In 2011, Rickie Fowler roamed the sidelines at Boone Pickens Stadium minutes before the Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma State played a Thursday primetime football game.
Decked out in orange and black, Fowler posed for pictures with Wilbur T. Wildcat and cheered on his alma mater as the Cowboys rolled Arizona 37-14.
Today at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain, Fowler will be the enemy again. The 25-year-old will take on former Arizona Wildcat Jim Furyk in the quarterfinals.
The two will tee off at 10:20 a.m.
“He’s a bulldog,” Fowler said of Furyk. “It won’t be easy, and he’ll have a lot of fans in his corner. Hopefully it’ll be 50-50.”
Fowler posted a 1 up victory over Sergio Garcia in improbable fashion Friday to get to today’s quarterfinals.
Garcia charged out to a 2 up lead through six holes and was sitting pretty on the par-4 seventh. Fowler was 17 feet 7 inches away from the hole, and Garcia was just 7 feet away.
As Fowler was lining up his putt and preparing to putt, Garcia interrupted.
“He said, ‘Do you want to halve it?’ ” Fowler said. “And I was like ‘what?’ He repeated it again, and I still didn’t get it, and finally he was like, ‘Do you want to halve the hole?’ I was like ‘OK.’
“Obviously it’s not something you see every day. He was 10 feet closer than me in good shape, but I wasn’t going to say no.”
Garcia’s explanation for the move went back a hole.
On the par-3 sixth hole, Garcia’s ball landed on a sprinkler head to the right of the hole. When he went to play the shot, a small swarm of bees surrounded his ball. He waited several minutes for the bees to clear before taking a drop. He had to take a second drop when the bees didn’t vanish and finally finished the hole after a several-minute delay.
After the hole, he felt bad about the delay, prompting his decision to halve No. 7 with Fowler.
A nice, but not-so-smart decision by the Spaniard.
“I had some bad experiences with bees as a youngster,” Garcia said. “I felt quite uncomfortable hitting the shot.”
He continued: “I don’t regret it at all. This is a gentleman’s game, and lately it hasn’t felt like it’s been like that. This is the way I was brought up by my dad playing golf.”
Garcia has been in the center of a couple of different controversies in the last year. He said Friday was a chance to change public opinion of him.
In May at the Players Championship, Garcia accused Tiger Woods of moving during Garcia’s backswing and causing a commotion in the gallery. And then just last month, while he was playing a tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a television viewer called in a potential Garcia rules violation that turned out to be nothing.
“I hope this maybe changes the perception a bit,” Garcia said.
It might succeed, but it helped end his stay on Dove Mountain.
Garcia actually birdied the
next hole to take a three-shot lead, but then saw Fowler win four of the final 10 holes to win the match.
He ended it with an exclamation mark on No. 18. He blasted a drive 355 yards, leaving just 94 yards to the pin. He then left his second shot just 4 feet from the hole and knocked it in for birdie after Garcia missed his 18-foot birdie putt.
“It feels really good to make it to the weekend,” said Fowler, who has missed the cut in his last three events. “Obviously I haven’t been playing well at all lately, and it feels good to kinda get back on track. My putting and short game has been the key I think, and hopefully I keep it going. I’m having a lot of fun out there.”
In Furyk, today’s opponent, Fowler faces a former teammate. The two were on the same squad in 2010 at the Ryder Cup and halved a match against Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
There, Furyk saved Fowler with a wedge shot on 18 that landed just 4 feet from the hole. Fowler knocked in a birdie putt to halve the match after Fowler made a pair of costly mistakes on the front nine.
Furyk advanced to today’s quarters with a 1 up win over Harris English. The two were all squared through 15, but Furyk holed a chip on the par-3 16th from 30 feet to take a one-hole lead. After the two birdied No. 17, Furyk held English off with par on No. 18 to win the match.
“Rickie and I are friends,” Furyk said. “When we paired up together, I saw a real fearless guy. Not a lot bothers him. He was a great partner there, and he’ll be a tough match tomorrow.
“There’s no easy matches tomorrow.”
Saturday's tee times
Saturday's tee times for Match Play quarterfinals
|Tee time||Player (seed)||Player (seed)|
|10:05 a.m.||Louis Ooshtuizen (32)||Jason Day (8)|
|10:20 a.m.||Jim Furyk (20)||Rickie Fowler (53)|
|11:45 a.m.||Ernie Els (31)||Jordan Spieth (10)|
|Noon||Graeme McDowell (14)||Victor Dubuisson (27)|