• Open Championship

Keegan, Bubba, Webb ... Rickie?

Alex Dimond at Royal Lytham & St Annes July 18, 2012

ESPN will have comprehensive updates from the Open when it gets underway on Thursday

After watching three of his nearest contemporaries claim maiden major titles in the last 12 months, Rickie Fowler is itching to join them.

The 23-year-old cannot get away from questions about his fashion sense - yet another was put to him at a press conference on Wednesday - but, as with fellow sartorialist Ian Poulter, his penchant for idiosyncratic clothing only serves to deflect from his deep desire to be a multiple major winner.

It has been interesting, this week, to note how different players know differing amounts about the state and history of the game of golf. Past Open champion David Duval had no idea who the current world No. 1 was when asked on Wednesday, while Luke Donald (the reigning No. 1, if you were also stumped) got his Seve Ballesteros victories at Royal Lytham (in 1979 and 1988) mixed up when asked for his recollections.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, was ready to give a shot-by-shot account of the Spaniard's latter triumph when probed for his memories on Tuesday. For his many faults, the 14-time major champion clearly revels in the game's lore.

Fowler, it seems, is also in that mould. Despite having grown up in California and played the majority of his amateur golf in the United States, he vehemently believes that links golf is the truest form of the game - and the truest test. This is the biggest tournament of the year for him.

Unlike some players who cross the Atlantic for this one event every year, Fowler embraces the different challenge and the invariably difficult conditions.

"I love links golf, it's probably my favourite," Fowler said. "I like the amount of options you have while out playing a links golf course.

"There may be fewer options here this week just because of how narrow and how much rough there is and how many bunkers. There's definitely going to be some shot-making that's going to need to happen out there this week.

"But I love links golf. You can be as creative as you want and hit a variety of shots throughout the round."

This mindset has perhaps been key to his comparative success. While some players new to links golf take many years to fully adapt, Fowler bounced back from an opening round 79 on his debut at St Andrews in 2010 to finish in a tie for 15th, and then clinched a top-five finish last year despite spending three days in some of the worst weather he has ever seen.

He was also a successful Walker Cup player at Royal County Down in 2007, and pulled off some Ryder Cup heroics in trying conditions at Celtic Manor three years later.

"Maybe if I didn't turn around from the 79 at St Andrews, and struggled, it could have been a different story," he acknowledged. "Since I've turned around from that, it's been a lot of fun playing over here, and I definitely enjoy links golf.

"The worst conditions, hands down, last year on Saturday [at Royal St Georges, when he shot 68 in the driving rain]. Probably second hardest for me was Friday at St Andrews when it was blowing pretty hard. I went out and played really well. I knew I was going to have to put up a number to have a chance to make the cut. Playing in tough conditions, knowing that I had to shoot a number, it was tough.

"It is fun to watch some of your good friends win, but at the same time you'd rather be there"
- Rickie Fowler

"And then last year playing in by far the toughest conditions I've seen over here, knowing that I had a chance to move up if I played well. Kind of two different scenarios, but luckily came out on the right end on both of them."

Fowler is not satisfied to be known as a player who plays better than expected when the chips are down, perhaps taking it for the slightly-backhanded compliment that it really is. With Bubba Watson - a fellow 'Golf Boys' member, a band with whom Fowler revealed a second video is currently "in the works" - and Webb Simpson both having claimed majors already this year (and Keegan Bradley at the end of 2011), Fowler is determined to build on his first PGA Tour triumph (at Quail Hollow) and go on and claim his own piece of major glory as soon as possible.

"With guys like that winning a major and being their first major it's been a lot of fun to watch, but also just kind of a kick in the butt to get out and make me want it more," Fowler revealed. "Just giving myself the chance, like last year, to be in contention and having a chance on Sunday [to win].

"It is fun to watch some of your good friends win, but at the same time you'd rather be there than them."

It remains to be seen if Fowler has all the attributes to make a victorious run at the Claret Jug this week. He usually drives the ball pretty well - which could prove key - while his short game is generally sharp and his putting solid. But his biggest advantage might just be his mentality - although the weather forecast is relatively encouraging for the week, Fowler will be ready if things take a turn for the worse and the heavens open.

"Some guys don't like playing in poor weather," he acknowledged, before recalling what he learned from watching the great Tom Watson in the third round last year.

"He [Watson] just looked like he was hitting his shot and walking forward and moving on. And my caddie, Joe [Skovron] just said to me, 'It's going to be tough. Some guys aren't going to like it, but if we can go out and make some fun of it and keep moving forward we could make up a lot of ground' - which we did.

"I definitely think that there are guys that either get off to a tough start, or are not looking at the weather the right way, and may kind of beat themselves before they tee off."

Regardless of how many are beaten by the weather, the determined Fowler is hopeful he will be capable of beating those that remain with the quality of his golf.

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Alex Dimond Close
Alex Dimond is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk