Fowler finds the right place for 1st PGA tour win

Associated Press Published: May 7, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Rickie Fowler kept telling anyone who would listen that his first PGA Tour win was coming soon.

Considering the location, it made perfect sense.

Quail Hollow is where Anthony Kim, fearless at age 22, won by five shots in 2008 for his first tour victory in 2008. It's where Rory McIlroy, a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland projected for greatness, set the course record with a 62 in the final round two years ago to capture his first U.S. win.

Perhaps another star was born at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Fowler, a 23-year-old from California, lived up his hype in a big way Sunday. Since turning pro 2 1/2 years ago, Fowler has scored little more than style points with his mop-top hair, the flat-billed cap he wears backward in interviews, his head-to-toe orange that has become his trademark in the final round and impeccable manners that has made him a favorite among fans and his peers.

He added plenty of substance in a playoff packed with pressure and a budding rival in McIlroy.

From 133 yards to a pin so scary that the 18th hole had yielded only four birdies all day, Fowler took dead aim with a 51-degree wedge. Anything less than perfect, and his ball could have come up short and rolled toward the tiny stream left of the green. But this was no time to play it safe.

"If I don't have a little bit of help or don't hit it perfectly, then I land short and I'm in the creek," Fowler said. "But playing against those two guys, I know that they're going to make birdie at some point. And I don't want to sit there and try and make pars and stay in it. I had a good number, and I wanted to make birdie."

That he did, watching his wedge land just short of the flag and spin to the left about 4 feet away.

D.A. Points, whose first bogey in 41 holes made the three-man playoff possible, went long and did well to two-putt from par, the second putt from 12 feet. McIlroy, who drilled a 3-wood nearly 340 yards and was last to hit, didn't turn his wedge enough with the wind and was left with a difficult birdie putt from about 25 feet. He ran it 5 feet by the hole and made that for par.

Fowler, who switched to a cross-handed grip last week at New Orleans, calmly sank the birdie putt for the win.

"Told you it was coming," he said as he settled into his seat for his press conference.

He was smiling. Fowler does that a lot, even during the 32 months and 66 starts on the PGA Tour as a pro without a win.

This wasn't easy, and Fowler never expected it to be that way. He closed with a 3-under 69, but had reason to believe this would be just another close call. With the outright lead after a birdie on the 15th, he went bunker-to-bunker on the next hole — the second shot in a plugged lie — and missed a 10-foot putt to take bogey.

And then, as he had done so often in his career, he had to wait.

In the group behind, McIlroy also stumbled. He went long of the green on the 17th and missed a difficult 8-foot par putt to fall one shot behind. Points, the 35-year-old playing with McIlroy, took a one-shot lead to the 18th. He was the only player who had not made a bogey. Timing in this game is everything.