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April 7, 2015

Rickie Fowler


MODERATOR:   Good afternoon.  We are pleased to welcome the incredibly talented Rickie Fowler in the interview room.  Rickie is making his fifth Masters appearance and he is coming off a spectacular season in 2014 where he had Top‑5 finishes in all four of the major championships.  Congratulations on your great play last year.
Before we open up to questions, perhaps you can tell us how it feels to be back and a little about your preparation for this year's Masters.
RICKIE FOWLER:  Always feels great to be at Augusta.  Even to come here last week, spent a couple days, driving down Magnolia Lane and getting to being on the property is pretty special.
Then tournament week comes around and it's amazing.  I think it kind of heightens my focus a little bit and gets me excited about the week.  Obviously haven't played as well as I would have liked to starting the year.
Looking back, I actually probably got off to a better start this year than I did last year.  Missed some cuts.  At least I'm playing the weekend and get to check and see where my game is at.
Got some good work in over the weekend and the past couple days here, and I'm really, really pleased with where my game's at, just hasn't really shown yet.  I'm excited for this week and excited to be back into the kind of heat of things and in contention at the majors.

Q.  After coming so close in each of the majors last year, did you incorporate anything different in your off‑season routine or preparations this year to try to get over that hump?
RICKIE FOWLER:  No, I didn't really change anything.  Kept working on the same stuff and kept working on the swing with Butch and kind of keep trying to move forward.  Obviously being close and being in contention is really all you can ask for.  It doesn't happen often where you just run away with a major or any tournament in particular.
Got to keep putting myself in those positions, and last year, I had a very good chance at the PGA.  Just didn't really put the back nine that I needed together to win the event.

Q.  Might seem like an odd question, but what do you think when you see kids on the course dressed like you, and did you ever expect that your attire would become so distinctive with kids out there?
RICKIE FOWLER:  It's a really cool feeling to be in a position where I have a lot of younger kids that look up to me and look at me as a role model.
You know, not long ago, being in a position where I looked up to certain athletes and other golfers; so to be one of those guys that kids look up to is pretty special, and it's not something I ever really dreamt of or anything.
My dream was to be playing on the PGA TOUR and I didn't really think of everything that came along with it.  My goal is to be here, to be in the position to get to play in the Masters at Augusta and to be in the position I am and to be a role model and someone that kids want to dress like and be like is pretty cool.

Q.  Why do you think you resonate with kids?  What is it?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I guess when I first came out, I was one of the youngest guys on Tour, maybe someone that they looked to as being closest to in age.  They can relate a little bit.  I guess, you know, kind of seeing that I don't come from a normal background of a professional golfer, being involved in action sports and maybe a little bit more of a colorful background; maybe that drew some of them in.
I'm an adrenaline junkie, that's for sure.  But like I said, it wasn't something that we planned on or thought up on how we could attract the younger generation, but like I said, it's a really cool position to be in.  It brightens my day whether I'm playing good, bad, whatever, to see the support that I have and to see the kids out there wearing my gear.

Q.  I know you play a lot of practice round matches with Phil, but what do you learn playing this particular course alongside him?  How does that help prepare you?  And if you could give us your opinion on his game right now.
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, being able to play Augusta with Phil, he probably knows these greens better than anyone and understanding certain shots around the golf course, depending on where you are at, to certain pins; and then with putting and chipping around the greens, understanding what he sees and what I see, comparing the two.
Obviously, with him being lefty and me being righty, it's a little different.  Some of the pitch shots are easier in positions where he is versus me playing it as a righty.  So understanding those two sides, and like I said, comparing the two and figuring out the best way for me to attack it.
As far as his game, I got to play with him quite a bit over the off‑season.  We've had some fun with that.  He's been driving it a lot better.  He seems to have a bit of speed back.  So I think he's excited to be hitting it past me at times, where last year, that wasn't the case.  He'll admit that.
And his putting is really coming around.  I feel like he's gained a lot of confidence with it.  I actually sent him a text after San Antonio, a close‑up of him down the line, and his stroke looked really good and seems like he's rolling the ball a lot better.  If he can roll it well this week and pitch it well around these greens, I know that's what he's talked about, too.  I think he's comfortable with his game and he feels good.  I feel like if any of us can kind of pitch and chip the ball well, it will be good.  But it's good to see him back and confident about his game.

