Rickie Fowler used to be known as the guy with the over-the-top bright orange outfits and hats. The 25-year-old now known for a different reason: He’s one of the best golfers in the world — a status he’s trying to enhance by winning his first major Sunday at the PGA Championship.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. He’s Having By Far the Best Year of His Career
It came as no surprise that Fowler was among the leaders heading into the final round Sunday at Valhalla. He’s near the top (though not at the top) of the leaderboard at all three majors this year, and his aggregate of 29-under par at the majors was the best of anyone on tour, including rival Rory McIlroy, who was at 24-under.
After missing the cut at four of the first 10 tournaments Fowler played this year, he entered the best stretch of golf of his career, finishing fifth at the Masters and tied for second at both the U.S. Open and the British Open. He talks about his preparation for majors in an interview at the British Open in the video above.
His eighth-place finish last weekend at the Bridgestone Invitational was his third straight top-10 finish and his fourth straight in the top 15.
2. He’s Toned Down His Wardrobe Significantly
Fowler’s wardrobe is hardly stale and boring. He wore a bright orange shirt Sunday after sporting a purple and white top on Saturday. You’ll rarely see him wearing a plain white shirt and visor.
But Fowler, who used to routinely play decked out in flamboyant colors from head to toe, has made a concerted effort this year to be known more for his golf game than for his wardrobe.
USA Today’s Christine Brennan writes that Fowler expressed his desire to get serious in a phone conversation last December with coach Butch Harmon.
“I want to be known more for my golf than my clothes and my hat,” he said, according to Brennan. “I want to contend in majors.”
3.He’s Part Japanese & His Middle Name Is Yutaka
Fowler’s mom is half Japanese and half Navajo, and Rickie’s middle name — Yutaka — comes from his maternal grandfather, Taka Tanaka.
According to his PGA Tour bio, Fowler’s dad, Rod, owns a trucking company and was once a competitive dirt biker who won the Baja 1000 in 1986 while racing for the Yamaha team.
Rickie himself was a serious dirt biker until an accident he got into when he was a freshman in high school left him with broken bones in his foot.
4. He Played at Oklahoma State & Helped Lead the USA to 2 Walker Cup Titles
Fowler played for one season at Oklahoma State University, where he earned the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman in 2007-08.
Golfweek named Fowler its national player of the year, and he was also named player of the year and newcomer of the year in the Big 12.
5. He Had Been Dating Singer Alexandra Browne
Neither Browne nor Fowler has announced a split, but Browne, once a near-constant presence at tournaments, hasn’t been spotted recently cheering on Fowler, prompting speculation that they’ve split up.