Rickie Fowler was in Soho last week, a cellphone pressed to his ear as he made his way up a sidewalk on Broadway. In a neighborhood where Kim Kardashian owns a clothing store and Will Smith recently shot the third installment of the Men in Black movie franchise, Fowler looked at ease leading an entourage of Puma Golf employees on one of New York's most famous thoroughfares.
Fowler was making a pit stop at Soho's Drive 495 a high-performance golf and fitness club as part of a day with Puma Golf that included picking out his outfits for the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. He did a photo shoot, took a break for lunch and chipped balls covered in paint against three white canvases that will serve as prizes for his ever-growing fan base.
Fowler also sat down to talk about his fashion sense, his Masters hat controversy, competing in the U.S. Open, and his plan to be more than just the face of American golf.
You can't go to a PGA Tour event without seeing youngsters in the gallery sporting your Puma golf hats. I saw them all over Bay Hill and Quail Hollow. Have you always been fashion conscious?
Throughout high school and going into high school, I liked standing out a little bit. I was conscious of what I was wearing. I was aware that some of the stuff I was wearing was different. I wasn't trying to be cocky. I just wanted to wear stuff that I liked. When Puma came along when I was turning pro, it was a perfect match. I wasn't trying to be identified by wearing certain things, it just fell that way.
Did you come up with the color schemes?
Starting out, I brought the orange in. [Fowler went to Oklahoma State]. I wanted to wear orange. Then [Puma] gave me the clothes, and I put together outfits. Now, we're working more in-depth. I have some input while they're designing some stuff. Do I like it? Do I like the way it fits? Ultimately, I get to pick what I want to wear.
You took some heat for wearing your hat backwards at your Masters press conference. What happened?
I'll follow any rule they put down at Augusta. Augusta is Augusta. It was my first Masters. I walked into the media center and took my hat off. Some of the media guys walked in and had hats on. Most of the time in a media center, it's relaxed. Nowadays hats are big with sponsors [The back of Fowler's hats say RickieFowler.com] so I grabbed my hat and put it on. I always wear my hat backwards. That way people can see my face. I went ahead and did it and Mr. [Ron] Townsend [of Augusta National] reached over and turned it around. A couple articles came out and said he asked me once and I declined. Like I'm going to say no to an Augusta National member? I don't want people to get the wrong impression of me. I don't want people to think I'm cocky because of the way I dress. I'll keep following any of those rules at Augusta.
How do you balance spending time with the companies you represent with practicing and playing? It seems like a lot for a young player to juggle.
Time management is probably the biggest thing I've had to learn to deal with being on the PGA Tour, whether it be media or figuring out how many weeks to play in a row. That's been the biggest adjustment, coming from amateur and college golf. I never played a bunch of tournaments in a row or 30 tournaments in a year. It's about figuring out what's best for yourself. I can't go off of someone else's time schedule.
You've had some high finishes and a great Ryder Cup, but there is a lot of talk about you getting your first win. How much are you burning to get that taken care of?
Getting the first one out of the way is going to be big. I'm hoping once the first one is out of the way I'll have a lot more confidence and be really comfortable in the situation and hopefully get out and win multiple times. I've been a pro for about 20 months now. I was supposed to be finishing up my last year of school [Fowler left Oklahoma State after two years], so it's not like we're behind track or anything like that. I really want the first win bad, but I just have to stay patient.
Do you think people mistake your loud outfits as indicating that you're a guy who just wants to be cool instead of a guy who wants to be great like Tiger or Jack?
I don't want to be just known for the way I dress. I want to be known for how I play, how I treat people, and how I am as a role model. I don't just want to be, "He dresses cool" or "He dresses crazy." You're going to have lovers and haters. I want my golf game to be the main thing. We have some work to get there, but we're going in the right direction.
Does your game fit the U.S. Open? Can you be patient enough?
It fits my game really well. [Fowler made the cut as an amateur at Torrey Pines in 2008.] My game's in really good form right now. Going into the Open, a lot of it's survival. You're going to make bogeys. Hopefully get some birdies going, minimal bogeys. Over the last two to four years I've gotten smarter about how to play. That'll definitely help me in the Open. I feel like I'll have control over it. Fairways, middle of the green, two putts and move on. Pars are going to be key, sneak a few birdies, and hang on until Sunday.
Your pal Bubba Watson took some heat for saying he did not want to be the face of American golf. What's your take on being the face of American golf?
Bubba was just saying it's going to be tough to be "that guy" just because there are so many guys. The competition is deep. You're seeing guys like Dustin Johnson and Anthony Kim, guys who can jump out and win five tournaments in a year. I'd love it. My ultimate goal is to be the best player in the world. If I'm the best player in the world, I'll be the face of American golf. It will come with the territory. That's where I want to be. If I want to be there, I have a lot of guys I have to beat out, in the U.S. and the world.