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May 9, 2017

Rickie Fowler

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'd like to welcome Rickie Fowler to the interview room. The 2015 PLAYERS Championship I don't know. Welcome back. Have you had a chance to look at the course?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, thank you. It's always good to be back here and especially after winning here in 2015. So, yeah, I have seen the whole course now. I played the front nine yesterday, played the back nine today, and probably some of the best conditions I've seen here. It's nice to have the greens resurfaced; very consistent, they're firm out there for sure, and to see some of the subtle changes, a little less movement in a lot of greens, just kind of softening some slopes, allowing for the greens to be firm and fast if they want to get them there and a lot more runoff in chipping areas. So yeah, it will be fun to see how it plays this week, seeing that we're going to have good weather and they will have full control of the golf course.


Q. I know that winning is hard and winning this tournament is really hard. Winning it twice has been impossible, never a back-to-back champion. Drawing on your experience from last year, do you have any particular theories as to why it's so difficult, or is it simply going to be hard any year under any circumstances?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well it was definitely hard for me last year. I didn't have a tee time Saturday or Sunday, so that became impossible. But it's just a hard tournament to win. You can be -- you can come from behind. It's hard to be out front with the finish; there's so much that can happen. And no, this is arguably the strongest field in golf, on a golf course that creates a great test, and you got to hit pretty much -- you're going to have to hit every kind of shot around this golf course throughout the week, and that's what's great about it. It kind of tests all parts of your game.

As far as being able to win back-to-back, I wouldn't put it past Jason. He's obviously been playing well, and he knows how to win. He's got the job done plenty of times, and so if he plays well, he can definitely be a guy that's going to be tough to beat this week. But I'm looking forward to getting back up there, actually getting a chance to play the weekend this year, and giving myself a chance to go back and do what I did in 2015.

Q. Over the last few years the baton's kind of passed from Rory to Jordan to Jason and now to Dustin. I just wonder how much you burn, and you've been kind of on the cusp of that yourself, obviously in the Majors a couple years ago, how much do you burn to try to get into that, become that guy, that hot guy that elevates like that?
RICKIE FOWLER: I would love to be in that position, continue to focus on the short-term and smaller goals to ultimately work my way there. But that's a little ways out as far as what's attainable time wise. It's not going to happen quickly with what Dustin's done over the past year or so. I think I saw in Rory's presser earlier somebody was talking about Dustin's four or five points out in front of No. 2, which when you talk about points in the World Ranking scheme of things, four and five points is huge. I think JT's right behind me in World Ranking, we're separated by .2. So a full point, let alone four and five full points, is quite a large margin from one to two.

So it's going to take a bit of work from the guys that are ranked 2 to 10 or potentially someone further back to even come close to Dustin right now.

Q. Jumping off the Dustin thing a little bit and continuing on it, can you speak to how he's played and what you've seen from him in the last nine or ten months?
RICKIE FOWLER: The way he's played and the type of golf he's played, it's something that all of us that have been around him or that are close to him and spent some time with him knew that he was very capable of. He's won every year on TOUR out here, so obviously he hasn't been far off or has figured it out at least that one week to get the job done every year he's been out here. But to see what's done over the past year, being a bit more consistent, putting himself in more situations to be in contention to win, to now being a Major champion, I think he's just, seems like he's just walking around and playing with a bit more confidence than before. I feel like he's managing his game very well. Yeah, he's pretty good. He's No. 1 in the world, so he's obviously doing okay.

Q. How many times have you been out on the course this week so far actually, or how many times have you played the back nine?
RICKIE FOWLER: I just played once. I played the front nine once yesterday, and I played the back nine today.

Q. From what you've seen at 12, have you formulated any particular strategy you might use on that hole? And Mark Russell told me that they're probably going to give you guys a chance to drive it every day; different tees, different pin, but the chances are going to be there. But have you figured out what you might want to do there?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's going to depend a little bit with the wind direction. I think the first three days are potentially off the left and with help maybe. A lot of it is going to depend where the wind's at, where the pin's at, but for the most part I would say there's a pretty good chance that I'll lay up three days and maybe go once, if not lay up all four. That's probably not what they want to hear with it being a drivable par-4 this year.

Q. Well, are the greens -- new greens are always going to be firmer until they settle in a little bit and everything. Is the firmness of the greens maybe having causing guys to back off a little bit on trying to drive that hole? You don't want to bounce it off into the water on the left.
RICKIE FOWLER: No, I don't think it's the firmness of the greens. There's quite a bit of slope right-to-left in the front of the green, and the green does slope right-to-left, as well. With right pins, missing right is not a option. With left pins, it does give you a little bit of room to the right to be able to pitch the ball, whether it's landing on the green or bumping it up. But if you get the ball landing in the middle of the green or anywhere left of that, and if it's not cutting, if it's straight to moving right-to-left at all, it's going in the water. So there's not much room to hit the ball when you are going for the green, now if they move it up and make it to where you're potentially able to cut a driver a bit more or maybe hit 3-wood in there, the pin potentially will have to be on the left for me to think about it, but if I can hit a mid to long iron in the fairway depending upon where the tee's at and give myself a wedge and get four looks at birdie through the week, it's not a bad play as well.

Q. Someone who was born in 1988, you're the youngest person in the field who has won this tournament. There is there has been so much talk of the young guns, under 30 crowned winning tournaments. How hard was it to win this tournament before your 30th birthday, and what were some of the things that you did in leading up to your win here in 2015?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it is a very hard golf tournament to win. Like I was talking about earlier, it's arguably the best field in golf and one of the best golf courses we play as far as a test. It tests all parts of your game. You got to hit a variety of golf shots around here. You can't fake it. It basically will pick you apart. So I think it does a very good job of that. You can go out and drive the ball well, and if you're not on top of it, you can watch someone shoot 31 in the same group as someone shoots 41, 42. It's a pretty fine line.

But I just -- in 2015 I feel like coming off of the finishes in Majors in 2014 had a lot of confidence, but I just hung around. I was able to do a good job on Saturday in the round to just get the most out of it and then keep myself actually in the golf tournament. If I wasn't able to do that, then I wouldn't have had a chance on Sunday. With where I was, with six holes to play, I had to make something happen, and that's not always going to be the case. I'm not always going to finish the way I did to finish I think it was 2, 4, 3, 3, 2, 3. Yeah, I doubt I'll ever be able to do that here again, but it was nice to get the job done and get myself in a playoff and ultimately be holding the crystal at the end.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'll let you get to your tournament preparations. Thanks for joining us.


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