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February 25, 2017

Rickie Fowler

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

AMANDA HETHERINGTON: We'd like to welcome Rickie Fowler into the interview room here. Bogey-free 65 today, 66 to open.

What's your takeaway from today's round?

RICKIE FOWLER: It was just nice to scramble as well as I did when I needed to and save some good pars. Just kind of keep the momentum up and moving forward, after starting with a couple drives that I didn't particularly like.

Started to drive it well kind of from 6 on, other than 10, but just being able to put myself in good positions off the tee from there on out. Just making kind of the round fairly simple and just being able to go ahead and pick my spots on the approach shots, kind of control the golf ball. You're actually able to do that from the fairway; the rough out here, definitely not.

I made some nice swings on the back nine and nice to pick up a couple more birdies on the way in. Looking forward to tomorrow. Got a lot of golf to play.

Q. Who's idea was it to go with the shorter driver? Was it yours or Butch's, and what's the effect of that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, Jimmy had been testing the shorter driver, and I was with him when he first hit it. We were in Vegas back in December. I had thought about it before a little bit and then kind of seeing him hit it -- and then I play short clubs; my irons are a half-inch short. My 5-wood, I'm not sure how much shorter than standard but it's 40 1/2, and my 3-wood is short; it's 42.

So when you look at the progression of my clubs, when you go from 40 1/2 to 42, add another inch and a half, you're at 43 1/2. Just kind of matched up and I wanted to potentially get to that, and at least wanted to test and see how it might be.

Potentially could be better, and you never know until you do it. So I had to -- I was playing 44 1/2, and originally when I first grabbed a 43 1/2 and a bigger head, it felt odd. It felt a little short. I've always loved hitting Persimmons, everything's from 43, 43 1/2 and a driver. I've always felt that it kept me in a good position at the top. The club didn't run on as much. That was another reason for the testing and the possible switch.

So the last couple weeks, because I drove it well the last round in Abu Dhabi, and Joe told me, absolutely he would do something to me if I tested drivers at San Diego or Phoenix. So I had to wait until this two-week break, and originally like I said, the 43 1/2 felt odd just because changing from an inch -- an inch shorter, doesn't sound like a shorter, but anyone golf, you know that an inch is a lot.

So I was playing a 44 for a few days and I finally was able to grab a 43 1/2 and it felt somewhat normal. And now it feels great. It's been good so far. I don't know if it's perfect. I don't know if it's the last driver I'm going to play or we're going to do some more testing and see where we can go with it, but it's definitely been nice this week.

Q. Given what you said the other day about needing to sort of close out these opportunities, I feel like that's one of the few times you've sort of verbally put pressure on yourself like that. Two things with that: How important was a round like today, especially given the struggles early on? And then secondly, can you maybe describe the feelings of the past 12 months or so, given the opportunities you've had in terms of frustration and so forth?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, last year, I was able to go out and close out Abu Dhabi and get the win there but had a couple more opportunities come up shortly after that. Didn't either have the weekend that I wanted to, or that one, being Wells Fargo. I felt like I played great down the stretch, and ultimately got beat up by Hideki. Not what a whole lot I could do there. I felt like I did what I was trying to do.

So not looking at them in a negative way; I played well in Phoenix when I had the chance. I still hung in, had a decent finish at Wells Fargo. Just had one hole that kind of just killed the momentum a little bit there on 7 at Quail Hollow, ending up with a mud ball, and it was just kind of a bad break. But that stuff happens and I wasn't able to come back from that.

Last year wasn't great individually. Would have liked to have been in contention a lot more. Obviously the majors I would have liked to have played a lot better there.

But it was an awesome year being able to make the memories that we did with the team events from the Olympics to The Ryder Cup and finally getting a win there to Jimmy and I getting to go down to Australia and get to play in the World Cup.

I definitely need to put myself in this position more often, which is just going to lead to me winning more often. I'm not going to be able to take a 36- or 54-hole lead every time and win, but the more times you put yourself there, the more trophies I get to hold on Sunday.

Q. THE PLAYERS Championship victory didn't technically count as closing out a lead, but it almost felt like that. How much confidence do you still draw on the way you closed out that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, obviously I was kind of back against the wall. Had to make something happen the last six to four holes, and then being in the playoff, being in a three-hole aggregate playoff, it's kind of like you're all tied going into the 16th hole.

