Rickie Fowler aware of European threat at The Open

Click to follow
The Independent Online

American Rickie Fowler admits the form of Europe's golfers has given him and his compatriots a "kick in the butt" with Rory McIlroy's US Open win last month only adding to their difficulties.

The 22-year-old's career shares numerous similarities with that of golf's newest superstar but he falls well short when it comes to success.

McIlroy claimed his first major title, and third professional victory, in some style at Congressional a month ago.

The Northern Irishman racked up Europe's third major win in five events, during which time the United States has not been in the most elite of winners' circles.

America's last major champion was Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters and that drought, coupled with their loss of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor - which Fowler was involved in, has left those Stateside with much catching up to do.

Fowler will get the chance to do his bit for the Stars and Stripes when he tees off with McIlroy and three-time major winner Ernie Els tomorrow in the marquee group of the first two rounds of the Open at Royal St George's.

And he is hoping some of the Northern Irishman's stardust will rub off on him as his highest finish in the six majors he has played was 14th in last year's Open at St Andrews.

"I would like to match him at some point. It is a good friendly rivalry we have," the 22-year-old told Press Association Sport.

"We are good buddies, we enjoy being around each other but at the end of the day we are both trying to push each other and beat each other and that is good.

"He is pushing me to play my best and work on my game and obviously I hope I can catch up to him.

"It is pretty cool on my part to be compared to him. We are the same age, have similar playing styles as we are both fairly aggressive and have fun on the course and hopefully we can play for a long time together.

"The Europeans are definitely playing well right now. They have a lot of the top players in the world and they are winning tournaments and in a way that is just motivating us Americans to step up and play better golf.

"They are playing better than us, have more wins and more majors in the last few years so that is kind of a kick in the butt to get us into gear.

"There is a rivalry but it is more friendly than people think. The last night of the Ryder Cup we were all hanging out after they beat us."

In many ways Fowler can be regarded as America's equivalent of McIlroy.

They are both the same age and were in opposing Walker Cup teams in 2007, with Fowler triumphing over his rival in the Sunday morning foursomes.

McIlroy turned professional immediately afterwards but Fowler played in another Walker Cup two years later before leaving the amateur ranks.

Their paths crossed again as Ryder Cup rookies last year when this time the Northern Irishman finished on the winning team, although Fowler controversially won the Rookie of the Year award over his European counterpart.

Fowler is regarded as being the leader of the next generation of American stars, a pressure he admits he has to take in his stride.

"It comes along with the territory if I want to become one of the best players in the world," he added.

"There are a lot of great young players in the US from the ages of 16 to 30.

"We have a good group of players so hopefully we can pick it up and get the Americans back up where we want to be."