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February 21, 2018

Rickie Fowler

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

JACK RYAN: We're happy to be joined by defending champion here at The Honda Classic, Rickie Fowler.

Rickie, you just took a couple weeks off. How does it feel to come back to a place where you're comfortable and where you won last year?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's definitely nice to be back here. This is a golf course I love to play, especially on days like this. It's a tough golf course without wind, and when it picks up, it's even more so. I feel like it's a place that it demands your full attention at all times. There's never really a pushover shot. Yet, like I said, demands your full attention.

To be coming off two weeks at home or roughly two weeks, we had a couple days on the way back from Scottsdale that we did some stuff. I was able to stop in Chinle, Arizona and spend some time with the basketball team there on the reservation, so that's something that was fun and special to me. They actually just won last night to get to state semis, so following Arizona high school basketball.

Outside of that, it's been nice to be home. My girlfriend and I have been on the road since December 19. We did Christmas and obviously Maui and the West Coast Swing, so getting settled back in in Florida and relaxing and rested up and nice to be in our own bed this week.

JACK RYAN: You're paired in the first couple rounds with two of your Presidents Cup teammates, Kevin Kisner and Patrick Reed. Last time you played with those guys, although separately was at the Hero where you won. You may play pretty well with those guys. Are you looking forward to those guys?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I am. I enjoy playing with both the guys. Patrick and I played quite a bit of junior golf growing up together and he's fun to be around. I enjoy seeing how intense he is on the golf course. He's intense in a good way, and he's a solid player, especially I feel like he's a great player in the windy conditions.

He can flight the ball well and Kiz, he's a bulldog, but he really is a bulldog. He's a fighter. He knows how to play well on tough courses, being in the playoff with him and 15 at THE PLAYERS. I'm looking forward to playing with both those guys. We'll have a good time the first two days.

Q. Two completely unrelated questions. The first, when you won, your recollection of guys like Justin turning up at 18 when you were done, what that meant to you and what did you remember and were you surprised to see them?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's never that I expect anyone to be there. It didn't necessarily surprise me, though. It's fun to have -- I feel like I'm friends with everyone on TOUR, but to have those guys that you spend a lot of time with, whether it's J.T. and I at home with a handful of other guys, too, guys that we travel or rent houses with, to play practice rounds with, go to dinner with on the road.

It's a lot of fun to see your buddies play well, but there's nothing better than beating your buddies, and there's a lot of motivation that you get out of seeing your buddies play well and win.

So it is fun to be there and kind of be there in that moment or feel that moment of when they do win, because you want to get right back in that position.

So I think we've done a great job of feeding off each other and kind of pushing each other. I think I pushed J.T. a little too much last year with the win here at Honda because he was there for my one win, and J.T. won a few more times than me. So I guess that was kind of payback since I made him get off the couch last year after he missed the cut.

Like I said, I think we've done a great job of using friendship and the camraderie of being around each other to help push each other and wanting to see each other play well. Like I said, the most satisfaction that we get is when we do get to have a few buddies on the back of the green, and that's because we beat them that week and have bragging rights for a bit.

Q. Completely unrelated, with regard to fitness, how important has that been as you've started to work out more, with your success? Years ago, it wasn't really a big part of the game and now there's a line outside the fitness trail essentially, almost like a take-a-number kind of deal now. Have you noticed that in your short period of time on TOUR and how much do you use it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I would say more and more guys, seems like when I came on TOUR, every year, more guys were not necessarily working out in the trailers, although those are used a lot and part of the reason they are convenient here on site.

But seeing guys in the gym, whether it's the hotel gym, resort gym, but also getting therapy, as well. I think you need to have both to make it work. You can't just go and get soft tissue work and make sure the body is moving right. You have to complement that with working out and making sure the body is maintaining its strengths, especially through the season.

I feel like the last few years have been great and I think we've kind of changed things along the way here and there to try and make it for the better.

But working out's always been a big part of my routine or schedule and trying to make it even more so. I may not look the most physically fit but it's not about being, you know, on the cover of Men's Health and looking like it. We have to be functionally strong and functional for what we do. You see a guy like Tom Brady, he's done a great job of taking care of what he needs to to do what he does, and I think that's a big part in golf.

