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Fowler proves substance with win

And so, the golfer clad in orange finally got a chance to show off his Sunday, citrusy best as a winner.

Rickie Fowler earned his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, beating D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy in a playoff. It was a long time coming for a guy who, at all of 23 years old, seemed like he had gone ages without a title on tour.

But prior to Sunday, Fowler had a history of coming up just short.

After turning professional in 2009, he was a runner-up once on the Nationwide Tour and a runner-up in his second PGA Tour event.

Then, in 2010, Fowler earned his PGA Tour card and accumulated seven top-10s -- including another pair of second-place finishes.

Controversially, Fowler was named Rookie of the Year that season over McIlroy, who had earned a win and nine other top-10s.

Last year, while McIlroy established himself as one of the game's best by winning twice, including his first major title, Fowler again went without a victory. Fowler had some good results, including a tie for second place at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but never discovered the winning approach.

Fowler finally found it Sunday, and as it turned out, the approach he needed was a proactive one. In order to earn his first PGA Tour victory, Fowler had to go out and take it.

On the first playoff hole, the par-four 18th, all three players found the fairway with their tee shots and Fowler was presented with an opportunity. He could play it safe and go for par or take a riskier shot that could pay off or fail in a big way.

Fowler went for it, using his 51-degree wedge to stuff the ball four from the hole, setting up his winning birdie. The shot Points called "spectacular" wasn't a foolish one -- Fowler and his caddie surveyed the situation and calculated the risk. But the shot was still a risk, and Fowler took it.

"Playing against those two guys, I know that they're going to make birdie at some point, and I don't want to sit there and try and make pars and stay in it," Fowler said following his win. "I had a good number, and I wanted to make birdie."

One big result of Fowler's risk is that the PGA Tour has another first-time winner, and that's good for the game. Golf needs players who are willing to take risks to win. They don't always pay off, but it makes for exciting events.

Another result is that Fowler finally shed the winless label. He was already an extremely popular player before Sunday, a player with loads of personality and a unique style. But when you display that kind of style -- the monochromatic outfits, the flat-brimmed hats and the wild hair -- people tend to wonder if it's all flash. People wonder if there's substance underneath.

Fowler proved it Sunday, but for him, it was only a matter of time. While he used an aggressive shot to earn his victory, Fowler used patience to get to that point.

"It was just more when," Fowler said. "I definitely knew I was good enough [to win], and it was just getting everything to come together and stay patient."

Now that everything has come together, Fowler can play without the pressure to get his first win. That will be good for both him and the golf world, if not for his competitors.

It's not as if Fowler was a terrible golfer before Sunday. He always had the tools to win, but never proved that he could. Now he'll be a week-in, week-out threat to win.

And it's not as though you could ignore Fowler before. It's just that now you'll notice him for something other than his clothes.