Rickie Fowler not concerned about overrated poll

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Rickie Fowler was casually thumbing his way through Twitter recently, scrolling aimlessly, when he came across his own name. It was posted in regard to a Sports Illustrated player poll in which he shared the dubious distinction of being voted the PGA Tour's most overrated pro.

He didn't smash his phone against the nearest wall in reaction. Didn't vow vengeance against his peers. Didn't type a snarky response and press the send button.

"I laughed," said Fowler, who shot an opening-round 69 at the Players Championship on Thursday. "I thought it was funny."

As it turns out, Fowler was in the minority. Most others tweeting about the poll have very earnestly either come to his defense or supported the anonymous opinion of his fellow players -- and there hasn't been much in between.

There's the pro-Fowler camp: Quick to point out that last year he joined only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as players in the modern era to finish top-five in all four majors. They'll also remind anyone within clicking distance that he's currently ranked a respectable 13th in the world, which is based on math, not opinions.

There's the anti-Fowler camp: Contending that wins are the sole measure of a player's worth, they'll easily note that he owns a single victory in six PGA Tour seasons -- and none in his past 70 starts.

And then there's Fowler himself, who doesn't seem too concerned about the court of public opinion, even if it includes his fellow players.

"It's fine by me," he said dismissively. "I'm going to try and play as well as I can this week and I'm going to take care of my business."

During his opening round, Fowler armed both camps with additional ammunition.

He birdied six of his first 11 holes to move into sole possession of the early lead, only to play the final seven in 3 over, backing up a bit on the leaderboard.

After the round, he checked Twitter and found that Ian Poulter -- the other most overrated player from that poll -- had playfully tweaked him for his "totally over rated round of golf."

This time, Fowler responded.

The truth is, this question of whether Fowler is overrated might be more of a philosophical one: Do we place too much weight on winning and not enough on consistency? That insinuation alone could send both camps scurrying to their keyboards, but there's certainly some merit to it.

Nobody who is ranked higher has fewer wins (Fowler also won in South Korea four years ago), but it's similarly a credit to his overall performance that he's climbed so high without also claiming more trophies.

Then there's the not insignificant fact that Fowler has been hyped as much as nearly anyone else on the PGA Tour since his arrival. No other one-win player has kids -- and, unfortunately, too many grown men -- flooding golf courses, dressed as his twin. His commercial-to-victory ratio is off the charts, the byproduct of an aggressively successful marketing campaign.

Not that Fowler should earn any demerits because of it.

Besides, that could change with three more impressive days here at Pete Dye's swampland masterpiece.

In five previous starts at TPC Sawgrass, Fowler has missed the cut three times, missed the secondary cut once and finished in a share of second place. Knowing his own hit-or-miss history, he's hoping this week will turn into more hit than miss.

"We have had one really good finish here and then some that haven't been so good," he said, "but this is definitely trending towards a really good week."

It's still three days and many, many birdies away, but if Fowler can leave here Sunday with his second career win, it would go a long way toward removing his name from the next poll of his peers.

Until then, he'll keep laughing about it.

"I guess top-fives in four majors aren't that good," he said with a smile. "Like I said, I'll take care of my business and I'll be just fine."