Rickie Fowler: Golf’s Biggest Needle Mover?


The 2013 PGA season is already upon us, and the offseason left no shortage of hype and news about the movement of players and sponsors. Naturally, some players and companies will always garner more attention than others. Typically, the bigger the name, the bigger the response, and any time you have the #1 player in the world moving to one of the most recognizable brands in the world, it certainly garners major attention. However, this brings a question to my mind. When all of the news finally wears off and the dust settles, how much does any of the news actually “move the needle”?

Before I go any further though, allow me to refocus for a moment and take this question one step further. I want to address this question not just from a skill or an equipment standpoint, but instead in all aspects of the PGA and golf in general. In fact, I would venture to say that even with all that has happened this offseason,  there still may be no one out there that moves the needle as much as Rickie Fowler.

The obvious reaction will be that such a statement is outlandish and crazy, but hang with me here.

We are in an era of golf where only a handful of players really do move the needle in the eyes of the world.  Sure, there’s the old guard with the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but even then it can be argued that they don’t garner the same attention that they once did. Then you have the youth movement we are seeing today, with a tremendous amount of incredibly talented players filling out the ranks of the PGA. However, of all of those young players, the only two that fall into the class of being true needle movers are Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

Coincidentally enough, this is the duo that we heard so much about for so many years. This is the pair of golfers that was going to light the world on fire and forge rivalries for years to come. Obviously, one can quickly point to the fact that Rory is the #1 player in the world and Rickie isn’t. In reality, he’s not even in the top 5. We’ve seen Rory claim two majors already, while Rickie only this past season broke through for his first PGA win. Take it one step further and look at the recent news, with the official announcement and massive news story that McIlroy is Nike’s new man heading into 2013. Valid points indeed, but not at all the angle I’m coming from. There is one glaring reason why Rickie Fowler must be included on a list of who truly moves the needle in golf today, despite the lack of accolades and titles. It’s the fans.


The Fowler fan base brings to mind descriptors like vibrant, energetic, young, and devoted. However, the ultimate descriptor is the simplest one – orange.  Although some of us may not love it (I’m on the bandwagon of disdain for the all-orange Sundays myself), it really is true.  It’s the flashy style and the orange itself which are the driving force behind a true needle mover in golf today. We have seen it more and more in the recent years with this Fowler-fed youth movement continually picking up steam in the form of imitation and emulation. To me, most revealing is that even though he doesn’t garner the ravenous adulation from the older generations of fans and he has won only once, we still talk about his impact on the game and ability to truly move the needle. Keep in mind that although Rickie continues to grow and mature before our very eyes, so too does his fan base; not in the sense of size alone, but literally growing with him through the years. Thanks to the accessibility presented by never ceasing sports news cycles and social media, it truly might just be one of the most unique situations or movements we have ever seen in the history of game of golf.

I have no doubt in my mind that some would argue to their very last breath against the idea of just how much of a draw Rickie Fowler is in the world of golf. So, at the close of all of this rambling of mine I want to leave everyone with a very simple and a poignant thought especially for the other side. The amount that a player truly moves the needle can be measured in many ways, including all of those discussed above. What one also has to take into careful consideration is that it is not simply supporters and fans that make a player a needle mover. The attention garnered from those who stand against everything that same player embodies or presents will move that very needle just the same.

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James Miles


James is a staff writer for The Hackers Paradise along with being a professional educator. With his background in education James seeks to broaden his own knowledge while also sharing it with all those who share his passion for the game.

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  • Some good perspective in this piece. There is no arguing Rickie moves the needle. But I’m not sure if it is as loud as two years ago. One thing about golfers, they want to see results and shots. It’s a rare thing to see Rickie on any type of consistent coverage. It’s generally a shot of two but he doesn’t play well enough to carry the popularity. The load colors can only go so far.
    I’d like to see him become more of a factor on the PGA but sadly I think his swing and mental fortitude are holding him back. He definitely has fans, but the heard is being thinned.

