Besides a killer instinct, what's most impressive about Fowler is how unfazed he is by his accomplishments, the hype, the courses and, well, everything. As a youngster he competed in dirt-bike competitions, jumping large chunks of real estate in fearless bounds. After that, golf must seem tame.
"In junior events and in college, Rickie always stepped it up when he came up to 9 or 18 with a big crowd," says his dad, Rod. "That's the Supercross in him. He doesn't fold under pressure. He responds, and that's what is going to make the difference for him down the road. He played with Phil Mickelson in San Diego, and it didn't faze him. He acted as if he was out there playing with me."
Though family friend Jeremy McGrath, a Supercross legend, predicted that Fowler had the potential to be a top racer, Rickie turned exclusively to golf before high school after a wreck in which he broke his right foot in three places.
"There's no comparison between golf and Supercross," Rod says. "For one thing, Dad doesn't have to worry, Is this the day my son gets paralyzed and hauled off in an ambulance? You're going to get hurt in motocross. And if you win a premier-class race, you get $10,000. The risk and reward isn't worth it. I'm so glad he chose golf."
• England is the new Australia.
We marveled at the Aussie invasion when more than 20 Australians were playing on the Tour a few years ago. Now the pendulum has swung to England. The trend was showcased when Ian Poulter beat Paul Casey in the all-English final of the Accenture Match Play Championship. Lee Westwood, Poulter and Casey hold down the Nos. 4 through 6 spots in the World Ranking, and at 34, Poulter, in particular, is hitting his stride.
Previously best known for brash statements and loud slacks, Poulter followed up the grueling, six-round Match Play with a second-round 63 at TPC Scottsdale that put him into contention. "It's very hard to win such a big tournament and get back up to play well the following week," says Poulter, who finished 24th in Scottsdale. "Obviously, 108 holes is going to take a toll."
The days of Westwood having to carry the flag for England are over. The current tally of players among the top 100 in the World Ranking? England 10, Australia eight. Well done, lads.
• The new Phil Mickelson is the old Phil Mickelson.
With Tiger out, many people thought Phil would step up, especially after his strong finish last fall, when NBC analyst Johnny Miller predicted that Lefty would most likely be the 2010 player of the year. Not so far. Phil's only move has been dropping from second to third in the World Ranking after Steve Stricker zoomed past him with a victory at the Northern Trust Open.