Fowler in Simpson tribute

Rickie Fowler paid tribute to the late Payne Stewart on Thursday, wearing his idol's trademark plus fours for the opening round of the US Open at Pinehurst.

Stewart won his third major title in the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst, but died just a few months later at the age of 42 when the private plane in which he was travelling depressurised and eventually crashed in a field in South Dakota.

"Payne was one of my all-time favourite players," Fowler said after an opening round of 70.

"I never had a chance of meeting him, but obviously loved watching him play and loved how he handled himself on and off the golf course.

"It's cool to be in the position I'm in to wear some attire like he used to wear, to give tribute to him."

Fowler was just 10 years old when Stewart died, but remembers the par putt he holed on the 72nd hole to beat Phil Mickelson by a shot, the first of Mickelson's record six runners-up finishes.

"I think everyone remembers Payne's putt on 18. That's what you think about," Fowler added.

"But there's a few points that I can look back and remember exactly where I was and what I was doing and what was going on, and one of those is when the plane crash happened.

"I was just getting off school. I was on College Road sitting in the back seat with my mom and sister in the car; I started crying in the car."