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January 17, 2017

Rickie Fowler

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Rickie, welcome back to Abu Dhabi. We sat in here 12 months ago and raised a glass to your victory. It was a nice moment. How excited are you to be back this week to defend the title?

RICKIE FOWLER: It's definitely nice to be back. I had a few good tournaments after this last year, but individually I didn't play as well as I would have liked to. It was definitely nice to get the win here to kick off the year. It would have been nice to kind of continue that form.

But '16 was still a great year: Getting play in the Olympics to the World Cup and finally being part of a winning Ryder Cup Team. Europeans have been able to enjoy that. So it was, like I said, nice to have that time to celebrate with the boys. Excited to be back. Definitely some great memories here and looking forward to making some more.

STEVE TODD: Give us a sense of your winter break. We know you practiced hard, do you find a balance with a bit of downtime and a bit of rest, as well? How refreshed are you coming into this event?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I was able to get kind of rest and some time with friends and family back home. And spent the last couple weeks getting ready to get back on the road. I'm excited to get back playing. It was nice to get back on a course that I've played well at. Like I said, excited to be here this week.

Q. Just wanted to ask you, when somebody like Rory pulls out of a tournament, what is the general feeling? And a player like you as the defending champion, what do you feel about such an unfortunate situation?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I mean, it's a bummer that Rory is not going to be able to play this week. You know, he's definitely -- he's obviously one of the best players in the world. It was fun to have him in contention with me last year here.

But the biggest thing is for him to take care of himself and make sure he's healthy. So hopefully he's able to get back quickly. He's definitely a fan favourite, and I love playing against him. We've had a lot of good battles and good times together. Like I said, hopefully he's not out long and able to get back, and he's obviously playing well. He played well last week.

Does that make me look at the tournament any differently? No. You know, it's one less top player in the world I'm going to have to beat, but the field here is one of the best fields on The European Tour, and still have a lot of the top players in the world, three of the major champions from last year are here. It's not going to be any easier to win.

Q. Just to follow up, for somebody who is so interested in adventure and extreme sports, you have faced criticism or flak that you take part in dangerous sports, and then you see one of the top players in the world injured playing golf; what does that say about the entire situation?
RICKIE FOWLER: Everyone kind of has their own thing. You don't really want to try and live too much in a bubble. Everyone's been injured doing plenty of different things. We do deal with a lot of injuries just from playing golf and the amount of stress we put on our bodies and how much we play and with the travel. Staying healthy is key.

But yeah, you never know how you might get hurt. It might be from actually playing golf, swinging, sometimes it could be from working out. But I don't try and change my lifestyle too much. I mean, I definitely -- I don't ride dirt bikes really much at all anymore. I wish I could, but that's part of me trying to stay as healthy as possible to continue playing at the highest level.

But part of rest and recovery is getting away and kind of freeing your mind and for me, I'm an adrenaline junkie, so that's one of the things I need to do.

Q. Rory at the start of every year, he puts his goals for the year on his boarding pass when he flies to the Middle East. Do you set goals for the year and what would you like to achieve this year?
RICKIE FOWLER: Usually my caddie and my agent, the three of us, along with Butch and some other people that are kind of close, part of the team, talk about what we want to do going forward into the year, and usually we'll talk about that in the fall at some point; we're able to kind of discuss.

The last couple years, the majors have been kind of the No. 1 point to look at, especially after '15, having the good finishes there. So yeah, the majors, for me, that's probably the No. 1 goal.

Coming off of last year, like I talked about earlier, having the win here to start out the year was nice. Just unfortunately I wasn't able to kind of continue that form, like I said, individually. But to be able to be a part of the teams that I was and to finally be part of a winning Ryder Cup Team, that was special. It was a special year and motivating to be a part of those.

Teams and then to see one of my best friends, Justin, play the way he's played the last two weeks, yeah, it's inspiring and motivating, like I said, to continue to push myself to play better. But winning is what I want to; win tournaments around the world but the majors are No. 1.

Q. Have you changed anything with respect to that this year that you can tell us about or made any adjustments?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think something we've seen that's helped is playing the weeks before leading up. So still have to kind of navigate the schedule a little bit to make sure that that's possible. But playing in the majors, I think is one of the best things for me. So I want to try and make sure that the game is ready for that. So potentially playing in will be the best option.