If you want to look a certain way, that's fine. It doesn't necessarily matter how you look. It's more how your body works and how your body moves and making sure that you can stay healthy, and I think a lot of it is injury-prevention, making sure that with how hard we go at it and how many times we swing at it that hard, making sure that the body is going to hold up and that we can go ahead and have the careers where we're playing into our 40s and being competitive, like guys like Phil to Furyk.

You know, that's the biggest thing is making sure that we're still able to function properly in our 40s, and like I said, you've seen guys like Phil and Furyk battling it with the young kids, with J.T. swinging out of his shoes.

Q. Justin was giving his take on rowdy fans and how some of them maybe go a little bit too far and don't respect sort of what you guys are doing out there. What's it like for you to play a hole here, maybe 17, where it's a tough enough hole to begin with and then you've got so many fans right on top of you on a Sunday, and some of them might be talking or making unpleasant noises?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I think the biggest thing you brought up is more the respect side of it. While someone's swinging or about to hit a shot, it's not a time to necessarily yell or try and say things to get in someone's head. That's not necessarily our sport.

I think, like I was saying, more the respect side of it. It's a lot of fun playing in front of fans, enthusiastic fans. 17 here, the people are a bit closer to you. It's definitely not as loud as 16 at Scottsdale. It can get interesting.

I think the biggest thing is people realizing this isn't football and you're not on the sidelines yelling out at guys that are about to go tackle someone. You know, we're trying to hit some sort of shot in there, and today it was a 4-iron into the wind.

Remember, it's a hard shot over there. It's a lot harder than the 16th at Scottsdale. So you may see some bad shots, and it would be more fun to hear maybe the positive things, not, "Hey, don't forget there's water right." I mean, we hear all kinds of stuff. It's unfortunate that maybe people try and bring out the bad in us.

I don't know, I was always taught to kind of look at things, glass half-full and be positive towards other people or treat other people how you want to be treated. Maybe we should get on the loudspeaker on 17 and try and enforce that. But hey, they are here supporting us, so we'll see if we can hit some good shots for them.

Q. Speaking of Phoenix, what did you take away from that Sunday?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, unfortunately Sunday, the whole week, I didn't necessarily have my best. I played good the first day. I swung it well on Friday. Saturday, I kind of had to fight through a round and had to stay patient.

Saturday was a big day for me, just the way we stayed patient through the round. Nothing was going right. Finally got some stuff to go in. Birdied the last three and ended up with a 54-hole lead.

Sunday I felt like I did a lot of good stuff early. Made good swings. Again, nothing really went in. I had a chance to make some putts. I had looks at 10, 11, 12. 13, I had a short one. 14, I hit a perfect putt. In my mind it went in but it didn't.

So some putts that just didn't go in, and trying to stay patient in the moment like I did on Saturday, and nothing really turned the right way and was put in a bad position with a few holes to play and hit a couple balls in the water. It wasn't anything about the finish that I'm upset about; it was more so, it just wasn't my time. The putts didn't go in. Gary played an amazing round of golf that day.

And I got a lot out of Saturday and the way that I handled that and was able to fight through it. And then to be alongside Chez, him making the putt at the last, it was cool to see. Hard to root against any of those two guys in a playoff, but obviously Gary played great that day, and really cool for him and Gabby with everything they have gone through in the last year or so.

Q. Tiger hasn't played here in several years. What kind of buzz does he bring to an event?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, Tiger's, no question, the biggest draw that we have. It doesn't matter if it's Pro-Am day or Thursday, Friday, whatever. You can look out there and you know exactly where he is on the golf course. He's got the biggest crowd no matter what and he's earned that.

He's had arguably the biggest impact in the game of golf and with what he's done forgetting people involved fan-wise or people into the game. You can go into the TV side of it, purse money. It's amazing to see what he's done, and let alone his accomplishments on the golf course; the way he played in the early 2000s, most dominating performances in the game of golf.

It's good to have him here this week. I'm hoping he plays well. I mean, he's sleeping in his own bed, so he should be all right.

