Four-Ball: Need a fourth? Fowler making strong case

Rickie Fowler's high-top sneakers and jogger pants caught many people's attention this week in Abu Dhabi, but talk of all show and no game -- which used to be commonplace -- is no longer warranted with his fourth worldwide victory in the past nine months. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy got the early headlines at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week, but it was Rickie Fowler who got the last laugh -- and the trophy.

So does Fowler's triumph in the desert against a strong field on the European Tour extend the talk of best in the world into a full foursome? And what is everyone most looking forward to this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, where Fowler will trek across the globe to be in the field?

Our scribes weigh in on those topics and more in this week's edition of Monday Four-Ball.

1. After Rickie Fowler's win in Abu Dhabi, do we have a big three, a big four or just a bunch of good, young players?

SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: Fowler made it clear that he wants to be included with Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day and I say he belongs. To me, being a big four is more than just on-course results. It's about making whatever tournament they are in the can't-miss event that week. Fowler is suddenly making things feel that way. The tournaments he is winning are big. And that translates. With the flash, the high tops and the joggers, Fowler is becoming box office and the other three stars better make room.

ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: We have a big four. How do I know? Because if they brought back the old show "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" and any two of them went head-to-head, we'd all tune in. McIlroy and Spieth are the superstars while Day and Fowler are the understudies.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: Fowler is certainly worthy of being mentioned with Spieth, Day and McIlroy, but if we're going to give them a tag, it would seem he needs to win a major championship first. It's what separates him from those players at the moment, even though he has played well in the past nine months.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: You know who the big three is? Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. The big four? Fine, let's throw Lee Trevino in there. Point is, these types of grandiose nicknames take years to develop. It's not fair to the stars of past generations to push their moniker on today's young stars -- and it's certainly not fair to Spieth, Day, McIlroy and Fowler. They're really, really good. Let's just leave it at that.

2. Whom are you most looking forward to watching this week at Torrey Pines?

Coachman: Day. When Day is motivated he can be awesome to watch. This month we have seen Spieth and Fowler win. That's motivation for him. Big-time motivation. The courses at Torrey Pines can be incredibly difficult and you have to be long and straight. Day showed at the PGA Championship that he can be the longest and he can be the straightest.

Collins: I was going to say the "New" North course, but (sigh) maybe next year. I'll "settle" for Day defending the first of his five titles from last year. He didn't play great in Maui to start the calendar year, so we should be anxious to see how much work he has put in since then.

Harig: Day. The Aussie had a great run to end 2015, then didn't play after the Presidents Cup because of the pending birth of his second child and the need to get away. He played at Kapalua, but how ready is he to get back to it now that he's returning to a place where he won a year ago?

Sobel: Spieth and Fowler already have wins this year; McIlroy finished third in his first start. Now, ostensibly, it's Day's turn. After a T-10 result to start his year at Kapalua, I want to see how he defends last year's title, not to mention how he builds on last season's strong finishing kick.

3. The LPGA starts its season this week. Which American has the best shot to challenge Lydia Ko and Inbee Park for No. 1 in the world?

Coachman: It's pretty obvious. Stacy Lewis. She has become the runner-up queen, stacking up high finishes, but somehow not being able to put together magic on Sundays like Ko or Park. Now if Lewis goes longer without winning while watching the other two continue their success, that could send her the other way. Putting pressure on yourself doesn't always end well. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Collins: As frustrated as it had to be for Lewis to go winless last year, I still feel as though it's Lexi Thompson who will make the charge this year. Having never achieved the top spot in the Rolex World Rankings, I believe Thompson has got the most motivation.

Harig: Lewis. It was a somewhat frustrating 2015 for Lewis because she didn't win. But she still racked up 14 top-10 finishes and her consistency is what will help her challenge Ko and Park.

Sobel: The easy answer is Thompson, who was Lydia Ko when Ko was still a preteen. Thompson has plenty of game and more power than Ko or Park. If she can challenge them for No. 1, it could be just what the LPGA needs to garner some more eyeballs from the mainstream public.

4. Now that the European Tour made the change last week, where do you stand on shorts being allowed in practice rounds and pro-ams on the PGA Tour?

Coachman: I have never liked wearing pants and I know that golfers are no different. I love the change. This sport is different and some would say the pants are a part of the uniform. But if a player wants to wear shorts, I am cool with it, even if they went so far as to allow them in competition. But if they start just in practice rounds and pro-ams, that's a good beginning. Who wants to wear pants in 95-degree weather in August? Not this dude. Let's relax on tradition and start going with comfort.

Collins: Remember that old Andre Agassi commercial, "Image Is Everything" ... Well, that's what the PGA Tour thinks they're protecting by not allowing shorts. It's as ridiculous as that commercial was, having men in JC Penney looking at blue blazers deciding appropriate fashion. If you're not going to outlaw Fowler's high tops and "trainer" pants ... C'mon man!

Harig: Practice rounds and pro-ams seem like a logical place to allow shorts. What is the harm? These days are meant to be low-key and fun. The amateurs are allowed to wear shorts, so why not the pros? But I draw the line there. Once the competition begins, long pants are necessary. It's not so much about tradition as it is professionalism. And it would look odd if some do and some don't.

Sobel: I'd love to see the PGA Tour follow in the Euro Tour's footsteps and allow shorts for all pre-tournament rounds. I mean, cue Allen Iverson: "We're talkin' about ... practice?!" I'm all for preserving the class and integrity of the game, but showing a little leg isn't going to hurt any of that.