Colorful Fowler creeping up on major title


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PINEHURST, N.C.

The Rickie Fowler contingent was out in full-throated force for the final-round pairing, hooting and hollering for their tangerine-clad hero while giving Germany's Martin Kaymer the red-white-and-rude American treatment. So much for southern hospitality.

If Fowler so much as adjusted his flat-brimmed Puma cap that always looks two sizes too big, the crowd at Pinehurst No. 2 cooed. When he made a two-putt birdie at the par-4 fifth, one hole after a disastrous double bogey sabotaged his chances, the gallery acted as though he discovered radium.

None of it, though, affected Kaymer, who is as unflappable as the guards at Buckingham Palace.

He continued to march on, oblivious to the occasional cheers when his ball one-hopped into the scruffy waste area, as it did at No. 2, or trickled back off the green at No. 4 after a superb shot from the stuff, as Kaymer likes to call it. It wasn't the Ryder Cup, but it wasn't exactly the welcome wagon, either.

"It was probably the toughest day I played golf," Kaymer said. "You have two or three Americans chasing you, it's never easy being a foreigner."

The infatuation with Fowler, 25, is understandable. He is young, likeable and does well with the fans, especially kids. But it is also marketing at its finest. His bright, bold colors have made Puma, the apparel company he endorses, one of the leading clothing lines in the industry. He also endorses Rolex and Crowne Plaza hotels.

And he has one PGA Tour victory.

One.

Johnny Miller pointed this out Saturday in the telecast of the U.S. Open, saying Fowler has been "really good for the game" and has a "great attitude toward people."

Then Miller added, "But so far it's been big hat, no cattle."

Or, as Beano Cook once said about a former Pitt athletic director, "All hat, no cowboy."

Nobody really expected Fowler, or anyone, to catch Kaymer Sunday, and nobody did. He won his second major championship by eight shots and became the eighth player in history to win the U.S. Open by leading after every round.

But this was a good chance for Fowler to take a big step on the national stage, put some cattle in that hat, make those colors stand out even more, and he didn't do it.

He began the week wearing knickers to honor his hero, Payne Stewart, and he ended it getting his socks knocked off.

That's OK, Fowler said. He can learn from what he saw in the way Kaymer accomplished his dominating victory.

"You look at him and see how much in control he was with his golf game, it pushes me to do that," Fowler said. "I wasn't that far off."

Fowler is getting closer.

He shot a final-round 72 and ended up tied for second, his best finish in 17 major championship appearances. That it came on the heels of a fifth-place finish in the Masters is proof that the swing changes he has been making with Butch Harmon are beginning to prove beneficial.

"You look at Bubba [Watson] with two green jackets, I want to be in that position at some point," Fowler said. "It's going to happen. Working with Butch and getting ready for the Masters and getting ready for majors, we accomplished our goal. We're going to keep progressing. It's only a matter of time."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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