  • “The Fowler fan base brings to mind descriptors like vibrant, energetic, young, and devoted. However, the ultimate descriptor is the simplest one – orange”

    Great write up, we share many thoughts on this.

    Your quote from above is really important to me because it really shows how much a young person can really do. It’s rare when I can go to a course and not see someone wearing orange or other bright colors, and I compliment Rickie and his team on changing the face of the game as many of us knew it. They have added a new dimension to golf and even though I’m not a huge fan of the color volume, I respect the fact that they are modernizing the game and taking some of us out of our comfort levels and elevating us to new levels.

  • I have to disagree with the above comment regarding his ‘mental fortitude’. The fact that he battles back in those do or die situations to make cuts is an attitude that every junior golfer should learn how emulate.

  • Great article James with many very good points! You are spot in the ability of a golfer to “move the needle” in various aspects.

    It is most certainly not Rickie’s success on tour but really rather his style and Cobra/Puma’s ability to market him very very well.

    The average consumer could not likely even pick Snedeker out of a lineup but he is the hottest golfer on the planet right now.

    IMO, TW does not move apparel or clubs but moves the needle because he is enjoyable to watch regardless of how he is playing.

    Great thoughts man!

  • He is my daughter’s favorite golfer but she picked him a few years ago, when in my opinion, he was moving the needle more than he is now.

    He needs to have more success to continue to grow in popularity.

  • Great write up on the needle of golf. Solid points while golf analyst and older golf gents want to see consistency, nothing registers to a fathers heart than his son wanting to see rickie at a tourny. While the older generation doesn’t fully embrace rickie or his style the younger generation thrives on it. When you go to a tournament or watch it on tv you don’t see tiger red or Phil black you see rickie orange. Not just with youth but with 20 something’s also. The game has changed and he is a big part of the movement. Fowler is for now the needle mover.

  • Great article Jman, while I certainly agree that Rickie is a needle mover I still only need to follow any Sunday tournament thread in which Tiger is playing well to see who still moves the needle like no other. Love him or hate him, Tiger is still the man.

    I constantly tell my golfing friends that we would be wearing orange clothes and flat brimmed hats, a trend directly attributable to Fowler, so yes he is a huge needle mover but still behind a very few at this point.

  • Nice work, James! IMO, Rickie is a marketing machine with the all Orange outfits and the loud colors. With that, he has brought tons of younger golfers to the game, and, dare I say it, but a new attitude to the game as well.

  • Great piece and great thoughts. I agree he is a big needle mover, but he needs to start winning to continue that momentum. If he has a 3 win season, he will explode. If he doesn’t win this year it might fizzle out.

  • Great write up Jman. I think he’s right there, VERY close to being one of the biggest draws in golf, but he just needs to win more. The second he starts winning and/or contending on a regular basis the sky is the limit for him and for his brand of Cobra/Puma gear. The stuff already flies off the shelves, it’ll do it even more if he can get over the hump and contend more often. People want to watch him, but they want to watch him late on a weekend, not only see highlights of his finished 2 plus hours before the leaders.

    He’s close, I’ll definitely agree with that and I see exactly what you’re saying. But to me in order to be a real needle mover you have to rack up wins, simple as that.

  • Rickie Fowler “moves the needle” with 8-12 year old girls and boys. Fowler’s marketing has been genius. Wear loud colors that you can see three fairways over and get put on lists with the World’s top golfers, check. Now it’s time to let his play (wins and majors) do the talking. His foot is in the door, now he needs to let how he plays in between the ropes dictate who he is with the demographic that actually buy tickets, apparel and golf equipment.

  • Good article Jman. You make a very solid point. I can’t wait to see how Rickie grows and progresses over the years.

  • I’m about twice as old as Rickie Fowler, and I’m a fan. I’m probably never going to own or wear a flat brim cap, but what I love about Rickie Fowler is his enthusiasm, his genuine approach in interviews, and his interaction with the fans. He’s one of the ones that “gets it” with fan interaction. His game isn’t setting the world on fire right now, but I’m betting he will improve. His pairing with PumaCobra is just perfect, and golf is a better sport with Rickie in it.

