San Jose: The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for PGA Tour rookie Rickie Fowler who can hardly believe he is one of the drawcards at this week's Frys.com Open in San Martin.
A year ago, the long-haired American lost out in a playoff for the title when the event was held in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he was competing for only the second time on the US circuit as a professional.
"It's pretty cool, and for it to happen this fast is amazing," the 21-year-old Fowler told reporters after Wednesday's pro-am competition at CordeValle Golf Club.
"I wanted to be in this position at some point ... but it's just small steps at a time, even though I've taken quite a big step in the past year."
Having turned professional late last year, Fowler made a significant impact in his first PGA Tour event in the paid ranks by tying for seventh at the Las Vegas Open where he birdied the 72nd hole.
That strong finish earned him a spot in the field for the Frys.com Open the following week where he came from four strokes behind going into the final round to reach a playoff with fellow Americans Troy Matteson and Jamie Lovemark.
Matteson ultimately triumphed with a birdie at the second extra hole.
"It's awesome to be able to get back to play this event," Fowler said of the Tour's Fall Series event. "I am ranked higher now and I'm just excited to be here playing again."
"I just want to put myself in contention to have a chance to win on Sunday. Obviously, the Fall Series (last year) was a big part of me getting started on the PGA Tour."
Just nine days ago, Fowler was part of a brilliant United States fightback in the closing singles at the Ryder Cup in Wales where torrential rain and muddy conditions forced the biennial team competition into an unprecedented Monday finish.
Although uplifted by the whole Cup experience, the young Californian was delighted to be back on home soil at CordeValle where the par-71 layout was running fast and firm.
"It's a good driving course ... and it was nice to see the ball actually take a hop," Fowler, ranked 33rd in the world, said. "The Ryder Cup was my last event and there wasn't much hopping or rolling going on there.
"It's nice to get it back on some firmer playing surfaces. I think there's a possibility of a lot of birdies out there, but you've got to drive it in the fairway."
Matteson will defend his title this week while former world number one David Duval and past major winners Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard, John Daly and Steve Elkington are also in the field.
First Published: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 10:05