Rickie Fowler will get his major career back underway at Kiawah thanks to a decision that's divided the golf world - including Alex Perry and Steve Carroll
Before the Masters earlier this month, Rickie Fowler had contested in every major since the 2010 Open Championship. The 32-year-old, however, will be in action when the PGA Championship rolls around in a few weeks after the PGA of America opted to hand him an invite alongside John Catlin.
Fowler and Catlin, the governing body explained, received an invite “based on their performances, playing records and OWGR position.”
Fair enough in the case of Catlin, a three-time European Tour winner in recent months, but it’s the Fowler choice that’s divided the golf world.
He would have had an automatic invite to play at Kiawah Island as a 2018 Ryder Cup player – but even that category stipulates you must still be in the top 100. Fowler is currently in 111th.
So was it the correct decision? Two of our writers have their say in the latest Alternate Shot…
‘Can you name 39 other players you’d pick ahead of Rickie Fowler?’
I, like many in the golf world, had wondered why Fowler wasn’t teeing up at the Valspar, writes Alex Perry. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get back inside the world’s top 100 and secure a PGA Championship spot on merit.
We now know why.
Do I like invites at major championships? No. These are the four biggest tournaments in golf and you absolutely should be there on merit.
But, whether we like it or not, it exists, it’s something that happens and probably always will, and we just need to get over it.
On that basis, of course Fowler should be one of the invites.
Sure, the criteria for inviting those who played in the last Ryder Cup requires them to be in the top 100 – but Fowler is 111th for crying out loud. We’re not talking a Henrik Stenson-style plunge into the 500s here.
The Californian’s record at the PGA doesn’t quite stack up against the other majors, but he’s got a couple of top-fives on his CV – including a T3 in 2014, when he went close in all four.
The PGA of America dishes out around 40 invites to make up the field. If you can think of 39 people you would pick ahead of Fowler, I’m all ears.
‘It devalues the majors to pander to popularity’
Exemptions, invites – however you want to dress them up – they don’t sit well with me at majors, writes Steve Carroll.
We spend all year bigging these tournaments up, declaring them as the cream of the crop, but how can they be if the player getting a ‘special’ nod can’t qualify on their own merit?
I’m aware exemptions for the PGA Championship aren’t unusual – something that only solidifies its place in my mind as the fourth of the majors.
And yes, I know the Masters is an invitational. But there’s a pretty stringent list of criteria determining how you get one of those precious pieces of paper. The number of Instragam followers you might have doesn’t make the cut.
On form, Fowler shouldn’t be at Kiawah Island. He hasn’t posted a top 10 in more than a year and he’s fallen out of the top 100 in the world rankings.
He hasn’t won a major, either, but apparently “performances, playing records, and OWGR position” – he was tied 3rd at the PGA in 2014 – is why he’s in the tournament. At least John Catlin, the other beneficiary of a special invite, has been in great form.
Forgive me for being cynical but were Fowler not box office would he be in the field? It devalues the majors to pander to popularity.
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So should Rickie Fowler have been invited to the PGA Championship? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet us.