Q.  You're talking about confidence with Phil; and for you on the greens out here, confident in being able to attack, being comfortable, how do you assess your confidence level on the greens?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I love these greens here.  I had one of my best putting rounds a couple of years back, first round, I got around here in 21 putts, probably one of my biggest accomplishments, when you've actually played Augusta and understand what these greens are all about.  I seem to see these lines very well and have a great imagination and like being able to kind of draw up and see what the ball is going to do before I hit it.
That being said, there's some times when you get to be aggressive out here, where you get maybe a 10‑footer up the hill, but there's a lot of occasions where you're playing defense and just trying to not 3‑putt or not make a mistake.  It can happen quickly on these greens.  You end up in some positions where you have to be very careful and really just try and make it the easiest 2‑putts, I believe.  And when you do get those chances where you can get the ball in a good area or have a look at birdie or maybe it's just a good, solid par putt; take advantage of a putt that you can be aggressive with and make it and keep that momentum going through the round.

Q.  Can you share some details on the match?  Score, maybe?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Phil and I lost on the last hole.  But it was a good match.  I didn't make as many birdies as last year, but we had a good time.  With the matches that we play on Tuesdays, not always Tuesdays, but this week, it's a good way for us to kind of have a few shots that matter, whether it's a drive, approach, chip or a putt.  It's like a little bit of a checklist to kind of move forward for Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday and realize certain parts of the game that may be good or things that might need a little more attention.
Win or lose, it's a good tool to get ready for Thursday.  And I know there's some things that I saw that I needed to just tighten up a bit.  I know Phil is excited to get back out and get a couple things tightened up.  I know the same for Sneds and DJ, even though they are on the winning side.

Q.  You've had some success here, relatively inexperienced around here, at least, anyway; what do you think has held you back from winning or performing better, if there's one area you would pinpoint?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I think just feeling comfortable with the situation and the golf course.  I've gotten comfortable the more times I've played it.
Last year was definitely the most comfortable I felt.  But even in the final round, I never really settled in or was completely comfortable.  That comfort level in the majors grew, and then in the position at the PGA, I was ready to go.  I just didn't get the back nine that I wanted.
So I'm ready for this week.  I know off of the majors last year, and like I said, I continue to feel more comfortable in the position and felt right at home on Sunday at the PGA.  And then coming here where I just keep getting more and more comfortable with the golf course.  Get myself in contention and see what happens.

Q.  Would you mind indulging me on the scouting report on Morgan Hoffmann and if you can maybe share any advice you shared with him when you practiced with him the other day?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, I've known Morgan for quite a while.  Played junior golf, college golf together.  He lived with me for about a year and a half in Jupiter.  So I've been around him quite a bit growing up together, playing.  He's a great player.  He's obviously shown that.  I don't have to tell you that.
He's a great ball‑striker.  Keeps it pretty simple.  Hits it long and straight, which is never a bad thing.  There's a few things, just showing him some different lines on some greens as far as you get in certain positions and there's some putts that you want to know and how they react and where you can play the ball.
But for the most part, I mean, all the young guys coming in are good.  It's not like they haven't had to learn a golf course before, but like I said, with me feeling more and more comfortable as I've played here, it does take some time to build that comfort.
So I gave him a couple little hints and helped him with a couple little things.  But he knows his game plan for around here, and obviously if you're playing well, it makes things a lot easier.  You hit your spots.  I think the biggest thing is him figuring out where or how to get around the golf course when he may not have his best.  That's not exactly something I can explain or help him with.  It's kind of something you have to figure out on your own a bit.
But I feel like if he can get off to a good start, he can have a really good week this year.

Q.  You talked about the preparations that you did on the course today, but with these better‑ball matches that you guys often have, there's quite a bit of trash‑talking, isn't there?  I know last year Phil tried to give you a wrong read on a putt when you were playing particularly well.  Can you talk about that side of the game today?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, he was trying to give me the wrong read and he was on my team (laughter).  Tells you a little bit of how it went.
No, it's a free game.  There's no holding back.  It's all fun.  It's nothing as far as there's nothing out of line.  It's all fun and games.  We're not going to hurt anyone's feelings or anything like that.
But as far as really helping prepare for Thursday and getting ready for the tournament, kind of putting the guys under the gun; whether it is trash‑talking or maybe your partner is out of the hole and you have to step up and put a score on the board, it really does help.  Some guys may not like it.  I know the guys that play in the game, and Phil and I, Dustin, Sneds today, we are all for it.  It really does help.  It kind of simulates a tournament round.
Luckily we don't have to post every number out there, but like I said, it gives us an idea of what we may need to work on or if we are playing well, then it gives us confidence going into the week.

