SBD/May 9, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

A Rickie Fowler-Rory McIlroy Rivalry Could Help Carry The PGA Tour The Next Two Decades

McIlroy (l) and Fowler help the PGA Tour appeal to a younger generation of fans
As soon as Rickie Fowler defeated Rory McIlroy Sunday in a playoff for the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship, "rivalry talk erupted," something that is a "welcomed conversation for the Tour," according to Steve DiMeglio of USA TODAY. The prospect of a "decade's full of duels similar to the Sunday showdown at Quail Hollow is intriguing and tantalizing." Both Fowler and McIlroy are "young, hip, rich and quick with a smile." They both are "on the cover of the EA Sports 'Tiger Woods' video game after winning online popularity contests," and they "appeal to the younger demographic the Tour has eagerly pursued to expand its fan base beyond those who only follow" Woods. But rivalries in golf are "tough to come by, no matter how much the fans yearn for one and the media tries to hype one." Even McIlroy and Fowler "think regular Sunday faceoffs are not in the offing." McIlroy said, "Hopefully it's not the only time we go head-to-head. ... But there are so many different guys winning out here now." Fowler: "There are a lot of really good young players right now, and to count any of them out of a rivalry would be somewhat unfair to them." DiMeglio notes PGA Tour TV rights holders CBS, NBC and Golf Channel currently hope that Woods and Phil Mickelson "keep drawing viewers." But with network contracts "running through the 2021 season, they need new stars in development." A rivalry between Fowler and McIlroy "would seem telegenic" (USA TODAY, 5/9).

SOMETHING TELLS ME I'M INTO SOMETHING GOOD: GOLFWEEK’s Ryan Lavner writes it is not "unreasonable to wonder if we just witnessed the dawning of golf’s next great rivalry -- Rory vs. Rickie! -- a battle that could be waged, conceivably, for the next 20 years." Lavner: "True rivalries, of course, aren’t marketing creations; for all of his flashy outfits, viral YouTube clips and video-game covers, Fowler understood only a Tour title could strengthen his credibility.” Golfer Ben Crane said, “This means a lot for the Tour. He’s such a talented player, and he’s got everything going for him with the good looks and the fashion, and he’s brought a lot of young people to the game” (GOLFWEEK, 5/11 issue). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If you get Rory McIlroy, who's young and charismatic, and you get Rickie Fowler, who's young and charismatic, and they're in (a) playoff, that's a great day for golf" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/7). GOLF CHANNEL's Jason Sobel wrote McIlroy and Fowler "may provide the latest, greatest opportunity for a rivalry within the game, but they hardly offer a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it lock for the future." The game is "cultivating so many young stars (a positive result) that it’s nearly impossible to cultivate specific rivalries (a negative result)." Sobel: "Even so, there’s more than a steady groundswell of support for McIlroy and Fowler to break away from the crowd and produce a two-man competitive balance that harkens back to those of previous generations" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 5/8).

ADDED CREDIBILTY
: In Winston-Salem, Lenox Rawlings wrote under the header, "Fowler Adds Substance To His Style." Rawlings notes the publicity "will range from loud, flat-brimmed caps ($30 on his various websites) to screaming Rickie vs. Rory headlines." Fowler said, "Rory is the top-ranked young player right now. I'm probably the one that sticks out with the most color. Now I'm a PGA Tour winner, so I've got some credibility" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 5/7). GOLF WORLD's Jim Moriarty writes fans never doubted Fowler's "flash, it was the substance his detractors found in short supply" (GOLF WORLD, 5/14 issue).

ALREADY A MARKETER'S DREAM
: GOLF WORLD’s Jaime Diaz writes Fowler Sunday “downplayed the idea that the win would lessen the pressure of expectation created by his game and aggressively marketed image.” Diaz: “Fowler might be something special. Golf certainly wants him to be. With the hair, outfits and big caps, he had the kids at hello.” But Fowler also "conveys a relaxed, natural manner that makes youngsters feel like he’s one of them.” Somehow he has “reconciled his flamboyant image with his basically introverted personality so that it’s not some kind of Faustian bargain.” Fowler said, “This is who I am. I don’t want to be anyone who I’m not, and I don’t want to be marketed anyway that doesn’t represent me” (GOLF WORLD, 5/14 issue). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote Fowler is the "kind of athlete publicists are paid to create." He is "charismatic and original and looks a little like actor Johnny Depp." Fowler's fans "include lots of kids who dress remarkably like he does." He will be "fun to watch and impossible to ignore" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/7). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said of Fowler, "This kid has changed the merchandising game in golf because Puma, which he's wearing, when you go into big stores, like the PGA Superstore, front and center Rickie Fowler and his colors. He is already a big star" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/7).
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