Fowler “sneaky” pick in 2016 Masters

Rickie Fowler

Birthplace: Murrieta, Calif.

Age: 27

Turned pro: 2009

How qualified: Won two events on PGA Tour last year: The Players Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship. He also won twice on European PGA Tour.

Best Masters finish: Tied for fifth in 2014. This will be his sixth appearance.

Best stat this season: He is No. 1 in all-around ranking, which includes his ranking of second in greens in regulation (73.7 percent), sixth in strokes gained, tee-to-green (1.75), and third in scoring average (69.56).

As odd as it sounds for someone who wears neon blue or orange creamsickle outfits one day, high-top golf shoes another and usually has a gaggle of young fans who look like him in his gallery, but Rickie Fowler is being described as a “sneaky” pick to contend in this year’s Masters.

“I’m fine with sneaking around,” he said.

It’s an odd description, but it does fit.

Fowler’s reputation was first built on his potential, but cemented with his outfits and long hair (since cut) that stuck out from a flat-billed baseball cap. He dressed differently and had different interests (X-games, motocross) than did most of the other players on the PGA Tour. Young fans gravitated toward him as if he were Pied Piper with a putter.

While he was getting attention from fans and sponsors, he rarely earned wins. His victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012 was his only trophy since turning pro in 2009.

In 2014, he came close in every major, with a fifth-place finish at the Masters, second-place finishes at the U.S. Open and British Open and a third-place finish at the PGA Championship.

He finally broke through in 2015 with a warning shot for the majors this year.

He came from so far behind that he said he wasn’t even on TV to win The Players Championship, but that was the moment that may have changed his career.

He followed that with a win two months later at the Scottish Open. Two months after that he won the Deutsche Bank Championship.

He paired his Scottish Open win with another on the European PGA Tour at Abu Dhabi in January this year.

Four wins in eight months after one the previous six years.

That’s kind of sneaky.

“Obviously you know you can pull off all those shots, but to do it in a row, when you need to, pretty crazy,” he said of the Players. “And once I got going, just the belief and the confidence and going out there and just making it happen, instead of just trying and seeing if I could get the job done. That was the difference going into the Scottish and Deutsche Bank, where I knew what I needed to do and I went out and did it.”

The winning has bred a confidence in more than just his fashion choices that Fowler said he didn’t have in 2014, even when he was in contention to put on a green jacket or take home the Claret Jug. He has learned to minimize mistakes and has improved his game from 150 yards in, which will be very important as he plays in his sixth Masters.

“My goal going forward is definitely to win more,” he said. “I feel like the past 10 months or so, I’ve got off to a good start of that with having four wins. So I definitely want to continue that. I enjoy spending time with the media Sunday night.”