Rickie Fowler hit his straps a year too late. Had he enjoyed in 2013 the major form he showed last year, he and not Rory McIlroy would be the young totem against whom all are measured.
Fowler’s lowest finish in a major in 2014 was fifth, at the Masters in April. He was runner-up to Martin Kaymer at the US Open and to McIlroy at the Open before signing off with a third-place finish, again behind McIlroy, at the PGA Championship.
Having elected to begin his year in Abu Dhabi, he finds himself again anchored to McIlroy’s tail for the opening two days at the HSBC Champions tournament, going out in a three-ball also featuring Matteo Manassero.
As an invited member of the PGA Tour, Fowler is being paid handsomely for the privilege of being paired with the world No 1, which promotes tolerance when invited to compare himself with McIlroy.
“He has strengths that maybe outweigh mine. At times when he is on top of his driving game, he is very tough to beat. When he does that, I think it frees up a lot of the rest of his game to go and play some fairly effortless golf.”
Fowler’s two professional victories have come at McIlroy’s expense, however, and the American added: “I don’t feel like my game is any weaker than his. We’ve had some great battles and he just happened to come out on top a few more times than me.”Reuse content