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HUMANA CHALLENGE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE CLINTON FOUNDATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 7, 2014
MARK STEVENS: Rickie, thank you for taking the time to join us and we'll start off, if you want to make some general comments on returning to Humana Challenge for the first time since 2010, your rookie year, and then we'll take a couple questions after that.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I'm excited to start the year over in the desert. I played a lot of junior golf and growing up playing junior golf in that area, so to be able to get back on my schedule to start the year off there, I'm looking forward to getting off to a good start and making 2014 a good year. So just excited to get back into the swing of things and get back out on the road.
MARK STEVENS: Speaking of kind of that, saw the news, I don't know if it was yesterday, about you and Butch Harmon. If you want to make a comment about that. And then also we all saw you in Oklahoma City yesterday, surprising some young kids in that area that were affected by the tornado. If you want to talk about those two things and then we'll start in on the questions.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, well it's been awhile since my last coach, Barry, passed away. It's been basically ever since I've been out on TOUR and I've spent a lot of time with Butch and been around with him and with the other guys that he's worked with, so he's kind of seen me develop over the last few years and really felt that with the experience he has as a teacher he could help me reach my goals and aspirations and help me be the best player that I can be. So I'm excited to be doing it and looking forward to moving forward this year in 2014 and on.
And as far as Oklahoma, yeah, partnered up with obviously one of my partners is Farmers Insurance and they were on the ground with the tornado relief from day one and so I was able to contribute last year some donations of my own, involved with the Crowne Plaza tournament, to help out with that.
And then they came up with the idea to have me come in and we did a little clinic for three of the high schools in Moore, Moore High School, West Moore and South Moore. So they brought their guys and girls teams over and unfortunately it was a little cold, so we couldn't really do anything outdoors, but we went over to the local Golfsmith, hit a few balls, did a Q&A and just hung out and then gave all the players a Cobra golf bag.
So it was a good day. It was a lot of fun, it's something little like that that goes a long way with those guys. So I enjoyed doing it and glad that Farmers and I could help some kids out in a little way.
MARK STEVENS: All right. Thank you. Open it up for questions.
Q. Are you in Florida?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm actually not in Florida, but Florida's been pretty good.
Q. It's going to be about 77 here today and hopefully all week next week too, so.
RICKIE FOWLER: That would be great.
Q. We talked about hooking up with Butch here. Is this a matter of a major change in your approach or is this just a matter of kind of tweaking what you have because you think you're pretty close but just haven't been able to get over the hump there?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's just basically taking what I have and turning it and cleaning it up and making it the best it can be. No major changes. I've never been a player where I've been very mechanical or anything like that, so I wouldn't say it's any major swing changes or anything like that, just taking what I have and cleaning it up and making it consistent and more repeatable.
Q. You mentioned your time out here in the desert playing some junior golf. I think I saw you shoot a couple of 62s or something at one time, but how comfortable are you on these golf courses now as opposed to before you moved down to Florida?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well it's still where I grew up and the majority of my junior golf growing up, I played ‑‑ at least 50 percent of it was played in the desert up until I was probably about 12 years old.
So I played a lot out there and then have played over the years with high school golf and continued to play out there. So I do enjoy playing out there, usually, with the weather, the weather the way it usually is out there, there's usually not much wind and pretty good scoring conditions, so I feel like it's a good way to start off the year and looking forward to getting out there and picking up where we left off in high school, making a lot of birdies out there.
Q. Having played at Oklahoma State and been around that area, some people sometimes tend to forget about these disasters and stuff. I guess what made you want to keep continuing to kind of keep that in the eye and try and do some things for those kids and what most affects you when you do something like that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, being that I had spent time in Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, it's a close place to my heart. And then when the tornado came through I was just down the road in Dallas, so I watched it on the news and definitely felt close to it.
Then Farmers has also helped me kind of be close with the relief and feel a little bit more attached. Yesterday we surprised one of the kids this I've actually been in contact with since the tornado, Jake Reddington, we're bringing him out to the Farmers Insurance Open to walk around with us on Wednesday inside the ropes during the pro‑am. So I definitely had a connection with him.
