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April 3, 2017
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are pleased to welcome back the very talented young man to Augusta National, Rickie Fowler. This year marks Rickie's seventh Masters appearance.
Rickie claimed his fourth PGA TOUR title this year with a victory at The Honda Classic, along with three other Top‑10 finishes, including tied for third just this past weekend at the Shell Houston Open.
In 2016, he won for the second time on The European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and had eight Top‑10 finishes.
Rickie, you found early success this season. Could you speak to your mind‑set approaching this week, please?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's been a nice start to the year. Been fairly consistent other than the trip back from Abu Dhabi and missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. Really, since after that and playing well and getting a nice finish in Phoenix and going on to win Honda after having a good little break, and then to kind of continue that with the play in the last couple tournaments, making a lot of birdies, which is a good thing and just working on kind of minimizing some mistakes. It's been kind of a fun trend in the first couple months getting ready for being here this week.
Q. For the guys on TOUR, not the biggest‑‑ not Dustin Johnson big, a lot of guys at your height and weight, what's the secret to generating the power that you do? And as long as you hit it, are you another guy that is amazed at what Justin Thomas can do, kind of being as small as he is?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, J.T. is fairly small (laughter). We don't want him to think he's a big kid out there.
No, he doesn't hit it too far by me. I don't want him to think he can hit it that far out there, but it is very impressive what he's able to generate. I think we're both now about the same weight. He's got me by an inch or two on height.
Really, it's efficiency. I think you do see a little bit in baseball, both with hitters and pitchers. Sometimes guys just have that arm strength. Guys have pop with the bat. But it's all efficiency. Same thing in golf. I mean, you've seen some guys that have been a lot bigger than we are that don't move it as well.
Dustin is just crazy. He's just, in a way, kind of a freak of nature. He's one of the best drivers of the golf ball, and longest out here and one of the straightest.
But no, when it comes to the smaller guys and the kind of 150‑pound range, not as tall as a guy like Dustin, we have to kind of use our whole body to generate that power, just so we're at least in the range of those guys that move the ball past us. Then we're able to stay competitive, because when you do start giving up yardage, it puts a lot of stress on the shorter parts of your game, and if that's not on, if you're not hitting your long irons well, then it can be hard to compete against the guys that you may be trying to hang with if you're behind them 30 yards off the tee.
So like I said, yeah, it's just the efficiency of the body and the time that we spend in the gym or just making sure our bodies are healthy and everything is moving properly. That's what allows us to go ahead and stay within at least throwing distance of Dustin.
Q. If it's as windy as it's projected to be on Thursday and Friday, what holes will be most affected maybe, other than 12? And is it safe to assume that the low ball hitters will have an advantage?
RICKIE FOWLER: Really, every hole out here. Just because you're down in the trees, there's a lot of times that you don't feel the wind. It's almost ‑‑ in a way it can be easier when it is blowing up to a certain speed, just because then it's a little bit more consistent and constant and coming out of that one direction.
Sometimes playing around here, when it's a light breeze and moving around and gusts come up from different areas, that's when it can get tougher.
12, if I know where the wind is coming from and what kind of speed, I have a lot better chance than when it's kind of five down and then back into your side. That's when you almost get into more trouble.
Then, as far as ball flight, you know, with the potential rain from today, tonight and then I know there's the other chance on Wednesday. I mean, a low ball flight in the wind can help, but when you're playing this course soft, it is long from the tournament tees. You know, being able to carry the ball and have that length is going to be a bonus.
Really, the biggest thing in the wind is just hitting the ball solid. I don't think there's, you know, as much put on how low the ball can be hit. You don't want to hit it too high, but a solid‑struck golf shot in the medium‑flight range is still fine. That's probably the biggest focus I'll have is just making sure that we're hitting a lot of solid golf shots and being able to control the ball in the air with that.
Now, at times, yeah, we'll have to hit some low but with it potentially being windy and wet, I think you're still going to be trying to push it out there off the tees to potentially get some shorter shots in.
Q. If someone were to ask you why you think you could win this golf tournament, how would you answer?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm making a lot of birdies right now, and that bodes well around this golf course. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to have to settle for bogeys here and there. I have allowed myself to overcome mistakes and bogeys and, unfortunately, some doubles in the past couple tournaments.
So having a lot of offense and a lot of that these last two tournaments is something that I want to feed off of, and if I can continue to do that here this week, a lot of birdies, maybe a couple eagles in there, that's going to be something that's going to be very good around here.
