After an opening 65, Rickie Fowler was asked by USGA officials to visit the interview room for a sitdown with writers and various television outlets. Instead, he kept his comments confined to various TV interviews and the "flash" area.
But as Jaime Diaz of Golf World explains, this was a precedent-setting move in line with the recent tradition of players increasingly staying out of the press center and distancing themselves from the press. Because of the player in question--and one who is traditionally media friendly--Diaz views this new precedent as dangerous.
But Fowler was the leader, and his decision to break precedent matters. Whether they like it or not, the game’s best players are also its most influential thought leaders. What they say at tournaments, and especially majors, can both inspire and deepen understanding of a nuanced game. Forfeiting such a platform ultimately hurts golf.
What’s worrisome is that players will take note of Fowler’s decision and start to emulate it. Indeed, through he first two rounds of the championship at Erin Hills, more than 50 players were interviewed in the flash area, but only one—Brian Harman (one of four players who tied for the 36-hole lead)—came to the press center to be interviewed.
It’s understandable in the current climate—which now includes journalists regularly considered to be putting out “fake news”—that agents and managers who handle the players see an opportunity for lessening media obligations. Perhaps Fowler’s decision was in part a test to see if anyone would notice.