Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Midway through his sixth PGA Tour season, Rickie Fowler wasn't having his desired results.
With just two top-10 finishes in 11 starts, Fowler was searching for the form that helped him post top-five finishes at all four majors last year.
The extra motivation he was searching for came from an outside influence. In its annual Players Championship preview, Sports Illustrated ran a poll that listed Fowler and Ian Poulter as the most overrated players on the PGA Tour, both garnering 24 percent of the vote.
Poulter mockingly tweeted to Fowler a few times during the tournament, referencing the overrated moniker.
It is understandable though that his fellow pros would think that about Fowler. He is an advertiser's dream - flashy, good looking, fan friendly. But, his results were lacking.
For all his flash and dash, there was a reason those anonymous pros voted Fowler as the most overrated.
In 142 career starts, Fowler had only 13 top-three finishes with his lone win coming at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. He was ranked 13th in the world thanks in part to high finishes in big events.
Four top-fives in the majors last year really helped his world ranking, and he tied for 12th at both the Masters and WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this year. He was coming off a share of ninth at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.
Fowler went 3-0 in pool play at the Match Play, but lost 1-down to Louis Oosthuizen in their fourth-round match.
Some of those who question how good Fowler is would point to his four events earlier this season in which he finished outside the top 40. In those tournaments, Fowler broke par in just five of 16 rounds.
Asked about the poll all week, Fowler politely tap-danced around it, giving politically correct answers about how it didn't bother him. He was asked again on Sunday if the poll provided more motivation.
"No, I laughed at the poll, but, yeah, if there was any question, I think this right here answers anything you need to know," Fowler joked as he patted the crystal trophy.
Getting to the trophy presentation was the hard part, as always.
Fowler, who was seven groups ahead of the leaders, trailed by six strokes with six holes to play. It was not an easy task given those odds, and the fact that those behind him were making several birdies of their own.
After birdies on 13 and 15 piqued some interest in a Fowler comeback, he stuffed his second shot at the par-5 16th to two feet. He kicked that in for eagle, and just like that, Fowler was one shot behind the leaders.
Fowler went on to birdie 17 and 18 to grab the clubhouse lead. Sergio Garcia, a former Players Championship winner, and Kevin Kisner were among those chasing Fowler.
Garcia and Kisner birdied 16 and 17 to join Fowler at 12-under par. Both had realistic chances to win with another birdie at 18, but failed to convert. Ben Martin and Bill Haas also had their chances to get into the playoff, but did not do so.
Fowler, Garcia and Kisner went back out for the first three-hole aggregate playoff in event history. Fowler and Kisner birdied the island green 17th and parred the other two holes. Garcia carded three pars and was out.
So Fowler and Kisner returned to the 17th for the fourth extra hole. After Kisner's tee ball rolled by the hole and stopped 12 feet away, Fowler dropped his tee shot inside five feet.
Kisner missed, but Fowler did not. The birdie was his fifth of the week at 17.
You read that right. On one of the toughest par-3s on tour, Fowler played the hole six times and made five birdies. His three tee shots on that hole on Sunday combined to total 17 feet, 11 inches from the cup.
There was no better response to his critics.
IS POULTER OVERRATED?
On the other end of that overrated poll was Poulter, who has two PGA Tour wins to go with 12 victories on the European Tour.
Poulter may be overrated or overvalued in the United States, but he owns 16 worldwide wins, though only one of those titles has come on U.S. soil.
How many of those who voted in the poll have that many career wins?
Poulter is one of nine players with multiple World Golf Championship titles, and he won 12 of his first 15 Ryder Cup matches in his first five appearances.
The Englishman has only 11 top-three finishes in 192 career PGA Tour starts. That's two less than Rickie Fowler in 50 more events. However, on the European Tour, Poulter has 34 top-three finishes in 307 tournaments.
Poulter has earned over $17 million on the PGA Tour, and he has made nearly 23 million euros on the European Tour.
I'd like to be that kind of overrated!
* Fowler set a Players Championship record by playing the final four holes of regulation in 11 strokes. Seven players had played those four holes in 12 shots to set the old mark. Five of those seven did so in the final round, like Fowler.
* Forty-five balls found the water around the island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass this past weekend. That was the fifth-most in the last 13 years of the event, and the most since 64 splashed down in 2008.