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Golf | US PGA Tour

Rickie Fowler © Gallo Images

Fowler returns to defend Quail Hollow crown



Rickie Fowler, who cemented his status as a rising US PGA Tour star with a victory in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, last year, returns to defend that title this week.

Fowler claimed his first US PGA Tour title with a playoff victory over Rory McIlroy and DA Points.

"I guess now that I'm a PGA Tour winner I guess there is a little more credibility, but other than that, I don't get treated any differently," Fowler said.

"Maybe after I win 10, 15, 20 events, then they might look at me a little differently, but we'll work on the second one for now."

Fowler struck a gutsy approach shot at the first playoff hole four feet from the pin, and after both McIlroy and Points had parred, he made his putt for birdie and the victory.

The runner-up finish was enough to put McIlroy back atop the world rankings – a spot since taken over by 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.

Woods is absent this week, but McIlroy, who claimed his breakthrough victory on the US tour at Quail Hollow in 2010, is in the field making his first start since finishing equal 25th at the Masters.

"I feel good," McIlroy said of the state of his game. "The Masters was actually pretty good. Nine holes really killed me.

"I had two sevens on the back nine on Saturday afternoon, but I played solid and on Sunday shot 69 – at least came out of it with some positives. The game feels in good shape."

There has been concern over the state of some of the greens on the par-72, 7 442-yard course, where unseasonably cool, wet weather led tournament officials to completely resod two greens – the eighth and 10th – the week before the tournament.

There have been problem areas on the 12th and 13th as well, but Mark Russell, the PGA TOUR's vice president of rules, competition and administration, said he believes the greens will be up to tournament play.

"They're going to be smooth," he said. "We're going to do everything that we can to make sure that they putt well and smooth – they just aren't going to look like some of the other greens."

McIlroy said it was "unfortunate" that the greens aren't up to the usual standard.

"But it's no big deal," he added. "The rest of the golf course is in phenomenal shape. It's going to be the same. Everyone has to putt on them, and the best player at the end of the week is still going to win."

Reigning US Open champion Webb Simpson plays out of Quail Hollow Club and said he doesn't expect to take any trouble spots on the greens into consideration when playing.

"I think the tendency this week for a lot of guys will be to think too much about where to hit it, where not to hit it, what areas of the greens to avoid," Simpson said. "But I think we've just got to go play golf and try to get the ball in the hole."

The field also includes Angel Cabrera, making his first US PGA Tour start since his runner-up finish at the Masters – where he fell to Australian Adam Scott in a playoff.

Since then Cabrera has returned home to Argentina and won a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event at Cordoba Golf Club.

"It was great to get home and have everybody really excited," Cabrera said. "I've been working hard to have a week like I had at Augusta. I've been working hard and it came about that week."

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