More than two decades ago, a mullet-sporting Andre Agassi declared in a camera ad, “Image is everything.”
Criticized for being more about style than substance, Agassi later shaved his noggin and made tennis’ hall of fame.
Could we be seeing the same from Rickie Fowler?
Having become known more for his colorful wardrobe and surfer-dude hairstyle than his golf accomplishments (one PGA Tour victory), Fowler began working with Butch Harmon last year in an effort to be seen as more than a fashion plate.
A week after showing up at Riviera with a choirboy trim – and subsequently missing his third straight cut – a staidly clad Fowler dispatched Ryder Cup stud Ian Poulter in today’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz.
Spurred by lengthy eagle on the par-5 13th hole at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Fowler prevailed, 2 and 1, in the day’s first match. Afterward, the 25-year-old said he was pleased with the results of his work with Harmon but said nothing of his makeover.
You have to wonder if Butch had something to do with Rickie’s new look.
Fowler will face red-hot Jimmy Walker in Thursday’s second round. Playing behind Fowler and Poulter, the noted astrophotographer and three-time 2013-14 winner posted the tournament’s first victory, dispatching South Africa’s Branden Grace, 5 and 4.
Other highlights from the early action at Dove Mountain:
• Two down through 12 holes to Finland’s Mikko Ilonen, Bubba Watson won four of the next five holes on the way to a 2-and-1 triumph. Bubba acknowledged that his head might have been elsewhere early on just three days after winning at Riviera. “Hopefully this match scared me enough where I focus a little bit harder,” he said.
• Despite holing a bomb at 16 to stay alive, Keegan Bradley fell to Jonas Blixt, 2 and 1. Blixt will face Watson in Round 2.
• Steve Stricker, whose mind was elsewhere last week while his brother, Scott, received a liver transplant, fell to South Africa’s George Coetzee, 3 and 1. A late qualifier for the Match Play by virtue of his victory at the European Tour’s Joburg Open two weeks ago, Coetzee next will face Humana Challenge winner Patrick Reed, who defeated Canada’s Graham DeLaet, 1 up.
• Competing as a No. 3 seed in his Match Play debut, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth outlasted Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal, 2 up. On Thursday Spieth will face Danish graybeard Thomas Björn, who beat Italian Francesco Molinari, 2 and 1.
• Sweden’s Peter Hanson, seeded 15th in the Sam Snead bracket, upset No. 2 Dustin Johnson, 4 and 3. It marked the fifth time in six years that Johnson, a runner-up at Pebble Beach and Riviera the past two weeks, has fallen in the first round. Hanson moves on to face the mellifluously named Victor Dubuisson of France, who topped Kevin Streelman, 5 and 4.
• Former Florida Gator Billy Horschel routed Welshman Jamie Donaldson, 6 and 5. Horschel next will play Jason Day, who defeated Thorbjørn Oleson, 2 up.
• Bill Haas beat the world’s most interesting man, Spain’s Miguel Ángel Jiménez, 4 and 3. On Thursday Haas will play Sergio García, who defeated Marc Leishman in 22 holes.
• Defending champion Matt Kuchar committed a gaffe on the 14th hole of his match against Austria’s Bernd Weisberger. While leading 4 up and licking his chops at the prospect of closing out the match, Kooch forgot to move his ball marker back to his original position on the green, resulting in a loss of the hole. It took a couple of more holes, but Kuchar ultimately prevailed, 3 and 2, and next will face Ryan Moore, who defeated Joost Luiten, 1 up.
Global Golf Post Now will have a full bracket of first-round results upon the conclusion of today’s play.