Fowler’s emergence good for the game

Sam Torrance
Follow Sam
IT WAS a weekend of maiden victories with two players, whose career trajectories could not be more contrasting, enjoying landmark successes.

I was delighted for Englishman Lee Slattery, who clung on to secure the Madrid Masters. It’s sometimes easy to forget there are guys out there battling for their livelihoods and clinging to their tour status.

Slattery, 33, lost his card four years ago and was in danger of doing so again. With so much riding on victory it was understandable that he stumbled across the line.

Hopefully victory in Spain, and the accompanying £143,000 cheque, will give him the confidence and peace of mind to finish his season strongly.

While Slattery’s victory may prove to be his career highlight, I firmly expect American Rickie Fowler’s triumph at the Korea Open to be the first of many.

Big things have been expected of Fowler since he turned pro in 2009 and all the signs so far suggest he has the required temperament to match his undoubted skill.

His dress sense might not be for the traditionalists, but for me anyone who adds a bit of flamboyance to the game is a good thing, particularly if the sport hopes to attract and capture the imagination of new young fans.

It was interesting to see Fowler go toe-to-toe for the majority of the tournament with Rory McIlroy and that’s a rivalry I’d love to see develop.

It’s been a while since the sport was able to enjoy a rivalry along the lines of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, who used to slug it out at the Majors.

That such confrontations failed to emerge over the last decade was largely down to the dominance Tiger Woods enjoyed for so long, but you’ve only got to look at the recent great tennis contest between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to see what a series of epic duels can do for the popularity of a sport.

I wouldn’t quite put Fowler in McIlroy’s class at present, but the ingredients are there for some mouth-watering clashes in the future.

Meanwhile, just when he must have thought he’d seen it all over the last couple of turbulent years, a flying hot dog interrupted Tiger’s comeback from injury at the weekend.

I’m sure he wouldn’t have been unduly bothered by that bizarre episode and, more pertinently, he’ll have taken encouragement from the way he performed in California. A 30th-placed finish was probably as good as he could have anticipated and, with his swing looking in good order, I expect him to be climbing the rankings swiftly.