Rickie Fowler Happy To Play 'Host Role' As PGA Tour Returns To Detroit

That included 18 holes on Wednesday with "one of Detroit's legends."

Will Burchfield
June 26, 2019 - 5:04 pm

© Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

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The field at the Rocket Mortgage Classic celebrity pro-am Wednesday morning was littered with big names. Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson teed off in the first two groups. Barry Sanders, Tom Izzo and Larry Fitzgerald were sprinkled behind them. 

The group that attracted the largest crowd, particularly as it made its way up 18, featured buddies Rickie Fowler and Kid Rock. As Fowler, ranked No. 14 in the world, blasted his final drive straight down the fairway, Rock finished a smoke, placed down his beer and sent one drive into a bunker before slicing another into the rough. Hey, tough act to follow. 

Fowler then stuck his approach a shot a few feet from the pin, to the oohs and aahs of the gallery, and putted in for birdie to close out their round. The two were all smiles afterward. 

"Anytime you're hanging out with Bob (Ritchie), it's a good time," said Fowler, who's gotten to know the rocker through the time they both spend in Florida. "We hang out a decent amount in Jupiter. Go to dinner, play golf, hang out. We enjoy spending time around each other. Today was fun to be in his hometown. I've heard a lot about Detroit from him, his brother, some of his friends."

Fowler, who's from California, has also learned about the city through his partnership with Rocket Mortgage, which is bringing the PGA Tour back to Detroit this weekend for the first time since 2009. That makes him the unofficial host of the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club, a role he's happy to assume. Fowler also took part in Tuesday's celebrity shootout and was the only pro to play both the front and back nine in the pro-am. 

"I've heard about Quicken and Rocket Mortgage wanting to bring this event to Detroit, Dan Gilbert's kind of dream and vision to get a PGA Tour event back here. To see all that come together, be out with one of Detroit's legends today, it's a fun start to the week," Fowler said. 

@rickiefowler tees of at 18, sinks his birdie putt as @kidrock watches on, then sends the fans home happy at the Rocket Mortgage Classic Pro-Am.

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A widely popular golfer, Fowler was instrumental in promoting what's been dubbed Detroit's Major in the months leading up to it. Along with Fowler, Johnson and Watson, the field features the likes of U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Travelers champion Chez Reavie, 2018 Masters champion and nine-time PGA Tour winner Brandt Snedeker. 

"It's special to be a part of a tournament in a little bit of a host role," said Fowler. "It doesn't necessarily feel like I'm doing a whole lot extra or working. It's something I want to see succeed, see the partnership grow and see the tournament do well.

"It was something I always heard about over the last four, five years, the potential that the tournament would move to Detroit, a place where we haven't had a Tour event in over 10 years. There's not a whole lot of events that are played in this area." 

Absent from the tournament will likely be Gilbert, the man who was chiefly responsible for making it happen. Gilbert, 57, suffered a stroke last month and remains in rehab. The founder of Quicken Loans began pushing years ago for the PGA Tour to return to Detroit.

"This has been a dream of his for quite some time. All the work that he's put into, not just downtown but the city as a whole, for him not to be able to be here, it's a bummer," Fowler said. "I wish he was able to see what he's helped create. We sent him a (get-well) video last week. Depending on how he's feeling and what's going on, I told a few people, if he's open to it, we would love to go see him, visit, say hi.

"But just from the turnout, the guys that are here playing, the fans that will be here through the week, it will be cool for everyone to show their appreciation for him bringing a Tour event to Detroit. I'm happy to be a part of it."

Fowler arrived in Detroit on Monday, his first visit to the area, and had dinner at the Shinola and caught the fireworks show downtown. He said he was impressed by the city's ongoing rebirth. 

"We got a solid five hours down in downtown. It's cool to hear the stories of how much it's changed, not just over the last five to 10 years, but really in the last one to two with lots of the new buildings going up. Right next to the Shinola they're working on a big building, supposed to be the biggest building in Detroit. A lot of stuff going on.

"It's cool to see how much Dan Gilbert and his companies are putting back into the community."