Between the way I finished in regulation, just being able to go through the process and dial in on lines and shots and making sure that I was committed to what I was trying to do, and then being able to do the same thing in the playoff; obviously with kind of two key spots, the tee shots on 17, and the tee shots on 18, I thought those were some of the key swings to just step up and be able to do that, kind of one after another.

Yeah, I definitely look back on that, and you know, something that helped me go on and win Deutsche Bank and Scottish and then to be able to go and finish off the win in Abu Dhabi, I guess kind of next year after that.

Q. Seems like you're playing a little bit of a bigger fade than you were maybe late last year; is that correct, and if so, when did you make that change?
RICKIE FOWLER: So I was getting a little steep from the transition coming down.

So kind of end of last year to start of this year, almost felt like the club was dropping back under, which sounds weird from three or four years ago; I was trying to do the opposite. But that's golf. You're always kind of trying to go back and forth and just be in that happy medium spot.

So I was working on almost trying to draw the ball last year just so I felt like I was getting the club back on plane. Once I was able to do that, Joe and I had talked about it, kind of went back to trying to just hit the straight ball to kind of -- especially with driver, just being able to stay on top of the ball and turn. That was, I want to say, kind of San Diego, Phoenix. It worked out okay at Phoenix. Finally got a decent finish there.

Yeah, we're definitely in a good position right now.

Q. Does it feel similar to the swing of 2014 when you finished in the top five in all four majors?
RICKIE FOWLER: It is a little bit. Yeah, like I said, it's always kind of like going back and forth trying to keep it right in the perfect spot, but it's hard to do that. You're always exaggerating a drill when you're trying to work on something, and sometimes it goes a little too far and you try to come back. And yeah, if you're always right around that good spot, every once in a while, it will click.

Q. You're going out tomorrow with Tyrrell Hatton, and I remember you played with him at Troon last year. What do you remember of that round and have you sort of followed what he's done late last year and early this year?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, a little bit. I keep up with the boys on The European Tour, just because everything happens almost a day ahead. So you wake up and you're able to check scores and see what's going on.

He's played well. He's made a climb in the World Ranking. I was definitely impressed with his game when I got to play with him at The Open. Great ball-striker and good guy. We had a good time that day.

So I think he dusted me that day. And I know I go out with a lead tomorrow, but really, a lead around here is nice. But I've still got to take care of my business and plot my way around this golf course, and not worry too much about what the other guys are doing. If I take care of my business and play the way I have been playing, I feel like I'll be in a good spot.

Q. Yesterday you said you felt like there was some better golf ahead for you over the weekend. Was there a hole or a shot today where you thought: Okay, I got this today; that this is going to be my day?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I had mentioned earlier, I'm not sure if you were around, I guess I said it outside. But today, I kind of felt like my ball-striking was the worst of the three days.

I was able to score well and manage it well and scramble well early on to keep the momentum going, but one swing that stands out to me, was the drive on No. 6. It's one of the hardest holes out here. Water left, and today the wind was down off the left, so I started one up the left cut. Hit a nice, a perfect little cut back in the fairway.

So from there out, I felt like it kind of eased me a little bit and was able to start swinging a bit better, and drove it well from there in, other than 10.

Q. With a four-stroke lead does it affect your game plan whatsoever?
RICKIE FOWLER: No. You still have to hit fairways and you have to hit greens. There's times you get to play aggressive out here with short irons and wedges. There's times where you're aiming at the middle of the green and I feel like Joe and I have done a great job of that, managing our way around this golf course this week.

Mistakes are going to happen and potentially bogeys are happen when you miss it in the wrong spot. I'm going to stick to the same game plan. The wind is going to be different tomorrow. It's going to be from a different direction, so the golf course and tee shots will play a little bit differently. I think it's back to roughly where the wind was yesterday.

No, just stick to try to keep it simple, hit as many fairways and greens as we can, and hopefully roll in a couple putts from there.

Q. You talk about some of the shots you face on this course. What's the sense of accomplishment getting through here without dropping a shot?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's nice. Rarely are you going to hit 18 greens, so you've made some good saves and I was able to do that today.

I hit a great bunker shot on 4, just kind of keep going, and I made a few putts from three or four feet. Those are ones you're supposed to make, but it's nice when you actually still get to see them go in. Any time you get to hear the ball hit the bottom of the cup, it's a good thing.

There's a lot of tricky shots around this golf course. And if you're not in the fairway, then good luck.

Q. They flashed a stat on TV, and I don't know if it's PGA TOUR worldwide, but there's been eight times when you've either led or been within one shot of the lead and you've never won in those situations. Why is this different?
RICKIE FOWLER: Must be on TOUR, because I won in Abu Dhabi last year.

