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Rickie Fowler has a major in popularity

Rickie Fowler at The Memorial Tournament at

Rickie Fowler at The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club on May 31, 2018 in Dublin, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

Golf is a waiting game as far as Rickie Fowler is concerned. It begins with the fact that anyone who wants to whisk him off the course after a round must wait until he signs an autograph for everyone who asks, and there always are plenty of people asking.

He also is famous for waiting around to watch any of his close buddies on tour finish on No. 18 and walk off with a major champion. He was greenside when Jordan Spieth won the British Open and Justin Thomas won the PGA last year. He stayed around to congratulate Jimmy Walker at the 2016 PGA. After his Sunday rally fell short at Augusta this year, he stood by the scoring cabin to greet Patrick Reed, the man who edged him.

Then, of course, is the ultimate wait, the one that asks how long it will be before Fowler, 29, finally wins his first major championship. Entering the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, he might be getting close to that dubious (and nebulous) distinction of Best Player Never to Have Won a Major.

But if that is a weight on his shoulders, he does not show it, or back away from it. He goes about his colorful work and life, being Rickie, arguably the Most Popular Player Never to Have Won a Major.

“Every time you get there, the more and more comfortable you get,” he said recently. “Some people are more fortunate to get majors early on. And some, it’s going through a little bit of a process. It would have been obviously nice to get one earlier, but to know it’s our time to go get one, it’s just kind of checking the boxes and making sure we’re fully prepared.”

Like some other players in his age group, he says “we” when talking about his progress, including his caddie and support team. He generally is a gregarious sort, though, and people seem to pick up on it. Children often show up at tournaments wearing Fowler-like bright orange caps and shirts. Fans cheered for him as he patiently signed their souvenirs after a tough loss to Patrick Reed in the 2016 Barclays at Bethpage Black.

“My dream was to be playing on the PGA Tour on the highest level. I wasn’t planning on what kind of fan base would be there or anything like that,” he said recently. “To have kids jump on board, from my first year out here, it’s been really special . . . maybe seeing them a few years down the road and hearing, ‘Without you, I wouldn’t have started playing golf.’ ”

Spieth, one of his closest friends, says Fowler takes inordinate flak for the majors, insisting that Fowler’s win at The Players in 2015 was as good as anything anywhere. “I feel like if we look back on these questions that are asked to myself and others of Rickie’s peers, some day we’ll laugh at them,” he said.

When it comes to majors, Fowler just can’t wait for the next one to get here. “You know,” he said before he left Augusta in April, “Shinnecock is one of my favorite courses in the U.S.”

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