Rickie Fowler vs. Jordan Spieth: Which American Star Has a Brighter Future?
Neither Jordan Spieth nor Rickie Fowler could ever be deemed a shrinking violet, but both of these young stars are flowering as predicted.
Both are former Rookie of the Year winners (Fowler in 2010 and Spieth in 2013) who shot into our consciousness early as potential big stars.
The 26-year-old Rickie has been around longer, but 21-year-old Spieth burst on the scene more successfully, becoming the first teenager to win a PGA tour event in 82 years.
Fowler is currently ranked 12th in the world, while Spieth has risen to No. 9.
Fowler actually surprised us with his record-breaking performances last year in the majors. During his short career, he has been more about style than substance. Who can forget that awful mustache or that wild orange outfit he wears on Sundays to commemorate his association with Oklahoma State?
Meanwhile, Spieth’s on- and off-course demeanor embodies the conservative tradition of his PGA forefathers.
In that way, it is a clash of styles on and off the course.
Which one has the brighter future? Let’s take a look.
Deemed the face of American golf in 2011, Fowler is one of the best marketers on the pro circuit.
His flashy style and boyish good looks have brought optimism to a sport that was once dominated by an aging and conservative demographic.
Spieth, with his quiet demeanor and taciturn determination, may be more likeable.
Fowler has many more sponsors than wins; somehow, without winning much at all, he shot to the fore of our consciousness. Young, brash and outlandish, Fowler’s marketability far outweighed his golf game until recently.
Currently, Spieth has 12 major sponsors, while Fowler has 13. Spieth endorses Hurley, while Fowler is the face of Puma Golf, two youth-oriented, hip brands. Still, both guys understand the value of wearing a Rolex.
Right now Fowler’s style and popularity overpower Spieth’s.
Ryder Cup Play
As a rookie, Fowler made a big splash on the 2010 Ryder Cup team and was one of the bright spots for the losing USA team.
With his team down by three points, Fowler proceeded to putt marvelously as he faced off against Edoardo Molinari. He exuded confidence as he sunk three great putts in the end to halve the singles match at a crucial point in the contest.
He was left off the team in 2012, and his next appearance in 2014 was uneventful as he was beaten by Rory McIlroy 5-4 in their singles match.
His record to date is 0-4-3.
In 2014, rookies Spieth and partner Patrick Reed showed their toughness in matchplay, beating more seasoned players twice to end with 2.5 points.
Spieth finished his first Ryder Cup with a record of 2-1-1, signaling big things to come for the young pro on the world stage.
History in Majors
Until last year, Fowler hadn’t done much in majors.
Then, bam! He joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only player to finish in the top five in all majors in one year. He was also the first not to win.
His performances in 2014 proved that Fowler was taking the sport that grabbed him headlines and sponsors very seriously.
Meanwhile, Spieth was tied with Bubba Watson after 54 holes at the Masters, his first time at the event.
He eventually finished in second place.
While both players have the game to win a major, Fowler gets the early nod.
It is hard to gauge toughness, but the resilient Spieth has shown that he has learned how to close out a tournament while forgetting the travails of the past.
Meanwhile, poor Fowler may have been facing an immovable force when he faced off against McIlroy at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
But, he still has only won once. Ironically, that was at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012 where he edged McIlroy for the victory.
Yet after Spieth’s final-round loss against Watson at the Masters last year, Rex Hoggard of GolfChannel.com wrote:
It’s why Spieth’s mental toughness, more than his flawless swing or short game, appears to be his best attribute. Consider that at this point last year he didn’t have status on the PGA Tour and watched the year’s first major from his couch like the rest of us.
You see Fowler on Facebook and many other media platforms hanging out with his girlfriends and even his buddy/nemesis McIlroy.
You say Rickie, and you think "Where’s the party?" His girlfriend is a runway model.
He and his wild group of "Golf Boys"—Hunter Mahan, Ben Crane and Bubba Watson—are a YouTube sensation. He also had fun playing Dick Fowler, P.I. in Farmers Insurance ads.
You say Spieth, and you think "I bet he was in bed by 10 after a glass of milk and cookies." His gorgeous girlfriend is a golfer and college student.
Spieth made some non-golf headlines when Keegan Bradley Instagrammed them on their way to the Super Bowl in an $1,800 rental car.
But that has been the limit of off-course media attention. The golf media loves Spieth’s old-school approach to the game and has already anointed him as a major star with a chance to unseat McIlroy in the very near future.
Neither pro has mastered the art of the media interview, but you cannot deny Fowler’s ability to lure in a young audience.
By the way, Fowler has 867,000 Twitter followers, while Spieth has 187,000.
While Fowler had that stunning year in 2014 at the majors, Spieth has shown an early propensity for winning tournaments.
Fowler has but one PGA win to his name, while Spieth has three and is still only 21.
Both of the young pros played very well in 2014, showing why they are among the young stars to watch.
Fowler finished with $4.8 million winnings and finished in the top 25 10 times in 26 tournaments.
Spieth made $4.3 million on the tour and had 18 top-25 finishes in 27 events.
The younger pro has a ton of new momentum, having won the Emirates Australian Open and the Hero Challenge in consecutive weeks.
If Fowler hadn't had that wonderful season last year, would we even be talking about him vs. Spieth?
He has only one win to his name, although it is a big-name tournament in golf.
Even though the two young pros are five years apart, they are very equally matched.
Still, Fowler has to prove that he can win more events. He has to follow up 2014 with some wins.
Winning a major, which is certainly not out of his purview, would go a long way to solidify his young career and bright future.
Spieth is so precocious and possesses the kind of characteristics you look for in a winner. His tenacity and desire are ultimately more important than how many Twitter followers he has and should connote to many more tour wins, including a few majors.
While Fowler has faced off against the reigning No. 1 McIlroy more often, it is McIlroy with whom both he and Spieth have to contend down the road.
Who will lead the Americans in future Ryder Cups?
Which of these pros is the potential rightful American heir to Tiger, Jack and Arnie?