Q.  You are probably one of the people that knows Bubba the best.  Wondering what you made of that ESPN poll that seemed to indicate he may not be real well liked on the Tour.  Wondering how you've seen him change or grow over the years?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I didn't see the poll, but too bad for him.  He's one of my best friends out here.  He's awesome.  We have a lot of fun together.  We have gotten to know each other really well the past five years or so.
And I know he loves it here.  He loves playing here.  But he's definitely changed over the past few years, having a full family now, and him being a dad, he's had to grow up a little bit.
But yeah, he loves his wife, Angie.  He loves the kids.  It's really cool to see him off the golf course and see him as a dad and a family man.  I really enjoy getting to play with him when I do, and the times that we get to stay together, whether it's renting houses together on the road; I typically stay with him Bay Hill week.  He's just kind of like a goofy, big kid.
But yeah, he's grown up the past few years, and it's been cool to see.  He's an amazing father, that's for sure.  It's cool to see him with Caleb and Dakota and how him and Angie are helping raise two kids.

Q.  Do you get the sense that he's not well liked?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Not necessarily.  I mean, Bubba's Bubba.  I don't think he's really in a position where he's not too worried if certain guys like him or don't like him.  I feel like if you're worrying about something like that, it's only going to weigh on you.  You've got to take care of your family and take care of your golf game.  Those are kind of the priorities, and play well and make sure your family is happy and everything, and all is good from there.

Q.  Do you care or does it bother you that when you go through the list of favorites for this week, you don't appear high up on too many of them, considering how well you did in the majors last year?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, that's fine with me.  I haven't played particularly well to start out the year.  I haven't had the performance that I would have liked.  I haven't had very good finishes.
But I'm excited for this week.  Doesn't matter what the odds are or favorites or anything like that.  A couple more practice sessions, maybe go play nine in the morning, and I'll be ready to go.  I don't care if I'm a favorite or not or if the odds are with me or against me.  I'm going to go out there and try to win myself a major.

Q.  How would you articulate the significance of Rory going for the career Grand Slam?  You played so well in the majors last year and you probably appreciate how hard it is to win a major.  For him at 25 to be one Masters away from the career Grand Slam, how would you articulate what that means?
RICKIE FOWLER:  That's making history right there.  He's obviously the best player in the world for a reason.  He's played quite well the past couple years.  I know he struggled a bit for a year or so.  But the year he put together last year, winning two, yeah, it's tough to do.
I was in a position where I had a chance in a couple, and yeah, like you said, they are hard to win.  I know Jack said the majors are the easiest to win, but you've got to put yourself in that position first.
He's obviously playing well.  Rory, he's shown that he can play well here at Augusta, and I know he's just as ready as anyone else to go out and play well this week.  He's going to be tough to beat if he's on top of his game.  But I don't think no one's going to lay down by any means.  Everyone is here to play and wants to be in that position to slip on a green jacket on Sunday.

Q.  Seems like you've been paired with Sergio so many times these last few months.  Curious what do you make of your friendship with him overall?  And also how inspirational is this course for you?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, Sergio and I, seems like we play like probably half our rounds together.  We have a good time.  We typically play well together.  I know he's had some good rounds with me; won in Thailand when we played together the first couple rounds.
So really looking forward to the pairing Thursday, Friday with him and Jason Day.  See if we can get some momentum going.  I know the three of us can play well around here.  It's fun to be able to feed off each other and play with guys that you like.
As far as the golf course, for me, I continue to get more and more comfortable with it.  I love this place.  You get to play different shots and use your imagination a bit.  So it was fun kind of getting to test a few things out today and get ready to go.  It's a special place, and I'm here looking for a special week.

Q.  When you say comfortable, what do you mean by that in general?  What does that mean for you?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Understanding the golf course, understanding how the golf course works.  You do face some different lies that you may not have at another golf course.  The greens are very unique.  You don't see putts like you do here where you're playing it away from the hole or playing for a 90‑degree break or having to visualize some lines that you would never even see anywhere else.  It's a little bit different style of golf at times.
And knowing the golf course and being in a position where you hit the putt or hit the shot before definitely helps.  The more times you're in that position moving forward, the more you get comfortable.

Q.  Curious the first time you remember that you played with Phil in one of your practice round matches and how that came about.
RICKIE FOWLER:  I can't remember the first time exactly.  I know I was nervous.  But in a way, like we talked about, it kind of simulates getting ready to go into a tournament round and it helps take away the nerves or the jitters for the first tee or going into the first round Thursday.  You've kind of already been there and been under the gun on a few shots, so it takes away if there is any wonder or am I going to hit this shot properly.
So they are fun.  Talk a lot of trash, it goes back and forth.  But at the end of the day, they are very helpful.  Win or lose, it gives you clear perspective on where your game is at and what needs work and what doesn't.
MODERATOR:  Thank you for being with us.  We wish you all the best this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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