Like I said, you're going to make bogeys. That's something that's very tough to avoid around here.
Q. You mentioned that you're trying to limit mistakes. How specifically do you go about working on limiting a mistake that just comes every now and then? What can you do to stop those happening?
RICKIE FOWLER: Really, just trying to understand what's causing them, whether it's mental or something in the swing. The biggest thing for me is making sure I'm committed on every shot. And if I do feel uncomfortable, if I have a kind of second guess, make sure that I back off and just go through it. The more committed I can be over a shot and just trusting and understanding what I'm trying to do, even if it's the wrong club selection or whatnot, I'm going to make a lot better swing than if I have any doubt in my mind. So that's the biggest thing.
Mis‑hits, some bad shots are going to happen, but the more committed and the more that I can trust what I'm going to do and believe in it, the better off I'll be.
Q. I assume you saw what happened to Lexi, or maybe read about it yesterday. Do you have any thoughts on that whole thing, and just the rules being a big story in the game again?
RICKIE FOWLER: I didn't get to catch‑‑ I didn't get to catch it live, other than on social media. I was flying here. But I got to see a lot of the reaction on social media. And then saw the video after the fact.
But seeing the reaction from everyone and kind of how it was handled, yeah, I think we've seen some stuff in the past year that is not making the game look very good at all. There's no other sport where people can call or e‑mail in or contact officials regarding an issue. I mean, there's plenty of circumstances in plenty of other sports where a call could go a completely different way, and these decisions are left up to officials. There's not people sitting at home dictating this or, you know, in this case, having a lot of effect on the outcome of a major. It's not just another tournament.
So it was really unfortunate to see kind of how it was handled. In my eyes, coming 24 hours after the fact, to me, you know, things should be handled the day of. I mean, you tee off‑‑ once you sign your scorecard, that's kind of it. I feel like, you know, it's somewhat like when you look at if something were to come up Monday after the tournament, the tournament's done. So where do things close off? If something happened Thursday in the tournament, something were to come up on Sunday, then you go back and enforce a penalty there, there's‑‑ it just goes back to, there shouldn't be anyone outside of the officials being able to make this call.
You look at someone like Tiger, who has spent his career obviously every shot, every movement has been on camera, and yeah, if we go back and look at video of, you know, all kind of players or things through the years, you probably can find rules infractions.
Now, were these people trying to do that? I would be willing to bet no.
Yeah, like I said, it's unfortunate. I feel bad for Lexi. The way she handled it, like I said, I didn't get to see everything live or all the footage. But everything was saying how well she did handle it and the way she fought was impressive. Yeah, she's got some‑‑ plenty more majors in her future.
Q. So when you walked away from here the first time, what was the most important lesson that you learned? And secondly, for someone coming in with a little advance notice like you did, what are things you need to keep an eye out for?
RICKIE FOWLER: For me, being here at Augusta, the more time I was able to spend here, especially the more tournament rounds I was able to get in, the more comfortable I got around the golf course.
It's really a place that you learn by playing it yourself. You can only get so much‑‑ or you can only learn so much from other guys by them telling you. You kind of have to experience it for yourself and being here on the grounds. Yeah, playing it before the tournament or when the tournament is not going can help, but it's a completely different golf course tournament week.
A guy like Jon Rahm, obviously he's been playing great golf. I don't see any reason why he can't go and play well or be in contention this week and have a chance to win. It's not a golf course that you have to be any certain type of player. He's shown that he can play and compete with the best. He's already won. So it will just be him going out and learning this golf course for himself.
Q. You guys have the uncanny ability to remember shots that you've played in years past in photographic detail, the good and sometimes the bad. When Jordan hits the back nine here on Sunday or Thursday, he may suffer some of those memories. How do you make sure that you're able to lock those memories out and not see them again?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I don't think‑‑ it's not that you don't see them. I think it's good to remember your bad shots and your good shots. Being that way, when you end up in a similar situation, if it's a good one, you remember what you were thinking and go through a process and get in that same frame of mind. And then remembering the bad ones is also good, as well; understanding what did I do wrong there, what was I thinking, how can I think differently, how do I block, if something crept in, how do I keep that out. I'm going to start this five yards farther left or right, depending on the situation, and just make sure that I stay committed to that line.
