ABU DHABI (REUTERS) - Rickie Fowler hopes to turn golf's 'Big Three' into a 'Fab Four' this year by following up his victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with his first triumph in a major championship.
The American was thrilled to win his fourth title in eight months, finishing two shots clear of third-placed Rory McIlroy, the world number three, and five ahead of fifth-placed Jordan Spieth, the game's current number one.
Sandwiched between Northern Ireland's McIlroy and American Spieth in the rankings, though absent from Abu Dhabi, is Australia's Jason Day and between them, the trio have won five of the past six majors.
Now, though, 27-year-old Fowler fancies it could be time for him to join their exciting club.
"The three of them have played amazing. The ultimate goal this year is to win a major ... then maybe I can join the crew," Fowler said following the win which will see him rise to fourth in the world rankings. "I've got my eyes on (world number) one, but I'm up against some pretty tough competition. I'm looking forward to going to battle with those guys all year long and for the rest of our careers."
The quartet of Spieth, Day, McIlroy and Fowler are all 28 or under, leading to the idea that golf is entering a golden age, much as men's tennis has enjoyed with the rivalry between Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray over the last decade.
Fowler may as yet lack the elite titles of his contemporaries, but four victories in eight months in a sport with a much wider spread of winners than tennis suggests the American will not have to wait long for that elusive major.
His winning run began with May's Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major, and continued at the Deutsche Bank Championship and Scottish Open.
"The Players was a big step in the right direction. It's nice to have that added confidence now, really having the belief and knowing that come Sunday when I'm in the mix, I know I can go get it done," Fowler told reporters.
McIlroy was generous in his praise for Fowler, who emerged from the pack to seize the lead in Abu Dhabi late in the third round, a position he did not relinquish over the final 18 holes.
"It's a great start to the year for him," McIlroy said. "Everyone was talking about the 'Big Three' and Rickie sort of needing something, but the four of us are top four in the world. It's a nice narrative going into the meat of the golf season."