OPEN GOLF: Rickie Fowler plans to get Rory McIlroy to ‘tune in’ to Olympics

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 4th during the practice day at Royal Troon
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 4th during the practice day at Royal Troon

Rickie Fowler wants to change Rory McIlroy’s viewing habits with his performance in golf’s controversial return to the Olympics in Rio next month.

McIlroy opted out of the Games due to concerns over the Zika virus, but has also made it clear he views major championships rather than Olympic medals as the “pinnacle” of the sport.

Asked which events he would watch on television, the four-time major winner said: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving - the stuff that matters.’’

Fowler, who will represent the United States in Rio alongside Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar, understands why the likes of McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth have opted not to compete.

But the world number seven is keen to take what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity given that golf’s Olympic future beyond 2020 will be decided next year.

“Maybe I’ll cause enough of a stir that Rory’ll turn it back over to golf at some point,” Fowler said. “I’m excited. It’ll be pretty special to be an Olympic athlete and get to walk in the opening ceremony and be part of the whole thing.

“I can definitely understand why players have pulled out. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. I wanted to make sure I did my homework and knew the risks and that I felt comfortable with going down.

“Whether it’s on the security side or health issues or even our schedule through the summer, I definitely understand why they are not going.

“That being said, I felt for me it was going to be a great experience and possibly once in a lifetime. It’s potential golf won’t be in the Olympics very long. We’ll see after this one where it may go.”

Fowler is sharing a house with Spieth in Troon and was sitting next to the two-time major winner when he committed to making the trip to Rio over the weekend.

“I told him he had to do what was best for himself,” Fowler added after giving a lesson to schoolchildren at Troon as part of the HSBC Hour, which offers an hour of free golf to children and their families at almost 300 golf clubs across the UK.

“But I said ‘I’m going to try to make you jealous and go down there and get gold’.”

Fowler finished in the top five in all four majors in 2014, finishing second behind McIlroy in the Open at Hoylake, but is a combined 20 over par in majors this season after missing the cut in the Masters and US Open.

But the 27-year-old, who was 10th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on his last start, said: “I’m heading in the right direction.

“It’s not the start to the summer I wanted. I didn’t have two good majors so I’m looking to get the last two and play well here and at the PGA. It’s kind of nice to have them with just a few days off in between.

“I’m excited to be here, I love playing links golf and it’s time to start to playing a little better. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win.”