When the story on Rickie Fowler’s career is written, the gutsy shot he made on the first hole of a three-way playoff on Sunday afternoon will be one of the chapters.
It could be titled: The Shot.
The 51-degree wedge he plopped onto the 18th green settled about four feet from the cup. The dressed-in-orange-from-head-to-toes then sank the putt to finish off his first PGA Tour victory on American soil, capturing the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C.
“I didn’t want to play it safe,” said Fowler. “I had a good number (133 yards), and I was aiming right of the hole with the wind coming out of the right, and if I hit a perfect shot, it comes down right on the stick. … I hit a perfect shot at the right time, and I was going for it.”
And go for it he did.
The shot of a lifetime so far for the 23-year-old Fowler netted him his first victory in 67 starts on the tour and came on the same course Rory McIlroy won his first tour title two years ago. The playoff included McIlroy and D.A. Points, who had a one-shot led after 71 holes, but bogeyed the 72nd to fall into a tie.
All three players hit terrific drives on the first extra hole. But Points, hitting first off the tee and the fairway, settled in the fringe and had an almost impossible shot at a birdie. Fowler followed with his gem of a shot and McIlroy was slightly off line with his second shot and missed his birdie putt.
The fact both Fowler and McIlroy won their first PGA events at Quail Hollow could be a sign of things to come. They are both 23 years old and could develop a rivalry.
Golf fans around the world would love to see two of the most colorful and outgoing kids go at it the way Nicklaus and Palmer did, the way Woods and Mickelson did.
“I’m looking forward to playing with Rory for a long time,” said Flower, who closed with a 3-under 69. “It’s awesome. It’s a long wait, but well worth it.”
Even though they are the same age, McIlroy has a two-year head start. They were in the Walker Cup together in 2007, and McIlroy turned pro that fall. Fowler didn’t turn pro until two years ago. The only other time Fowler won as a pro was last year at the Korea Open, where he also beat McIlroy.
“I think it was just a matter of time before he won,” McIlroy said. “It seems like this tournament produces first-time winners – Anthony Kim, myself, and now Rickie. It’s great to see. He probably has gone through a little bit of scrutiny and a lot of pressure trying to get that first win. But now that win is out of the way. Hopefully, that will ease the pressure a little bit.”
Webb Simpson, the third-round leader who lives about a mile from the golf course, made a mess of the eighth hole for a bogey and three-putted the 11th to fall back. Back-to-back birdies late in his round kept his hopes alive, and he had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th to join the playoff. It missed and he had a 73 to finish alone in fourth.
Ryan Moore, from Puyallup, Wash., played in the final group with Simpson and didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole. He shot a 2-over 74 and tied for fifth with Lee Westwood (66) and Ben Curtis (67).
Fred Funk birdied the final hole Sunday to beat Tom Lehman by a stroke in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Championship.
With his 16-year-old son Taylor carrying the bag, Funk birdied four of the last five holes to win on the same course where he won the Houston Open in 1992 for the first of his eight victories on the regular tour. He met his second wife, Sharon, at a post-tournament event that year and Sharon was the first person to run onto the green and hug him Sunday.
“It was a storybook-type week,” Funk said.
Tied with Lehman and one hole remaining, Funk hit his approach on No. 18 to within 2 feet. Lehman missed his birdie putt, and Funk tapped in for a 5-under 67 and his seventh victory on the 50-and-over tour and first since the 2010 Tradition. He finished at 14 under.
Lehman closed with a 68. He made three straight birdies on the back nine to build a two-shot lead, but then hit his approach to the par-5 15th over the green and settled for a par. Funk birdied the 15th and made a short birdie putt on the par-3 16th to tie for the lead.
“The whole tournament kind of turned on 15,” Lehman said. “I haven’t been this disappointed after a tournament in a long time.”
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum won the LPGA Tour’s Brazil Cup exhibition event Sunday, closing with a bogey-free 6-under 67 for a four-stroke victory over Taiwan’s Amy Hung.
Phatlum finished at 13-under 133 in the two-day, 30-player tournament at Itanhanga Golf Club. She had five birdies on the front nine to pull away.
“I’m so excited today,” Phatlum said. “I played really well today and I played my own game. I’m just very happy. … I very much liked coming to play here. Everybody was very nice. I love to play here. I will come back here.”
Her brother, Pornpong, caddied for her. He’s also a professional player.
“We just have fun today and my caddie, my brother, he helped me to concentrate,” Phatlum said. “He helped me to focus on my game and kept me in the round.”
Hung shot an 8-under 65, the best round of the event.
“I had done some club change, experimenting with new clubs,” Hung said. “So it was kind of up and down the last few weeks. I didn’t have a lot of time to do that in the offseason. That is something you should do in the offseason, but I was too busy playing tournaments. I probably found something I like this week and I’ll stick with it the rest of the season and hopefully keep shooting low scores like this.”
Paula Creamer eagled the par-5 ninth hole, but gave it back with two bogeys on the back nine and finished with a 69 to tie for third with Chella Choi at 8 under.
“I’ve had a wonderful time,” Creamer said. “I got to do a lot of things that you don’t normally get to do at golf tournaments. Just being able to see the culture. This is my first time in South America, so it’s nice to be able to see a different country and everybody has been really nice, really wonderful here. I’m really looking forward to the Olympics and, hopefully, I’ll be able to come and represent my country.”