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Stephen Gallacher: Rickie Fowler proves nice guys can finish first with Rocket Mortgage Classic victory

Fowler could be hitting form at the right time after recording his first win in four-and-a-half years.

Rickie Fowler tees off on the first hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Rickie Fowler claimed victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Image: PA

There will be few more popular winners this year than Rickie Fowler after he ended his long wait for another title on Sunday.

The American ended his four-and-a-half-year wait for a win when he beat Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin in a play-off to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic on the PGA Tour on Sunday.

The emotional scenes among spectators and the goodwill shown towards Rickie by friends and colleagues on social media highlighted just how popular he is.

It was one of those moments where you are pleased to see a nice guy get his due and Rickie comes into that category.

A model pro and a popular figure in every dressing room he is in, Rickie is a terrific role model for any aspiring young golfer in terms of how he handles himself on and off the golf course.

His wait for a win was long overdue, too. He’s been struggling for a while, but he is back working with Butch Harmon and he has been knocking on the door this year.

He was firmly in the hunt at the US Open a few weeks ago before falling away due to a disappointing final round, so finally ending that wait will stand him in good stead as he now makes plans for his next tournament.

Is Rickie hitting form at the right time?

It just so happens his next event will be in Scotland next week at the Scottish Open.

He’ll be looking forward to that one as a former tournament winner.

Rickie claimed the title at Gullane in 2015 and tournament you have won is one which gives you a spring in your step no matter where the venue is.

Following that it is off to the Open at Hoylake – another venue Rickie will have good memories of after finishing two shots behind winner Rory McIlroy there in 2014.

If you could pick a good time to hit form then Rickie might just have selected now. He’ll certainly be worth keeping tabs on in the next two weeks.

It’s shaping up to be a belter of a Scottish Open, too, with a star-studded field assembling for the event.

There are fewer men’s events in Scotland this year than we’ve had in recent years, so I’m hoping the Scottish golfing public will turn out in force at The Renaissance Club next week to cheer on the guys.

Himmerland Hill will be sorely missed

It feels like the end of an era this week in Denmark as we visit Himmerland for Made In Himmerland.

The course in Farso will host the tournament for the final time.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but this event will certainly leave a lasting impression on everyone who has played in the tournament.

Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort’s 16th hole is 105 yards. Dubbed Himmerland Hill, it played just 79 yards in 2015, making it the shortest par three in tour history.

What makes it so special?

Well… between the crowd (all 2,500 on this one hole), the pumping music and the carnival atmosphere, it’s a wild few minutes which live long in the memory.

You could be having a bad day at the office, but from the moment you make your way to the tee you are in another world with fans roaring you on and willing you to birdie the hole.

They are all holding squeaky toys, too, and if someone does manage to birdie the hole, that’s all you can hear wherever you may be on the course – besides the cheering of course.

Trust me, once played, this is a hole never forgotten.

Time is running out for guys to book a place in the field for the Open in two weeks’ time and with three spots available to the leading players who have not already qualified on offer here in Denmark, it promises to be a tense week.

As subplots go, it’s certainly one to keep everyone focused.

As it stands this will be my last event until the end of August.

I had planned on playing in the United States as there are two PGA Tour events running the same time as the Scottish Open and the Open, but I only managed to get into one of them.

I’ve decided instead to stay at home and hit the reset button.

It’s been a strange year so far between thinking I was playing the Challenge Tour and relying on the odd once-a-month DP World Tour invitation to regaining my tour card and I haven’t really got any rhythm going.

This feels like a chance to have a natural break.

I’ll take some time away with my wife Helen and the dog, hit the gym and get some practise in with a view to coming back strong in six weeks or so.

Stroke penalties the best deterrent to slow play

Following on from last week’s discussion about slow play, I was intrigued to see Richard Bland become the first player to fall foul of slow play by LIV Golf.

He was handed a one-shot penalty at Valderrama last week after taking 84 seconds to play a shot. The allotted time on their tour is 40 seconds.

I’m glad it’s been reported and everyone is talking about it.

Slow play is something which needs to be brought to the fore in the game and shot penalties in tournaments are far more effective than financial penalties.