He actually survived the tornado with his dogs in their bathtub. So actually being in touch with someone and staying in contact with someone who actually survived and been through the middle of the tornado makes me want to stay close and do things like what I did yesterday with the high school golf kids.
Q. Do you guys have numbers, you said you've been in contact with him, do you exchange text messages with him or how do you communicate with him?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, we both have each other's numbers. It was funny, he said he got a new phone and he said I was the first number that he had put in his new phone. So I was pretty honored to make the list. And I actually, I checked yesterday, once I found out everything that we were doing, to see if I still had his number in there and we did. We had sent him, I had sent him a few texts back and forth after everything had happened with the tornado and with Farmers and a couple of my other sponsors, we were able to kind of setup a small care package together and send that to him.
I think with the trip to Farmers Insurance Open, I know he was pretty surprised and excited yesterday, so hopefully that will be a little bit of icing on the cake and then we can continue to stay in touch and hopefully see him playing some golf in the near future.
Q. What kept you away from this tournament for a couple years and what made you decide you wanted to come back?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well some of the scheduling has been tough for me. Starting earlier in the year. With the amount of play that I have on the West Coast, just setting the schedule together making it fit right.
This year with not playing in Hawaii like I did last year, definitely that makes it easier to get back out to the desert and spend some time around somewhere where I spent a lot of time and in my early years.
And also it works out good and it's going to be fun this year with Cobra Puma has joined on as a partner in the tournament and I think they're going to be doing a new launch with one of their new driver woods lines. It's going to be a fun week for the tournament playing and also for one of my main sponsors, Cobra.
Q. And does it, have you found winning was not that it is never easy, but you did pretty well in college, how much harder is it to win on the TOUR than it is to be a star in college have you found out in the last three or four years?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's not even comparable. To make the transition, I mean you can see it. There's a lot of guys that do come out and play very well, one right now that you may look at would be Jordan Spieth. Obviously he had a very good last year and a half with getting the win and obviously this past week finishing second.
But that doesn't happen very often. The amount of college kids that there are at an elite level and the amount that actually come out and have early success in the first year or five years out, it doesn't happen very often. And I'm definitely honored to have and excited that I have gotten a win. I know moving forward I'm, now that I have that one out of the way I'm looking for multiple and want to keep winning. I don't want to just have one win and be done.
So it is very hard and I wouldn't say ‑‑ you can't compare it at all. It's a different level.
Q. Is there a way we could get, would you mind if we got in touch with Jake and is there a way somebody could get us Jake's phone number or e‑mail or something to talk about how excited he must be to come out?
RICKIE FOWLER: I know that he did some interviews and stuff yesterday, but I'm sure that if you get with mark.
MARK STEVENS: Send me an e‑mail and I'll help you out.
Q. A question in general, when you look at 2014 as whole, what, how would you define success in 2014? What does that look like to you with the events coming up and just as a whole?
RICKIE FOWLER: With it being a Ryder Cup year, that's definitely a main goal of mine. Success to me would be going and checking off some goals of mine. Obviously I want to win and then outside that getting through the, playing through the FedExCup playoffs, there's four Majors to look forward to.
So obviously looking at the key events, winning, it's a Ryder Cup year, so success would be ‑‑ I guess a lot of golfers are never exactly happy, there's always some way that it could be better or you could do some more, but if I could take care of a few of those I would definitely be happy and it would be a successful 2014.
Q. And then to follow‑up, with the U.S. Open coming to North Carolina, to Pinehurst and with your win being in North Carolina in 2012, does it, do you think that may help you in a sense just being familiar with that kind of golf as a whole?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, definitely excited to get back to North Carolina. I played the amateur there on the No. 2 and 4 course at Pinehurst, so I've been around there. I know there's been some changes in the last couple years. So I'm excited to see it. I do like the golf course. No, definitely I played well in North Carolina, so hopefully we can relay that over to the U.S. Open.
Q. Happy new year. Hey, could you run me through the work with Butch, when your first session was, how many you've had, what you're working on. I know he mentioned take away.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, no, he's been around the last few years with the different games we have played at tournaments and so our friendship's grown and it's been nice that he's actually been able to kind of see me and my tendencies over the last couple years.