  • RadRob – Couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m 42, and a big Ricky fan. There is not much to dislike about the kid. If he were my son, I would be a very proud father. Both my kid’s love him (although they don’t like wearing orange), but he is about the ONLY reason my daughter took up playing the game. I’m not sure if my age group is who Cobra is targeting as far as equipment goes, but my entire bag (except for the fairway wood and putter) is Cobra equipment. And I do happen to love the orange of the AMP clubs myself.

    Win or not, I think he will continue to have a huge following. Heck, look no further than John Daly!

  • I see him moving the needle for the younger crowd. But I don’t think of him as a needle mover across the board. I think Rory is one who is in the category of an across the board needle mover. Tiger Woods definitely was. Greg Norman was. Payne Stewart was.

    Fowler has a fan base, no question about it. I like the guy, and think he can win a lot of tournaments in his career. He does have talent and he does have charisma. But I don’t see him as the image of golf who is going to connect with the masses. At least not right now.

  • Great article here. As someone who first up a club because of Rickie Fowler, I will wholeheartedly say he is a needle mover in the sport. Maybe not so much this year (unless he wins big), but over his first 3 years on Tour. He needs to great things IMO to grow bigger and swell up to the fanbase Rory posses without maybe the accolades he posses.

  • this is not a direct comparison, but the PGA needs Fowler just like the NBA needed Rodman so many years ago. something loud and colorful to spice things up a bit for the general, non-common crowd base. remember when the PGA Tour ratings suffered in Tiger’s absence? Fowler may just very well be a media-drive backup plan, to assure that doesn’t happen again.
    whatever the case, he and other younger players are bringing new fans to the sport, to watch and to play and that’s what’s most important, keeping the game alive.

  • Nice write-up James and I agree with many of your points. He does move the needle but I wonder how much? Is it really as much as everyone points out and says? Yes, we see the crowd shots of the little boy in the all orange outfit or the 2 boys in the Puma hats because they do stand out. But what about the other 10 boys there in the Nike golf shirts that don’t stand out or ever get on TV. What about the kiddos that are playing golf because of Tiger that never would have stepped onto the golf course without what he’s done. I think that number is pretty darn high. Great topic of discussion to say the least!

  • Great article as always James!

    I have to agree with you somewhat, I am not sure any player in recent memory as generated the fan base that Fowler has with as little success as he has had, not to mention the fact that he single handedly brought the Puma clothing line into the spotlight.

    You cant watch a tournament on TV without seeing hundreds of young kids dressed like Rickie…you don’t seen that for any other player in the game.

  • Ricky Fowler is really a wonderful player and Golf biggest needle mover.

  • I agree Rickie Fowler is a very popular player and certainly a crowd favourite. I too am not a fan of his attire but his attitude does impress me.

    I saw him interviewed a couple of times and I like his attitude. He’s not full of himself and carries himself well on the golf course.

    I like the way Rickie doesn’t get carried away with great shots and just goes about his business … it’s very Freddie Couples like!

  • Disagree. There’s really no arguing that Tiger still moves the needle EXPONENTIALLY more than any other golfer out there (Rory and Phil included). I’m not sure how many tournaments you’ve been to, but the crowd following Tiger’s group is always 3-4x the size of the next largest (at a minimum). When Tiger doesn’t make a cut or isn’t in contention, TV ratings PLUMMET… I think we should ask CBS/NBC and the Golf Channel who THEY think move the needle greatest… it wouldn’t even be close.

    All that being said – and like other commenters have said – Fowler needs to win or be in contention on a consistent basis to move the needle like the big boys. Flashy clothes and youth only help so much. When he first got on tour, the lack of winning could be explained away with the youth argument… but not so much anymore, what with Rory and other young guys having success (Russell Henley has won exactly the same amount of PGA tourneys as has Rickie).

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