be able to calm the nerves and get his first victory.
While he's still young and has a long career ahead of him, the final-round issues appear to be a problem that isn't going away anytime soon. The law of averages says if he puts himself in this position more often, he should be able to win a tournament.
But until that actually happens, people will continue to question if he has what it takes to be mentioned in the same sentence with Rory McIlroy, Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa, three young stars that all have one thing Fowler doesn't: a professional win.
- Rickie Fowler