So I think it will be a good thing if Jordan remembers what he did there and him going through the process and just trying to remember, this is what happened, and this is how I fix it, and then move on.
Q. How much is today's wash‑out disrupting your routine, especially with the potential for rain on Wednesday, to get ready for Thursday?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's actually worked out perfectly. I wasn't planning on doing really anything today. Thought about coming out and hitting a couple balls, which I came and hit a few with Butch. I hit a couple swings with a few irons, hit a few drivers.
It cleared up just in time to drive over to the media center and hang out with you guys. I'm going to go work out this afternoon. Mondays for me at a normal tournament are typically rest days. So this is just kind of been rest, recover and get ready for the week. I don't want to spend too much time out here. Although, getting to spend as much time as possible at Augusta and practice on the range, it's awesome. There's really to better place.
So you have to kind of push yourself to stay away to stay rested. But the plan is to play 18 tomorrow. And then, yeah, depending on what the weather is for Wednesday, I'd like to get out for nine and then play the Par 3. But Wednesday could be, you know, I know there's storm potential in the afternoon. But this so far has kind of set up exactly how I wanted to start the week.
Q. I'm wondering in your own mind, forget about what anybody else thinks or expects, where are you on the graph of accomplishment versus expectation in your career so far?
RICKIE FOWLER: So far, I would say under. But I would look back and I definitely wouldn't be disappointed about the career I've had. And especially with where I'm at right now, and where I feel like the game is going and where it can go. You know, this starts the season, getting the win at Honda, and the work we've been able to put in and the work that Butch and I got in Monday and Tuesday last week at Lochinvar, yeah, I'm ready for a fun ride coming in.
Yeah, I would have liked to have won more. I would have liked to have been there in some more majors like I was in 2015. But, hey, it's tough out here, but I'm enjoying the ride.
Q. What do you take from last year's performance at Augusta? I mean, was there anything you learned at Augusta last year that you really couldn't do or anything you want to change, or is it just same old, same old?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, last year was tough. I just made some dumb mistakes that easily could have been avoided. I don't have to‑‑ I don't have to play my best golf around here to get it around the golf course and still find a way to score. I know this golf course too well now to really make those mistakes that I did last year. Really kind of had to kick myself in the butt because I should have been playing on the weekend even with making a couple mistakes, and I just happened to kind of compound them and take myself out from being able to have a chance to go into the weekend and play well.
So it's kind of, it's live and learn. Hopefully that's something that doesn't happen again.
Q. When you play on television, knowing you're going to be on TV, in regards to the Lexi thing, do you treat those rounds differently than when you're not‑‑ than when you know you're not going to be on TV?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, not at all. I mean, I feel like if I'm lucky enough to get, I guess, on TV a little bit, and it's been nice with PGA TOUR Live, we get some of those early‑morning rounds that are being broadcast, whether through the phone, basically through the app now.
But no, I never treat things any different. I don't want to play different if I'm off TV, on TV. I still go through my same routines and nothing changes for me.
Q. I know you came up a little bit short last week in Houston, but how beneficial is it to put yourself in contention the week before a major?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think it's great. I love playing the week before. Just being able to, like I said, being able to work with Butch on Monday and Tuesday and then going out there and getting a few good rounds in, to be there in the final group. Yeah, I didn't get off to a great start yesterday, which it would have been nice to do so. But to go out, and I had just a small problem with alignment, sorted that out, and from 6 on, I played great golf.
It would have been nice to make a couple more putts and be a little closer at the end, but I got a lot out of last week, and that's really what we wanted to accomplish the week before coming in here.
Q. You mentioned The Honda Classic. How important was it to you that for the first time in your career after three rounds, you had the lead and you were able to close the deal on that and what does that do for your mindset, especially coming to the year's first major, knowing that you can hang on to a lead and close the deal?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it was great. It was my first time on the PGA TOUR but not the first time I had done it as a professional. I won in Korea by doing so and then won in Abu Dhabi last year, being out front.
Yeah, to do it on that golf course and in those conditions, being windy that day; yeah, I made a couple mistakes but was able to keep fighting through the round. It's one of the toughest golf courses we play, especially in those conditions.
To hit the shots I needed to at the right time and give myself a cushion to play the last couple holes, it was special. To get the win, basically at home, a place where I've lived for almost seven years now and to be able to celebrate with my friends on Sunday night, it was great. And like I said, to win that early in the season on that golf course, and being out front and closing the deal, it has definitely helped and I think it showed from how well I've been swinging the past few weeks and then heading the right direction coming into this week.