Q. Speaking of people that made an impact on the game, you're playing Bay Hill again, committed to it. Seems likes you're very committed to that tournament and to Arnold Palmer's legacy. What does that kind of mean to you and what does that event mean to you?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, Arnie was a special guy to everyone around the world. I was lucky enough to get quite a bit of time with him. Played Seminole with him. We were in the same group, different team but we played in the Pro/Member. Being able to play a round of golf with him when he was still playing -- I remember watching, he hit a 60-yard bunker shot or so up to five feet. Just seeing the hands that he still had; to spending time with him at Bay Hill and him being around some amateur events when Sam was playing in the same tournament as me. I won a junior tournament at Bay Hill.

Definitely enjoyed all the times I got with him. Times at Augusta, being around him at the clubhouse or behind the clubhouse where no one really, no spectators can go, it's kind of the quiet area.

The last time I got to spend time with him was when I went up and had lunch with him. Probably one of the hardest lunches I've ever had to do; I had to tell him I was not going to play Bay Hill that year. He was a little disappointed, but if anyone is going to understand, he understands.

No, he's obviously missed and luckily I've played well at Bay Hill, been in contention there before, and like I said, I won a junior tournament there. So looking forward to being there this year again.

Q. You and Rory both play The Bear's Club a lot when you're in town. Wondering if you've had any rounds with him lately over there and what you've seen of his game. He's been kind of up-and-down of late.
RICKIE FOWLER: I haven't played with him as of late. He typically, he doesn't spend a whole lot of time through the winter here and I was gone through the win winter, so even if I was here, it wouldn't have matched up, and then he played in the Middle East to start the year.

The first time I saw him was Monday at Jack's charity event, The Jake. So it was good to catch up.

He's had a nice start to the year. We talked about it. I just told him, said, "Hey, off to a good start. Good to see you playing well." I know he would have liked to have gotten a win in there. It's steps in the right direction.

You know, it may be more beneficial that he didn't win early just to keep kind of grinding and pushing forward, but after not having a couple years that may not have been what he wanted or what we are used to seeing him, how he normally plays, no question, he's one of the best players in the world, so he'll be fine.

Q. Jack said last night with the forecast of plenty of wind and no rain, he's expecting some ugly scores this week. How do you attack this course with what we expect the conditions to be?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, like I kind of talked about earlier, it's a course that demands your full attention, and you can't really let your guard down at any time. It's going to be one where ball-striking here this week, you have to, tee-to-green -- you don't want to be having to make putts for bogey. You can putt great and that's not going to work.

So you need to drive the ball well. There's enough rough here that with the greens as they dry out, you won't -- most greens you won't be able to hold out of the rough. So you need to be playing out of the fairway to at least give yourself a chance at making some stress-free pars, throwing some birdies in there.

But no, that's why I said, I enjoy playing this golf course because of the challenge that it presents and the amount of focus that it kind of requires out of you.

Q. Take us through the 18th hole here at PGA National. Do you consider it a tough hole? What's your strategy? Is it a birdie hole?
RICKIE FOWLER: I birdied it today. It was nice. With this wind, it's tough to get there in two, unless you hit a good one and hug the bunkers. I know the forecast kind of shows anywhere from east to southeast. The hole becomes more reachable once it gets towards the southeast.

With the east direction, the tee shot is pretty straight in. So it's tough to really get it up there in a really good spot to go for it. You're still kind of squeezing quite a bit out of a 3-wood, maybe 5-wood if you get it a ways up there. I would say the one thing is you don't want to get too cute with the lay up.

It kind of tries to entice you with the kind of dogleg back the other way towards the green, but a lot of times when I've been in the position where I have to lay up, is laying back the corner, which does leave you a little further back in than a flip wedge, but it could be anywhere from a wedge to 8-iron at tops.

I would say it's very much a birdie hole, even in the wind, because it's a pretty wide tee shot. And like I said, you don't necessarily have to try and push it and play it as a two-shot hole and try and reach it. You can have anywhere from that 8-iron or wedge in, and at that point, it's more just the wind is just off the right and controlling flight and distance into there.

If you play it smart, even if you play it up every day, you're going to have four looks at birdie there.

It's in between, you're excited, building momentum or finish I canning the round off the right way if you make birdie and then you're disappointed if you make par.

JACK RYAN: Thanks, Rickie. Best of luck this week.

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