Rickie Fowler's efforts to begin to prove his doubters wrong began at the weekend. In claiming the lucrative Players Championship at Sawgrass, the 26-year-old ably demonstrated that he has what it takes to win the major events on the tour. He also walked away with a sizeable first prize of $1.8 million for his trouble. Fowler was no doubt inspired by a recent poll of his fellow golfing professionals that had voted him as the "most overrated player on the PGA Tour". Yet his victory in a dramatic play-off suggested that he does indeed have the nerve and game to handle the pressure at the vital moments.
Fowler wins after play-off
The American golfer proved to be the strongest in a three-man play-off on the final day of action at the tournament. Fowler, the Spaniard Sergio Garcia and another American player Kevin Kisner had all finished tied on 12-under par. Garcia was the first to be eliminated after the original three-hole play-off. Fowler grabbed his victory with a birdie at the first sudden death hole which Kisner failed to match. World number one Rory McIlroy finished in a tie for 8th place, while crowd favourite Tiger Woods finished in a hugely disappointing tie for 69th place.
Amazing finish to the round
Perhaps most amazing of all was the finish that Fowler pulled out of somewhere to reach the play-off in the first place. An eagle and four birdies in his final six holes represented an amazing close to his round, the best that has been seen at Sawgrass in its 34-year history.
Popular with the crowds
Not that Fowler's lack of continuous success on the tour has seemed to diminish his popularity with American #Golf fans or the general public. It may well be that enduring appeal, despite his last victory on the tour (prior to the weekend) dating back to the Wells Fargo Championship in the summer of 2012, which rankles with some within the game. It can't be his demeanour on the golf course, as he is widely recognised as one of the most affable players in the game.
Played well in last year's majors
Nor have Fowler's results in the majors in recent years been poor by any stretch of the imagination. Last year he was close to taking the title in all four: runner-up at the US Open; runner-up at the Open; third at the US PGA; fifth at the Masters. Such consistency in the strongest fields on the tour should be applauded, rather than rebuked.
The contentious poll results
The results of the Sports Illustrated poll last week had placed Fowler and Britain's Ian Poulter joint first on 24%, for the unwanted tag of "most overrated player". The annual golf survey of the players is anonymous, giving them carte blanche to vote for whoever they wish.
Fowler has the last laughFowler was believed to have laughed off the results of the poll when he learned of them, but he did respond to questions about the merit of the 'label' by saying: "I think this right here answers anything you need to know."