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Rickie Fowler Contends For First Tour Win At Bridgestone

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115264799 Rickie Fowler Contends For First Tour Win At Bridgestone

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

No, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational is not a major. It’s not even considered the fifth major, which The Players Championship is often referred as.

But this week’s field at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, has all of the trappings of a major.

So if Rickie Fowler is going to win his first PGA Tour title this week, then this is about as good as he could hope for heading into next week’s PGA Championship.

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116599972 Rickie Fowler Contends For First Tour Win At Bridgestone

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

“I can’t go out and force it or try too hard to win,” said Fowler after posting a 6-under 70 in Friday’s second round to go 8 under for the tournament. “It’s something that’s just got to happen. It’s a bit of a learning process, learning how to win on the tour. Some guys do it quicker than others.

“I’ll be pro for two years coming September 14th, I think, so I haven’t been a pro too long yet. But yeah, it’s something that’s just got to happen. I’m not going to try and force it, and I don’t think it’s something really that you can force the issue on.”

Surely, though, a win has to be in the near offing. In 46 PGA Tour starts, Fowler has notched 10 top-10 finishes and 20 top-25 finishes. He has only three top-three finishes, all coming last year.

Despite a lack of wins, though, Fowler has become quite the fan favorite. Arnie had his Army, now Fowler has his Fowler Followers. Fans show their allegiance to Fowler, a former Oklahoma State All-American who played on last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup squad, by matching Fowler’s colorful sartorial choices.

At the recent RBC Canadian Open, Fowler’s Followers were decked out in bright orange from head to toe.

“It’s been kind of just a gradual increase of fans and seeing Puma product out there on the course,” said Fowler, who has an endorsement agreement with Puma. “There’s definitely a lot more hats and Puma clothing on the course than there was last year. The difference between 2010 and 2011 has been pretty significant.”

The impact is not lost on the 22-year-old. In essence, he gets the fact that he’s an entertainer.

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120373321 Rickie Fowler Contends For First Tour Win At Bridgestone

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

“I guess it’s my job, but it doesn’t really feel like that,” he said. “They’re a big part of the reason why we get to play. It’s the least I can do to give back to them, signing autographs when I can. I feel like I have a good connection with the younger crowd, and it’s cool to see young boys and girls out there following me around and calling out my name.

“To have a chance to have impacts on little kids like that, maybe I guide them in the right way, and that’s something I want to do. Definitely you want to be a positive role model.”

Just imagine his impact once he starts winning.

Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.

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