The first real time I worked with him was this summer. I spent some time on the range with him after I missed the cut at the Open Championship. I've been working on stuff prior to that. I hit some balls with Buddy Antonopoulos, the head pro down at Medalist, and he had kind of pointed me in the right direction, very similar stuff as to what Butch has been helping me with.
But yeah, as far as the basics, cleaning up the takeaway, getting myself started in the right position, trying to shorten up the back swing. My tendency is to get a little long and the club gets stuck behind me. So very minor things.
Q. How is it working? Is it second nature yet and when did you guys, how many times have you gotten together since Muirfield?
RICKIE FOWLER: I've been up to Vegas twice and then I've been able to send video back and forth. He's been able to watch some swings on TV and so definitely been in contact quite a bit.
No, it feels good. I'm excited about it. It was going well down in Australia and then finally I had a nine hole stretch that wasn't great, but other than that I felt like I played pretty well. I'm hitting a lot of solid golf shots and been playing well at home the last few weeks, so I just need to get tuned up and keep going at Humana next week.
Q. When were those visits to Vegas? What time frame?
RICKIE FOWLER: First one ‑‑ I can't remember. I think it was November. Actually, up here right now.
Q. You mentioned a minute ago that some Tour players are never satisfied with what they achieve. How do you feel about winning once at this point? Are you, do you think you should have one more, are you disappointed, are you satisfied with that? How do you frame it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well I always knew that it was going to be tough to win on TOUR. Obviously the people over the last I would say 10 years, 15 years, watching guys like Tiger and Phil, it doesn't exactly help the normal PGA TOUR player's cause as far as winning goes. I think guys like them have made it look a lot easier than it really is.
I'm definitely happy with having the one win on the PGA TOUR as of now. But moving forward, my goal is to definitely have more than one win in the next four years. It was a great stepping stone, but I think that this year kind of turning the page and looking to do bigger and better things.
Q. Butch said that you want to be known for, that you have said you want to be known for more than your clothes and hat, you want to be known for your golf. Is that a common refrain of yours?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah. I know that I'm known for what I wear on the golf course, but I want to be known as a great player.
I remember when I lost to Hunter Mahan at the Phoenix Open, my first year on TOUR, I remember him saying, one of his quotes was he wanted to be remembered as a great player and great players win. So I want to go out and win golf tournaments.
Q. I've done a little bit of research on you, just a little bit, just to find out who you are, and one of the things that I actually like was even though your personality, you know who you are, I found out that your middle name is Yutaka. Give me a little background on that.
RICKIE FOWLER: Well my mom's side of the family, my mom's half Japanese, my grandpa is full Japanese and his first name is Yutaka, so that's how I got the middle name. And he's the one who got me started in golf. So I'm definitely close with my grandpa.
Q. Grandpa sound like a good man. I found out the name Yutaka means strong and masculine, so that probably characterizes your play, I would say, right?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I wouldn't say it characterizes my height and size or anything, but maybe my play will come out through that.
Q. I also noticed that in your Major Championships in the Majors that you have been in, you have, your best finish in the four Majors was a tie for fifth place in the open in 2011. Do you prefer the links style of play as opposed to where the other venues, the other Majors are played?
RICKIE FOWLER: I love all the Majors and especially being at Augusta and the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship plays some great courses. But my favorite style of golf is links golf and I love the challenge that comes along with it, whether it's good weather, bad weather, you never know what you're going to get over there.
Q. Right, because it blows hard some days. I watched one tournament where the ball was rolling off the putting surface. So well good luck to you next week.
RICKIE FOWLER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Q. Curious how the process with Butch works. Because we all know that you have the talent to win multiple times on TOUR and does he really go over how you approach it when you're coming down the stretch or is it mainly swing mechanics?
RICKIE FOWLER: We haven't really gotten to on course stuff yet. We're really just working on the basics and the fundamentals to start out. But I definitely look forward to picking his brain and using him as a tool to help me in certain situations and in preparing for Majors and big time situations, so that I'm definitely going to be more and better prepared than I have been in the past four years.
MARK STEVENS: Ricky, thank you for your time and the Humana Challenge appreciates it also and we'll see you next week.
RICKIE FOWLER: Cool. Thanks, Mark.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports