The Phoenix-born seven-year old Connell passed away on January 23rd without getting to see his golfing hero post a five-under par 66 on the opening day of event at TPC Scottsdale.
Fowler first met Griffin and his family at the 2013 Phoenix Open when Fowler was informed Griffin had been diagnosed at birth with a rare airway disorder.
The current World No7 wore a photo badge of Griffin on his cap given to him by Connell’s father, Jim and went out to record an eagle, four birdies and just one bogey at the infamous par-3 16th stadium hole.
This time last year, Griffin had been on his Twitter account @GriffinConnell ‘tweeting’ his excitement in looking forward to again seeing Fowler and Fowler’s caddy, Jo Skovron.
My favourite week of the year! @WMPhoenixOpen!! Can’t wait to follow my buddies, @RickieFowler and @skovy14. Good luck guys!!
When Fowler captured last December’s Tiger Woods hosted Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas one of the congratulatory tweets he received was from Griffin.
Congrats @RickieFowler and @skovy14 on the great round and W @TGRLiveEvents — watched every birdie from home!!! See you soon! It was Griffin’s last tweet.
“I was always planning to wearing the badge or something in memory of him,” said Fowler.
“I met him about five or six years ago and was probably two or three years of age at the time, and he would kind of cruise around with his parents and would push him in a stroller.
“He was just a huge fan of the game. I was lucky to have him. … I claim him as being my No. 1 fan, so he had a special place with me and Joe.”
Fowler could not have commenced his round in more sensational manner with an eagle at the par-5 15th hole after he hit his second shot from 232 yards to two feet.
The only blemish came at the Coliseum-like par-3 16th as Fowler found the front-right greenside bunker and then failed to get up and down from a semi-plugged lie. And since it was still early, he could hear more than boos from the crowd.
“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said, as I don’t mind the normal boos for missing a green, that’s fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum,” he said.
Though there was one person who Fowler said would never boo if he missed a shot or bogeyed hole and that was Griffin.
“He was just pumped and excited to be out there watching us,” Fowler said. “And it just puts things into perspective.
“He could care less if I played well or bad, he was always supporting us.”