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The Zach Johnson Foundation pro-am has drawn big names in the past — Jordan Spieth the biggest — but the reigning British Open champion is out doing himself in 2016.
This year, Johnson is bringing in arguably the biggest personality in golf, and after Dustin Johnson picked up a victory at the U.S. Open, the best golfer in the world without a major title in the trophy case. Rickie Fowler, the jogger wearing, backward hat toting, Puma sponsored, and now two-time Zach Johnson Foundation tournament competitor is among the headliners at Johnson’s star-studded pro-am.
Like Ken Griffey Jr. did in baseball, Fowler, an Oklahoma State alum who proudly sports his Cowboy orange, took criticism for wearing his hat backward. The habit was corrected at the 2011 Masters and, though his clothes still flash bright colors and patterns, Fowler now conforms to the norm as far as his hat is concerned.
“I always wear my hat backward. That way people can see my face,” Fowler told golf.com in 2011. “I went ahead and did it and Mr. (Ron) Townsend (of Augusta National) reached over and turned it around.”
He may have to compete with Iowa men’s basketball assistant coach Sherman Dillard for both the tournament victory and the title of sharpest wardrobe on the links.
The tournament also will include Spieth, Jim Furyk and several members of the LPGA Tour, but Fowler’s appearance in the tournament will help drum up more interest. Spieth has appeared in the pro-am the past two years and has played in the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities.
Fowler is ranked No. 6 in the world, behind the likes of Rory McIlroy, Spieth and Jason Day — good company to be in. He was also the 2010 rookie of the year on the PGA Tour.
He’s shown, however, his personality is one of the biggest in the game. Fowler and fellow PGA Tour player Danny Lee have been engaged in a prank war since September 2015, with Fowler most recently filling Lee’s shoes with shaving cream.
He’s also starred in music videos with other tour pros as a member of The Golf Boys.
He’s been described by Golf Digest as a good businessman with the know-how to build his personal brand beyond his signature flat bill cap and into that of a competitive golfer.
According to Golf Digest, after missing the cut at the 2013 British Open, Fowler sought Butch Harmon, swing coach to Greg Norman and Tiger Woods among others, to be his swing coach despite Harmon, then 70, wanting to cut back the stable.
Harmon was the first coach Fowler worked with after the death of Barry McDonnell, Fowler’s first coach, in 2011.
“There is literally not one person on tour who has a bad thing to say about him,” Jim MacKay, Phil Mickelson’s caddie, said in the same Golf Digest story.
Fowler certainly brings a swagger with him on tour. He repeatedly ranks among the most popular players on tour with results to back up his popularity.
His first sport was motocross — if not completely, at least close to the polar opposite of golf.
“That’s the ultimate question: What is ‘It?’ Rickie has ‘It,’” Cobra-Puma Golf President Bob Philion told the Associated Press in 2012.
The “it” factor might be the clothes, the hair or the way he carefully manages himself, but whatever “it” is, it has been absent so far this year.
The 2016 season has been a rough one for Fowler. He missed the cut at the Masters and U.S. Open. He shot a 76 in the first round of the U.S. Open, with six bogeys and a double bogey. U.S. Open included, Fowler has missed the cut at his last three events. He’s been in the top 10 just six times in 15 events, and been cut from five tournaments this year.
“The difference in being four, five and six-over, (compared to) eight, nine, 10? That’s nothing. It’s a very fine line,” Fowler told Fox Sports after missing the cut at the U.S. Open. “I’m going to start making putts, but the biggest thing is to start driving it better.”
With two majors still to play and a long golf season ahead, Fowler has time to get his game figured out, though his fans may not see him in the Olympics over concerns about the Zika virus.
Fowler is undoubtedly still a talented golfer.
No stranger to charity tournaments, Fowler aced a shot at the Els for Autism Foundation pro-am that spurned a $1 million donation from software maker SAP.
He’ll have an opportunity to do many things at Johnson’s pro-am, including play for charity and dial in his game — all for a good cause.
The $1 Million Shot For Autism. pic.twitter.com/rY9hhcZBXF— MyGolfSpy (@MyGolfSpy) March 8, 2016