Ryder Cup 2014: Rickie Fowler’s 'USA' frat-boy cut brings ‘Happy Gilmore’ to Highlands

Californian arrives at Gleneagles with ‘USA’ shaved into the side of his head in a reminder of previous American antics

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The Independent Online

Rickie Fowler still insists on spending the final day of any major tournament dressed in the luminous orange of an Easyjet cabin assistant, in honour of his beloved alma mater, Oklahoma State University, so no one has been overly shocked that he is set to walk the greens and fairways of Gleneagles with the most frat-boyish haircut in all of Ryder Cup history.

The letters “USA” have been shaved in large letters stretching up from the nape of his neck and around over his right ear, which is not merely the name of his country but also the full lyrics to its most famous sporting chant.

Cries of “USA, USA,” will doubtless follow 25-year-old Fowler wherever he goes this week, while the European crowd will hope as little opportunity as possible is given to the visiting side to indulge in what is probably best described as “American-style” behaviour.

When asked about such pressing matters as Fowler’s rather aggressive hairstyle, the United States captain, Tom Watson, said he “thought it was terrific” even though he might very well be the least likely player in all of golf to have done such a thing himself.

“It brings a spirit, a light spirit to the team,” Watson added.

 

 Three days before the Ryder Cup gets under way, the Americans are already demonstrably a team, having arrived en masse and posed for the customary picture on the airplane steps. Europe’s players are arriving individually, from Northern Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany and many from America.

The US have been given precious little to cheer about in the last decade and a half of the Ryder Cup, no small relief to the sport’s traditionalists.

Many fans who witnessed the scenes at Brookline in 1999 still have not forgiven the Americans for the incident on the 17th green, when the whole team stampeded forward, whooping and hollering through Jose Maria Olazabal’s line in premature celebration of a remarkable comeback win that had not yet been actually secured. The BBC’s venerable commentator Alistair Cooke called it a “date that will live in infamy” as “the arrival of the golf  hooligan” – and that  biting assessment does not even consider the maroon graphic-printed polo shirts that were no less of an atrocity at the time than history has rendered them.

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Rory McIlory says Fowler could be Team USA's talisman

The whole point of the cult Adam Sandler golfing comedy Happy Gilmore was that here was an uncouth animal upsetting the golfing fraternity with his common man behaviour, an irony seemingly lost on Boo Weekley when he put his driver between his legs and did the Happy Gilmore “bull dance” down the fairway at Valhalla in 2008.

Watson’s men are considered underdogs for the competition, with many of those currently shining brightest in the golfing firmament – Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose – lined up in Paul McGinley’s European side. But Europe’s traditional talisman Ian Poulter comes into the tournament in poor form, and the absence from the US side of Tiger Woods, who has a strong tendency to underwhelm at the Ryder Cup, may well prove a blessing that can no longer be claimed even to be in disguise.

“On paper we’re underdogs, but the spirit of this team is anything but. I believe that we can win,” Watson said.

“It’s a culmination of two years since I was asked to be captain and now here we are with the team in place and looking forward to some very spirited matches with Paul’s European team.

“One of the things about the Ryder Cup is that it brings so many people in the world of golf together. It is one of the major events of golf and to be here and be a part of it is a wonderful experience already.”

Even without the haircut, the in-form Fowler would have been one of the few players on the American side who could have rivalled McIlroy, the world No 1, as the centre of attention at Gleneagles.

It would be dangerous to read too much into three letters shaved up the side of his head, but they do lend an already fearless and possibly slightly arrogant young golfer the air of a man unafraid to upset, neither the sensibilities of golfing purists, nor the European team itself.

If the Ryder Cup engravers are to write in miniature on the side of the famous trophy on Sunday the same as Fowler’s barbers have done on his head, America’s bright young thing will probably have had much to do with it.

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