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.