PGA Tour Confidential: Billy Horschel wins Zurich Classic

Rickie Fowler
Gerald Herbert / AP
Rickie Fowler tied for 32nd at the Zurich Classic.

Next week the Tour returns to Quail Hollow, where one year ago Rickie Fowler beat Rory McIlroy in a playoff for his lone PGA Tour title. Would you characterize Fowler's career to this point as a success or disappointment? Does he have what it takes to reach No. 1 someday? What about the top five?

Bamberger: Rickie's career is a huge, unbelievable success. His skill in golf means he doesn't have to have a real job. He's the envy of the free world.

Shipnuck: It's been an okay career. Fowler has surely benefited financially by all the hype that greeted his arrival on Tour but it has also created outsized expectations for this diminutive fellow. He simply doesn't have enough firepower to be a dominant golfer, and yet he's not precise or gritty enough to grind out a bunch of victories like a Corey Pavin or Justin Leonard. He'll win a few more tournaments but I doubt he's ever gonna be a permanent fixture in the top 5.

Ritter: I remember watching that playoff last year at Quail Hollow and thinking that Rickie and Rory were heading for many more Sunday showdowns and semi-permanent places in the top 10. For Rory, it all clicked soon after, but Rickie has sort of stalled. His career has been fine; he's become one of the most popular players on Tour, but I still expected a little more. Of course, there's still plenty of time.

Reiterman: He's got a win at Quail Hollow and a Ryder Cup under his belt at 24 -- that's pretty damn good. But he still makes too many big numbers to contend on a regular basis, let alone get to the top of the rankings. He's also been making a few swing changes to take pressure off his back, so he still has a ways to go before we can put him up there with the big guns.

Godich: Fowler has been a disappointment. What's most amazing is the way he continues to tease us -- at the 2010 Ryder Cup and just a couple of weeks ago at Augusta, just to cite two examples. No. 1 in the world? Let's first see if he can pull even with Jason Bohn on the PGA Tour career victory list.

Gorant: Great success. He's become one of the most recognizable figures in the game, beloved by young fans and has had a lot of success. No. 1, who knows? Tiger's not going anywhere any time soon. Rickie's a little dude and unlike Rory he has a swing that puts a lot of strain on his body.

Morfit: I would characterize his career as tantalizing while rarely actually delivering, but the kid is so young. We got spoiled with Tiger and to some extent Rory.

Passov: So far, Rickie's results are a disappointment. He was one of the best collegiate players, a Walker Cupper, great rookie season -- very high expectations. He doesn't even seem to contend as often as he did in his early days on Tour. Yet, watching him interact with the fans and sign every last autograph, pose for every last iPhone photo on Tuesday and Wednesday, I'm finding it tough to be too critical.

This week the Champions Tour played its annual Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, which began in 1978 and essentially launched the Senior Tour. Bernhard Langer is on fire this year and Rocco Mediate has brought some light moments, but the Champions Tour is still mostly operates outside golf's spotlight. What can the senior circuit to do generate more buzz?

Gorant: Nothing, and it shouldn't try. It appeals to a certain audience and set of sponsors that are loyal and which make it a successful venture. Not everything needs buzz.

Morfit: They could join forces with the LPGA and revive the old JC Penney mixed-team classic. But they'd maybe have to tweak the rules a bit to add a Champions vs. LPGA component.

Shipnuck: Nothing. If it went away tomorrow most golf fans wouldn't even notice, and nobody would mourn its demise. Like Norman and Faldo, Vijay doesn't want to play the Senior Tour, and neither will Phil or Tiger when they turn 50, if the tour even exists then. It's a niche of a niche of a niche.

Reiterman: As we've noted many times, it's hard to get too excited about a niche within a niche sport. Like hockey, there's no doubt the Champions Tour is better in person. The guys still have plenty of game, and they're incredibly fan-friendly. But it's hard to make that exciting for viewers at home.

Bamberger: I don't know, but I love the Legends event. If you can go, you should go. Whatever they are doing in Savannah should be attempted elsewhere. It's way better in person. Any fan can pretty much talk to any player, and the players, some of them, are legends.

Passov: I used to think I'd watch if they held events on golf courses that I really wanted to see, but I don't even make their Pebble Beach event Must-See TV. It needs superstars and rivalries. The latter is tough to envision, as the old-timers just want to play and cash checks, not prove any points. Maybe it's time for a Senior Ryder Cup.

 

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