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Fowler grabs win in living color

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rickie Fowler has never been afraid to put it all on the line.

The thrill-seeking passion for motocross as a teenager. The head-turning clothing he brought to the PGA Tour as a rookie, such as the bright orange ensemble from head-to-toe on Sundays. With a chance to finally break through for his first PGA Tour win, the kid showed his true colors.

In a three-way playoff that featured U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the 23-year-old Fowler gambled with a 51-degree wedge that had to be perfect on an 18th hole at Quail Hollow that had yielded only four birdies all day.

And it was.

Fowler stuffed his shot into 4 feet for a birdie on the first extra hole to beat McIlroy and D.A. Points and win the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday. It was his first PGA Tour win in his 67th start as a pro, bringing him a small measure of relief and a big dose of credibility.

"I didn't want to play it safe," Fowler said. "I had a good number (133 yards), and I was aiming right of the hole with the wind coming out of the right, and if I hit a perfect shot, it comes down right on the stick. I hit a perfect shot at the right time, and I was going for it."

McIlroy, who returned to No. 1 in the world, used Quail Hollow as a launching pad toward stardom when he won here two years ago. Perhaps this is the start of a rivalry for years between a pair of 23-year-olds who bring power, flair and exuberance to the game.

"I'm looking forward to playing with Rory for a long time," said Fowler, who closed with a 3-under 69. "It's awesome. It's a long wait, but well worth it."

McIlroy established himself on the same green two years ago, a 20-year-old who closed out a record 62 by making a 40-foot putt for his first PGA Tour win, and the biggest of his career until adding a record-breaking U.S. Open title last summer at Congressional.

This time, it was Fowler's turn.

"You wouldn't call the 18th today a birdie hole with that pin," McIlroy said. "For Rickie to go out and play that hole the way he did, he deserved to win."

Along for the ride was Points, a 35-year-old who had the tournament in his grasp until ending 40 straight holes without a bogey by making one at the worst time. He had a one-shot lead going to the 18th in regulation, hit his approach in a bunker and never came close to a par. He shot 71.

McIlroy had a shot at winning in regulation and missed a 15-foot birdie putt, giving him a 70.

Even though they're the same age, McIlroy has a two-year head start on Fowler. They were in the Walker Cup together in 2007, and McIlroy turned pro that fall. Fowler didn't turn pro until two years ago. The only other time Fowler won as a pro was last year at the Korea Open, where he also beat McIlroy.

The difference was winning, and McIlroy still has a big edge.

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Around the greens

*Fred Funk birdied the final hole to edge Tom Lehman and win the Champions Tour's Insperity Championship at The Woodlands, Texas. Tied with one hole left, Funk hit his approach on No. 18 to 2 feet. Lehman missed his birdie putt, and Funk tapped in for his seventh victory on the 50-and-over tour first since 2010. Former Buffalonian Jim Thorpe tied for 19th, winning $21,675.

*Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum won the LPGA Tour's Brazil Cup exhibition event, closing with a bogey-free 6-under 67 for a four-stroke victory over Taiwan's Amy Hung in Rio de Janeiro.

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