Rickie Fowler’s clever reason for etching lines on his driver face

Rickie Fowler driver face

Fowler added lines to the face of his Darkspeed LS driver with a Sharpie.

Ryan Barath/GOLF

Rickie Fowler enjoyed a career resurgence last season that culminated with a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic — his first Tour title since 2019 — and spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. While Fowler’s career has experienced some ups and downs, one constant has been his relationship with Cobra-Puma which dates to 2009 when he turned pro.

Earlier this week at the WM Phoenix Open, GOLF.com caught up with Fowler to discuss his recent work with Cobra reps on the Darkspeed driver, adding lines to the face, popular putters and brand loyalty.

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GOLF: I heard you moved into Cobra’s Darkspeed LS driver in the last week. What pushed it over the top during testing?

Rickie Fowler: I had a couple other heads that I tried in tournament play. First one I tried at Tiger’s event after a couple rounds of testing. It was close but would see some drives come out that didn’t really feel like that.

So then you start making some questionable swings. So went back to the drawing board. Did some more testing. Had another on in at American Express. Was close, same thing. So did another round of testing and that’s where we’re at now. And feel like we’re in a pretty solid spot. I feel like we’re in a better spot now than I was with Aerojet.

To go back through our drivers — F9, Aerojet were probably my two favorite. So now being where we’re at with Darkspeed, it took a little more work than I wanted to, but ultimately I feel like we’re in a better spot than before. [That’s] saying a lot.

What does it take to tell you the driver is good to?

Fowler: Between this week and next week, some good tests with it. You’re not gonna get real testing done until you put it under the gun. And that’s part of it. I have a lot of belief in this one. I still feel like we can tweak and mess with it a little bit to see how much better we can make it from here too.

I saw you added some lines to the face of the driver. What’s the reasoning there?

Fowler: It’s for alignment, but it also helps me see the face angle, too. Before going up to 9.5 degrees, I was in 8.5 because that’s where I was with Aerojet and a lot of my past drivers. But with the matte and similar color to the face, it looked like there was less loft than there was.

Rickie Fowler holds finish after drive at 2023 Hero World Challenge
Fowler started using Darkspeed in competition at the end of last year. Getty Images

Visuals play a big part as well for players. You start to react to how something looks. If it looks closed or open you’ll react to that. So one, going up in loft and maintaining the same speed and spin characteristics. At first, I was using a Sharpie, now I have laser-etched lines. Just it helps me see face, face angle and ultimately, you know, they’re primarily for alignment.

I saw you have new 3D-printed Cobra King lob wedge in the bag. What’s the process been like bringing that club to life?

Fowler: That wedge and grind started about a year ago. We’d been working on stuff and trying to dial in all aspects from leading edge to full shots to having the wedge open and not bouncing but sliding properly. Got into a really good spot last year at Riv.

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Tried to hand make some other ones after that by grinding soles and getting them close. And we were able to get them close but none of them ever felt exactly the same. And so then after the playoffs, [Cobra Tour rep Ben Schomin] took my wedge back and scanned it and created a CAD file. And then they were able to 3D print heads from there.

That made it a lot easier to get a lot closer, leaving some area to, you know, touch up the leading edge or a few areas if we wanted to. But that just made it a lot easier to duplicate the wedge. And here we are. I think Gary [Woodland’s] got one in play too.

One year after trading in blades for a set of Cobra King Tour irons, what’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen in competition?

Fowler: The biggest thing is forgiveness. When I had them first available to me — it was September — I went out, hit the blades and CBs and the King Tours.

They really had a lot of the same characteristics. Flight and spin is what we look at. You know, having consistent spin and it being in the right window, I felt like I was able to flight these a little bit better when I wanted to, partly with the sole and how they react through the turf.

Rickie Fowler King Tour
Fowler switched to Cobra’s King Tour irons early last year. Ryan Barath/GOLF

But with that, they were just more forgiving. I felt like hitting it a groove low or a touch heavy the ball still was carrying a lot closer to my number versus, on blades, it’s a bit more of a fine line. So same characteristics and there’s a bigger sweet spot. So why make it harder on yourself?

You started using Odyssey’s Versa Jailbird putter last year and it felt like everybody and their mother started using this putter. Not only that, they were using your identical build. Were you surprised by how many players started adopting the putter that you were using? And do you feel like you should get some royalties for all the guys that are using this putter?

Fowler: I did all right on course to take care of my royalties with some good play. [Laughs] Ultimately we’re all trying to get better and, when it comes to putting, make more putts.

Doesn’t matter what it looks like. And for me it was something that I felt like I just started it on line. And that’s one of the three key elements to putting. You’ve got the read and then speed. And then obviously you have to be able to start it where you’re looking. So I felt like that simplified it a little bit. I was just starting it on line a lot more consistently. I did it for me and then everybody else joined in.

odyssey versa jailbird
Thanks to Fowler, Odyssey’s Versa Jailbird was the hottest putter on Tour for much of last season. Jonathan Wall/GOLF

It was pretty crazy to see how many people tried it, put it in play. Everyone’s always trying to get better. If it’s something like that helps you or frees you up, whether it’s on the green or, you know, trying someone’s wedge, you don’t want to tinker too much. But it’s worth trying things to see if something might be better out there.

You’ve been with Cobra-Puma for over a decade. What was it that initially drew you to them when you first signed? And is it the same thing that’s kept you loyal to them over the years? Or has that changed?

Fowler: It’s pretty much been the same. It was originally just Puma. I signed with them in 2009 when I turned pro. I liked that there wasn’t a bunch of guys wearing it. It was gonna be my own thing — as far as being a part of a small group, not a bunch of guys or anything like that.

And then Cobra came on I think it was 2012 when I started playing their equipment. It’s like being a part of a small family. They’re a big company, they have a decent market share in the space.

rickie fowler barclays.jpg
Fowler waves to the gallery on the 18th green after a 68 during the third round of the 2016 Barclays. Getty Images

But it has a small family feel. We’re all super-close. And then with having a smaller group of guys that are on the professional level we get to give our feedback and input on new stuff. Ben Schomin is amazing on the tour side of things, as well as [Cobra Tour rep James Posey].

We’re able to see our input come in the new stuff and then whether it be prototypes or trying stuff, you know, they care about us. We see it and appreciate it. We’re all in it together, and it’s like being a part of a small family.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.

JWall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.