Every comeback success for a PGA Tour star has an inescapable corollary in that another struggling participant shall be shunted into the crosshairs of pitiless commentators who have been beforehand targeted on his now-resurgent peer. For that cause alone, Jordan Spieth ought to face Rickie Fowler a drink once they subsequent meet.
Like all skilled golfers, Fowler is accustomed to criticism. The slings and arrows of Strokes Gained statistics will draw blood from even the perfect, a lot much less somebody fighting swing adjustments who has managed solely 4 prime 20 finishes prior to now yr. But whereas Spieth was scrutinized virtually completely for his on-course efficiency, judgments on Fowler appear much less about play than notion, the chaffing sense amongst golf followers that he is coasting down Easy Street.
Aspects of Fowler’s profession actually deserve auditing, comparable to his swing progress and the period of time he devotes to servicing an apparently countless roster of sponsors. Yet he is well-liked amongst his friends, is unfailingly well mannered with followers, and his stoop hasn’t been accompanied by churlish outbursts. He’s just too vanilla to be polarizing, so it’s odd that it seems to be open season on Fowler for social media criticism.
First, Nick Faldo caustically tweeted that Fowler (who didn’t qualify for the Masters) might as a substitute spend that week capturing extra commercials—an audacious slap given Faldo’s personal Sqairz shoe spot is about as persistent and welcome as a herpetic sore. The unveiling of the Tour’s Player Impact Program, a $40 million slush fund to bonus these deemed to most interact followers and from which Fowler is anticipated to profit, additional fueled grumbling that he is (in Texas parlance) all hat, no cattle.
To his detractors, Fowler enjoys the trimmings of superstardom with out incomes the trophies, his 5 Tour victories offered not as testomony to his expertise or to how troublesome successful is, however as a substitute as proof of his supposed complacency. The harsh sentiment that Fowler receives greater than he earns was heard once more within the wake of stories that the PGA of America has given him a particular invitation to compete on this month’s PGA Championship, an occasion he had not in any other case certified to play.
Yet there’s cause to view Fowler’s exemption into the sphere at Kiawah Island as a constructive improvement, regardless of all of the bellyaching about reputation contests trumping the aggressive integrity of a main.
The composition of the sphere at main championships is all the time problematic—too many knackered outdated warhorses cluttering up the paddock; too many high quality gamers sidelined for a no-hoper who acquired scorching for 36 holes on a moist Monday in Columbus, Ohio; too many slender résumés taking part in because of out-of-the-way qualifiers. Special exemptions into the sphere are significantly fraught. The USGA has granted dozens of free rides into the U.S. Open since Ben Hogan acquired the primary in 1966, however the standards for such an exemption has remained largely unchanged, if unacknowledged.
Rickie Fowler prepares to play his shot from the 14th tee throughout the second spherical of Valero Texas Open. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Special invites to majors sometimes have extra to do with sentimentality than competitiveness, honoring an getting old veteran with a lap of honor. The document books present one outlier: Hale Irwin, who gained the ’90 U.S. Open as an invitee. He was 45 years outdated, a two-time champion within the ‘70s, five years removed from his last victory, in middling form and with a world ranking in the high 90s. Like Hogan and Snead and Palmer before him, Irwin was thought a ceremonial figure when the week began. Of the 34 invites handed out by the USGA since ’90, only one went to a man who might realistically have been thought of aggressive: Michael Campbell, in 2000, a yr throughout which he gained twice abroad.
The two particular invites prolonged for the PGA Championship—to Fowler and John Catlin, an American who has gained 3 times on the European Tour since September—symbolize a welcome break from the ceremonial conference. These aren’t previous champions within the sundown of their careers or males with a nostalgic historical past on the venue. Catlin and Fowler, even together with his present struggles, are each higher bets to contend at Kiawah Island than dozens of gamers already within the discipline. These exemptions acknowledge the fluctuating ebb and move of type amongst still-competitive gamers, and whereas a case could be made for others equally deserving of the free cross, it’s a minimum of a higher use of invitations than letting a now-lame former thoroughbred canter round for a couple of days with no probability of creating the weekend.
The degree of resentment directed at Fowler in all probability gained’t be as a lot in proof subsequent month when Phil Mickelson—at present two spots beneath Fowler on the earth rating—wants a particular invitation to the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The USGA will virtually actually provide him a spot on the occasion that has in some methods outlined his profession, because of his six silver medals. They ought to, and he ought to settle for. It’s an acceptable gesture for a man who bridges sentimentality and competitiveness, a legend who nonetheless has recreation, although in all probability not sufficient to finish the profession grand slam with a U.S. Open win.
Special exemptions into golf’s premier tournaments won’t ever not be contentious, however the one anticipated for Mickelson at age 51 and the one prolonged to Fowler at 32 are defensible strikes. And, within the case of the latter, encouraging even.