Q. You say that you don't think it's right that fans should be able to influence the outcome by calling in what they perceive to be violations. But the LPGA and the PGA and European Tour accept those communications from the fans, and then they act on them. So do you think the answer, if players aren't down with that, the players should through their policy boards or PACs try to influence their particular tours to end that practice?
RICKIE FOWLER: There's no question it should be ended. I think you can talk to‑‑ I don't think you could find one player that would say otherwise. Now if there's an official always monitoring any video or anyone on camera, that's fine, and I have no problem with that, if that's an official. You look at other sports, they go to someone in the video booth and there's an official in there that can look over stuff, great.
There shouldn't be any outside contact, whether it's e‑mail or phone calls whatsoever.
Q. Do you think players will now, maybe in light of this, make more of a push within their respective tours to try to eliminate this practice?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I'm sure there's already been some sort of push, just from yesterday. I think it's been an ongoing problem. It's been talked about for years. I'm still surprised that it's around or hasn't been changed.
Q. Doubling back on Jon Rahm for a second, how aware were you when he was coming up at ASU? Obviously Phil knew him well and Phil's brother and whatnot. Can you just talk to me about what you see in him in terms of his tools and his demeanor for as young as he is?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I knew about him a bit. I'm good friends with Tim, Phil's brother. I used to play quite a bit of golf with him in southern California. We played some amateur golf together, so we'd play when I was out that way. I actually played with Jon and Tim and another player. The four of us played at Whisper Rock. This was before Jon had turned pro, he was still in college. I just happened to be in town and wanted to get a game.
No, I knew he was a good player. Plenty of power and then being able to, you know, see him a little bit now out playing professionally, he's got all the shots you want or need. I mean, he can move it both ways. He's got plenty of power, like I said, and I don't think you have to talk too much about his game. He's gone out and already won, and he's got plenty of Top 10s and some great finishes on his resumé that speak for itself.
Q. Can you put your finger on what it is about this course that makes it a good course for you?
RICKIE FOWLER: You have to have a lot of imagination. That's something growing up on just a public driving range back home, just a flat piece of land and had to kind of visualize and try and make up your own shots. It's something around here that I love to do and be able to kind of see what the ball is going to do in the air or what I want to try and make it do; and then what it's going to do on the ground.
And same thing with putting. You have to be able to visualize and see where the ball needs to go. And you know, you can hit so many different shots out here, and use the slopes or not use the slopes. So I've had a blast getting to know the golf course. Even when you hit in the trees, there's some fun shots you get to hit out here. You see Phil hitting out of the trees on 13 and that's a pretty memorable shot out here.
Yeah, I feel like the more imagination you have and being able to use that to your advantage, that just makes it more fun. I feel like it can allow you to play even better.
Q. As far as preparation, how early, how soon do you start thinking about this week? And how much different is this week versus another week on TOUR, emotionally, physically, the tax that it puts on you and your preparation and your efforts?
RICKIE FOWLER: I feel like you think about Augusta and the Masters all year. You finish this week and you're looking forward to, if you are exempt for the next year, or even if you're not, you're looking, how do you get back, or you're looking forward to being back here.
Really, through the off‑season to the start of the season with the first few events of the year, it's the first major. It's the buildup from January, February and March, that road to getting here. I would say the final month before is where you really kind of start to, you know, bear down and focus on trying to get the game really heading in the right direction and swinging well and playing well at that time, so you come in here with some more confidence.
What's the second part?
Q. How emotionally draining is the week itself?
RICKIE FOWLER: Really, you look at all the majors, and all the majors are definitely more draining than the other events. I think you see why a lot of guys tend to not play after a major. These are long weeks. It's more so they are just mentally draining just because the course and the tournament takes a lot more out of you.
It's easy to go play 18 holes of golf every day. That's not the hard part. It's just being able to focus and being on top of it and play your best golf at the right time. It's actually a very relaxing, fun week. I have a couple things with sponsors. Other than that, I get to hang out at Augusta National and play some golf here.
Yeah, it just happens to be a little bit more emotionally draining than the other. That's probably the biggest thing. And then the lead‑up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I've tried to take it as much like a normal week, that way I am rested and ready to go come Thursday.
MODERATOR: Thank you for your time today. We wish you the very best this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports