Rickie Fowler is finally 'the next Tiger'

Sorry Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, Rory McIlroy, Charles Howell III, Casey Wittenberg and Chris Wood. Nice try Adam Scott, Michael Sim, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. You guys aren't going to be it. The title of "The next Tiger Woods" has been floating around ever since that blistering 2000 season, when Woods won three majors and showed everyone that he is, literally, the man. That was the year people started asking who would come next, if anybody.

It took 10 years to find him, but he's that fella there to the right. Yep, the one in the oversized hat and the orange slickers, just 21 fresh years of age and with a golf game good enough to be dominant. On Sunday at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, Fowler came a shot short of making his second playoff on the PGA Tour in just nine starts. And he has now finished in the top-10 four times in nine tournaments.

Fowler needed just two tournaments to make his first PGA Tour playoff. Tiger needed five. While that might be the last of the points toward Fowler, it has been too long since we've seen a kid come out and dominate like this so early in his PGA Tour tenure.

His checklist is very Tiger-y.

-- Swagger? Check.

-- Flair? Check.

-- A game that rarely falters? Check.

-- The ability to command the attention of a tournament at such a young age? Check.

Maybe the only difference in Fowler and Woods came at the 15th on Sunday, when Rickie stood 231 yards out on a par-5, needing a birdie.

He elected to lay up, made par, and lost by one. It is situations like that have been all too regular for the flashy young players, but listening to Fowler after the round, it seemed like a pretty legit move.

"I felt that instead of bringing trouble into play, in a way which a lot of times I don't play, I took the safe route, easy lay-up, and like I said, I had an easy wedge shot with soft greens. I just hit it a little soft."

OK, so rag on him if you want (which I did), and say Tiger would never pass up on an eagle there, but if Fowler believed his best chance of making birdie was with a wedge, you can't fault him for being consistent. Maybe in a different situation, he rips a 3-iron at the green and makes a three and wins by a shot, just like Tiger, but it is early in his PGA Tour career and he has yet another second place finish to his name.

If he continues to put himself in these situations, he will be a PGA Tour winner in 2010 and the hottest thing on tour since Woods brought red to Sunday. If there is a player out there with all the intangibles to win a lot so early in his career, it has to be Fowler.

His goal was to make the Ryder Cup this season. If he keeps this up, I don't see a way that doesn't happen. Would you pass up on a youngster with flair and showmanship and miles and miles of game to represent your country? I sure wouldn't.

Who would have thought that the next Tiger would be hiding under a hat big enough for Dana Stubblefield?

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