I think I had seen that, too. I think it said I averaged 69, too, over the weekend, which if you're leading or within a shot of the lead and you average 69 on the weekend, I think that's pretty good (laughter). So I wouldn't have to change that a whole lot.

Maybe that's just a little bit of bad luck. I mean, every once in a while, guys happen to maybe light it up on Sunday or have a good round Saturday. I feel like if I average 69 over the weekend and take a 36-hole lead into the weekend, I'll be holding a lot of trophies.

We'll keep doing that, and I'd like to try and fill the goose egg next to the seven or eight, whatever it is.

Q. How quickly did you identify an issue behind 17?
RICKIE FOWLER: As soon as I walked up.

Q. What exactly was it?
RICKIE FOWLER: I could tell the ball was sitting funny. And as soon as I got up there, I noticed they had sodded that area, so I was just sitting in the seam.

So I just called one of the officials over and went through normal, nearest point of relief and get a club. Had luckily a little bit of a slope and played the kick right and back in the fairway.

But if I had a decent lie from the rough or the first cut, it's a very simple pitch. I felt like I probably would have had a better chance of making it if I was chipping. The reason I was putting from the fairway was, because it was so bare and everybody walks up there and it's all into the grain. So I would have either laid sod or bladed it, and that's why we putted.

Q. The value of late Saturday, I think has really shown itself in the last couple weeks with Jordan finishing the way he did at Pebble to build all of a sudden a big lead, and Dustin did the same at Riv. Wonder if you can speak to those?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I've enjoyed watching those guys come out and play some good golf, consistent golf. It's definitely motivating. I was able to get some good work in while they were winning and it would be nice to follow in their footsteps. But I do have a lot of work to do tomorrow, but it's nice to give myself -- a four-shot lead is nice. That can obviously go away very quickly, too.

But I think Joe and I have talked about it before, and the way things went in Abu Dhabi; when you do have that cushion, it gives you the opportunity to accept mistakes. If you're playing from three, four shots behind, you can't make a mistake. You can't give up another shot to be four or five or six behind. When you're out front, four shots, I make mistake, make a bogey; okay, we're still up. Let's keep moving forward and put that behind us.

So there's obviously different perspectives but being able to be out front and be in control and with the way I feel about the game, the way I've been swinging, I'm looking forward to it.

Q. The finishing stretch gets a lot of attention. Does having a four-shot lead on this golf course feel different than somewhere else because of how quickly things could change?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I'd like to have ten, or more (laughter). There's a lot that can happen because you can hit a good shot and you can make birdies. I birdied 15 yesterday and birdied 16 today and birdied 17 yesterday. Birdies happen in the Bear Trap, but other numbers do, as well.

So there can be a big swing there, and I think the biggest plan or the biggest goal there tomorrow is if I can hit all three greens in regulation, I'm a happy camper. I think that's definitely attainable. Two of them are par 3s, so just hit a good shot on those two and sneak one out in the fairway on 16.

But I think some of it will depend on the wind. I think it's going to be down off the left on 15. It's similar to what we played yesterday. No, it will be fun. It's always a good stretch of golf holes.

Q. You didn't have the best Saturday last year. Did that stick in your craw, and does it make today that much more satisfying?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I knew it wasn't a good day. I wasn't aware of what I shot until I just did the SKY Sports, the SKY Cart after the round. So I did better than last year, so that's good. I found out I shot 74 last year, which isn't very good on a Saturday after shooting 66 the first two days.

Definitely in a better position this year. Like I've been saying, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. With how big this tournament has gotten, what would it mean for to you add this trophy to the trophy case?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, it would join a small collection (laughter). It would be nice to add to that and continue going from there.

You know, something a chance to win this tournament would be special. I've had some good finishes but ultimately, yeah, I would like to be getting the trophy tomorrow on the 18th green. But there is a lot of golf to be played. Being a resident down here for almost seven years now, this is where I spend the most of my time.

I love it down here. Love Jupiter. Got a lot of the guys that live down here. We get to play and practice together when we're home, and we travel together. So it's special.

We've got a lot of locals from the Jupiter area out here obviously, and a lot of good friends, some of my family out. Any win is special, but being able to stay in my bed and at home and home cooked meals would make it that much more nice.

AMANDA HETHERINGTON: Thank you, Rickie, for joining us. Good luck tomorrow.

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