Q. What was your reaction to Jim Furyk's appointment, and what do you think he'll bring to that role?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I think it was just a matter of time. Jim's awesome. He's been someone that I've looked up to and respected for a long time, and to be able to build a friendship that we've built over the past, I guess, now eight years since I've been on Tour, and to be able to play with him in a Ryder Cup, and then for him to be an assistant. He's going to be a great captain; the amount of Ryder Cup teams he's been a part of playing and then like I said, being there as an assistant, I've just got to do my part and get some points and make the team now.

Q. Did you get a chance to look at the course here? There are some changes on holes 7 and 9. How do you see it?
RICKIE FOWLER: I went and played nine this morning. I didn't play the front nine. I'll get a look at them tomorrow in the Pro-Am. But hopefully they are not too big of changes. I played okay here last year. I enjoy the golf course. It's in great shape and the weather's good, too.

It's a great place for me to start the year, and I'll see those changes tomorrow, and hopefully, like I said, nothing too crazy and we'll be good to go for Thursday.

Q. You played nine holes today with Rayhan Thomas, who is like one of our biggest hopes from the region. Just tell us something about what you thought about his game, and for a 17-year-old, what did you think? How did he perform playing with you?
RICKIE FOWLER: I thought he did great. It's fun for someone like me to -- I don't feel like I'm a whole lot older than him, but he's still a young kid, coming out, playing junior golf. I know he's had some success around here and I've heard a lot about his game. It was just fun to go out and play nine holes. I have no expectations for him or myself on a Tuesday. It's just fun just to go hit it around.

I think it's going to be a great experience for him. But no, I love being able to see the young talent coming up, because I feel like it wasn't very long ago that I was young and fresh coming out on Tour. Seems like he has a simple game. It's very solid. You know, nothing crazy.

Like I said, I know he's had success around here, and I think as -- I guess if he gets off to a good start and gets comfortable, I don't see any reason why he can't go play well this week.

Q. I just wondered, as you look to the year ahead, you're going to have some of the guys here, similar names that you know well that you'll be up against at all the big events during the year. I just wondered where you think things might go this year, if you have an inkling. Obviously Rory started well last week and Tiger is coming back, as well. How do you think things might play out in 2017?
RICKIE FOWLER: This year's going to be fun. You know, Rory is playing well. He just needs to make sure he's healthy and go to go. I know he's doing everything right for that.

Tiger playing next week and then coming over here to play in Dubai, it's nice to see him play well in the Bahamas. Excited to see him come back and be competitive. I know he's itching to play as much as possible. It's going to be a fun year.

J.T.'s gotten off to a decent start, so he's going to have a good year if he keeps playing the way he's playing. I appreciated him finally taking a week off so the rest of us could have a chance.

No, it's going to be fun. Hopefully Rory's not out too long. Henrik had a great year last year. Jason's playing well. I mean, golf's so deep right now, and it will be nice if we can get Tiger back for a full season, Rory healthy. Yeah, it will be fun.

Q. Just to follow up on that, as well. Obviously you'd love to defend your title here, but in the immediate future, is Augusta the big focus?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, Augusta, obviously once the Tour season starts, everyone is looking at that one, just with it being the first major. The three being in the summer, those are kind of -- once Augusta is past, you start thinking about those.

No, Augusta is a special place. It's fun to think about it and fun to prepare. So that's definitely on all of our minds, and obviously looking to peak, getting the first few months going, heading the right direction and peak that first week of April.

Q. Going away from golf a bit, we know you have a lot of friends on Tour, but who do you actually hang around with off the Tour?
RICKIE FOWLER: Off the Tour, no one you guys would know as far as guys I spend the most time with. I have a couple good buddies back in Florida that I spend time with. One of my good friends there, he's a state cop. Him and I play a lot of golf together. Spend some time there.

And then some of my high school buddies back home in California; I don't get to spend as much time with them as I would like to, but I was able to spend some time with them over the holidays, so that was nice.

Q. Is there any celebrities?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, if we just go recent, I got to play -- Niall and I went and played a little bit of golf when I was out in L.A., so it was nice to get him out. We had a good time there.

Q. What about Trump?
RICKIE FOWLER: Trump? I haven't played golf with Trump. I haven't seen him since Doral last year. He's been a little busy (laughter).

Q. Just one other question. You're known for being a bit of a trendsetter, but we notice you've sort of calmed down your bright colours recently. Is that a conscious decision?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not necessarily. There will be some bright colours out this week. I guess nothing head to toe has been brought out other than head-to-toe black today. This is my Jimmy Walker Special, or Pete Cowen; he liked it on the range today.

I like to be able to kind of do a little bit of everything, whether it's bright colours or all black at times.

STEVE TODD: Rickie, thanks for joining us and best of luck this week.

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