Why this Rickie Fowler decision fueled hecklers at Open Championship

rickie fowler open championship

Rickie Fowler at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool this week.

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Fan favorite Rickie Fowler doesn’t often get heckled or jeered, but it does happen. In the second round of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles last month, after Fowler left a par putt short on the 7th green a spectator hollered, “What are you doing?!”

Fowler looked at the pest and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, Hey, man, I’m trying my best out here.

This week, at the 151st Open Championship, Fowler heard it from another fan, though this heckle had nothing to do with three-putting. In the opening round at Royal Liverpool, Fowler was pacing down a fairway when an on-looker in a gray pullover and sunglasses and with a nearly finished beer in his left hand began yapping at Fowler for not investing in the British soccer team Leeds United F.C.

Fowler had been mulling sinking some of his dollars into the squad, along with his close Tour pals, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. At the U.S. Open, Fowler said he hadn’t committed to the deal, only that he would “potentially be part of it.”  He added: “[We] are looking into it. It will be fun if we get to be a part of it. If not, we’ll continue to root for Leeds to see if we can help out Billy.”

As in Billy Foster, Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddie, who is a rabid Leeds supporter.

In the coming weeks, though, Fowler and his advisors thought it best that Fowler not get involved, so he respectfully bowed out as Thomas and Spieth pressed on, even though Leeds, after a disappointing season during which the team had four different managers, had been relegated from the Premier League. (Spieth said this week that the investment group leading the purchase — 49ers Enterprises, a strategic arm of the NFL team — was able to renegotiate after relegation, “and it was possibly a better deal, as long as they can get promoted [back to the Premier League] soon.”)

Anyway, back to the rope line.

The fan, seemingly disgruntled by Fowler’s decision, let the golfer have it.

“What happened to the 49ers investment?!” he bellowed at Fowler.  

Which another fan followed with, “You coward.”

The disturbance, which you can watch here, ended with the heckler and his friend laughing hysterically.

When asked about the episode on Saturday, Fowler said, “That may be one of the first [heckles] that maybe became public. There might be some other ones out there, but, yeah, it is what it is. I’ll take it.”

Of the Open crowds, Fowler added: “Other than maybe a ‘coward’ comment here or there, 99.9 percent are amazing. But you deal with that anywhere you go. Same thing in the states.”

Any regrets or second-guessing from Fowler on his investment decision?

“No, no, that’s already all done,” he said. “Hopefully it all works out with JT and Jordan being involved. My financial team just didn’t necessarily advise for it, so we decided to not go forward with it. But I hope they play well and kind of get things turned around because I know JT and Jordan would be very happy with that.”

Fowler knows a thing or two about turning things around.

This season has marked his Butch Harmon-aided return from the wilderness, and his resurgence has continued at Royal Liverpool. After making the cut on the number (three over), Fowler surged up the board in the third round with a four-birdie, four-under 67. “First six were definitely tough,” he said of the weather. “It wasn’t really raining that bad, but just the wet conditions and that annoying rain, different wind direction.”   

Fowler, who is now 22nd in the world, has missed just one cut in his last 20 starts. Over that same stretch, he has six top-10 finishes, including a win — his first in four-plus years — at the Rocket Mortgage two weeks ago. On Saturday, he was asked if thinks his struggles are behind him.

“Yes and no,” he said. “You never know with this game. You definitely appreciate the times when you’re playing well and in somewhat control. You just never know how long they’re going to last. I’m definitely enjoying where things are and where they’re heading. They’re going to continue to get better. But yeah, that’s just part of the game and part of life. There’s going to be ups and downs, and you hope the low times don’t last very long. Unfortunately, we went through a few years, but we’re through that now.”

That’s something for which all fans can cheer.

Even hecklers.

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.