Rickie Fowler answers critics by winning the Players Championship

Rickie Fowler reacts after making his birdie putt at No. 18 to complete the fourth round of the Players Championship on Sunday.

Rickie Fowler reacts after making his birdie putt at No. 18 to complete the fourth round of the Players Championship on Sunday.

(Sam Greenwood / Getty Images)

- Overrated? Think again.

Turns out golfer Rickie Fowler merely was overdue.

With even his peers questioning his elevated place in the game, Fowler silenced his doubters Sunday with an exciting finish at the Players Championship.

Fowler rolled in a five-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass to defeat Kevin Kisner in the fourth playoff hole of a new format instituted for the PGA Tour’s showcase event. Sergio Garcia was eliminated a hole earlier when his 19-foot birdie try slid by the 18th hole.


“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Fowler, who finished at 12-under-par 276. “This is special.”

To pick up his second win and a $1.8-million prize, Fowler stiffed a gap wedge from 137 yards to set up his fifth birdie in six tries at the par-three island green.

Fowler, 26, has enjoyed the spoils of the game since bursting on the scene as a 20-year-old rookie in 2010 with an aggressive playing style and impressive amateur record.

But before this tournament, Fowler had won only once, at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012.


Fowler arrived at TPC with a dubious distinction, sharing with Ian Poulter the label of the Tour’s most overrated pro, based on a Sports Illustrated anonymous player poll.

Fowler laughed it off.

“I think this right here answers anything you need to know,” he said.

In the end, no one in the 34-year history of TPC Sawgrass had made a statement as Fowler did coming down the stretch.


After a bogey on the 10th hole, Fowler was at five under and six shots behind Garcia, who faltered on the back nine.

Fowler played the final six holes in six-under par and needed only 11 strokes on the final four holes, making three birdies and a tap-in eagle on the par-five 16th hole.

“That was obviously an amazing finish,” Garcia said. “It shows a lot of character from him.”

After he finished with a five-under 67, Fowler had to watch several players try to beat him.


Garcia and Kisner each had a chance to win in regulation, but missed birdie putts on the par-four 18th hole. Garcia missed from 21 feet and Kisner from 11 feet.

“I thought it was center cut,” Kisner said. “I’ll remember that one when I need to make another one.”

Kisner, 31, spent his early career bouncing around mini-tours and the last several years trying to keep his Tour card. But he walked away with the biggest payday of his career — $880,000 — and his second runner-up finish of 2015.

Garcia, 35, left TPC Sawgrass with yet another Sunday setback, despite shooting a four-under 68 and playing some of his best golf of the week. The Spaniard left with a sour taste in his mouth, too, after galleries relentlessly heckled him when the tournament was on the line.


“It was probably about three or four times on every hole since the 10th hole,” he said.

Fowler had no such problem. The galleries love him.

When his winning putt fell, the gallery around TPC Sawgrass’ signature hole erupted. Moments earlier, Fowler backers chanted, “Rickie, Rickie.”

“Whether it’s added pressure or not it’s always great to have a lot of support,” Fowler said. “I’ve always had that. Big thanks to my fans for sure.


“Just feels good to be back in the winner’s circle.”