If you've seen Rickie Fowler at the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open, you've probably seen he has a picture of a child on Fowler's Puma "P" hat. That's the person he's playing for this week at TPC Scottsdale.
The picture is of Griffin Connell, a Scottsdale-area boy who passed away last week at age 7 from a complex airway disorder. Fowler first met Connell at this tournament in 2013, and Connell had returned to the tournament in succeeding years to see his favorite player in the flesh.
Before the tournament, Fowler posted a picture of the two to Instagram.
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This week just won’t be the same without my #1 fan, Griffin!! We lost him last week...he was always our highlight of the @wmphoenixopen...seeing him and his family watch us every step of the way no matter what it took...Griffin you were and always will be a legend in my mind!! You will always be a part of my team!! Rest In Peace bud!! Thumbs Up👍
After an opening 5-under 66 on Thursday, Fowler spoke with Golf Channel about Connell and his relationship with him.
“He was just a huge fan of the game,” Fowler said. “I claim him as being my No. 1 fan, so he had a special place with me and (caddie) Joe (Skovron). We looked forward to seeing him and the family every week out here at the tournament every year, so it’s unfortunate that we don’t have him here this week because he was fun to see.”
Fowler said he drew appreciation and gratitude from Connell's presence at the tournament in years past.
“It just makes you appreciate the position that a lot of us are in,” Fowler said. “Even if I hit a bad shot out there the past years, you would look over and see him. He was just pumped and excited to be out there watching us, and it just puts things into perspective.”