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April 2, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. It is my pleasure to introduce the very talented Rickie Fowler. Rickie, thank you for joining us in the interview room this afternoon. You've had some impressive rounds here in the past, and last year on Friday you had the low round of the day, which has put you in contention here in the Masters.
What have you learned from those experiences, and how do you take that experience for this week.
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I've been fortunate to be in contention here a couple times, and Saturdays and Sundays are special here when you do get that chance to be in there. It's about time we have a real shot. I think we put ourselves in a great position last year going into the back nine. I didn't have the back nine that I wanted, but it's fun to be in the mix when the wind starts to die down and it starts to get really quiet and then you get the loud roars.
To be there to see some friends win, whether it's Bubba's playoff on 10, seeing Sergio get it done in the playoff coming up 18, I would love to have my chance at it.
So I know the amount of times that we have been here, this being my 8th Masters, plenty of experience, know how to play the golf course, it's just about piecing it together. I think it's more of a mental challenge than it is a physical challenge this week.
So I'm excited, as is everyone in the field, it's Masters week.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions.
Q. What is the mental challenge? I mean, is there anything specific that you tell yourself when you come here, or what's the prescription for you in particular?
RICKIE FOWLER: For me I just need to do a good job of working well with my caddie and making sure that we're choosing the right shot and comitting to it, staying focused all four rounds every shot. I think that the last couple weeks been working on stuff, whether it's swing and also on the mental side to make sure that we're ready to go, and everything's been trending the right direction.
I know that I can hit every shot that I need to on this golf course, I can putt well, and that's obviously needed here.
So the big thing is the everything that happens prior to actually pulling the trigger. I need to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind and trusting what we're trying to do and not second‑guessing anything. So if I am able to do that, really commit to the line and the swings that we're trying to make at that exact time, then it's going to be a good week.
Q. Late last summer when Tiger was first cleared to start chipping and putting again, he said that you and JT went over to his backyard, had some putting contests back there with him. Just curious, did Tiger win any of those, and did you see anything from him at that time that made you hopeful that he might be able to come back like this?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think that's probably a loaded question because he's probably already said that he won all of them. Which I think he did. If not, JT might have got one of them. It was home‑course advantage. He's been hitting quite a few putts on those greens for a number of years now, so if he doesn't win on those greens, then he's got a problem. No, we have had a great time over the last couple of years with him being kind of sidelined with being able to be assistant captain on a couple of the teams, to him working on getting healthy again. We got to play quite a bit through the fall, and we have had a great time.
It's been fun to see him back healthy enjoying playing the game of golf, not just trying to work through what he was able to do with his body and how he was able to move. To see him free, healthy, and having fun, it's nice to see him enjoying it. So to see the success he's had earlier this or the start of this year, it's been no surprise, what I saw in the fall and with him having speed back.
Obviously he knows how to win, he's not scared when he's in the situation of in contention on the weekends. Obviously getting back used to it since he hasn't been there as much over the last few years, with being kind of on the sidelines with things. He's going to win at some point. I think that's pretty clear to everyone with the way he's played and continued to get better.
So it's great for the game to have him back. I think you can see the Tiger effect in plenty of the tournaments that he's been at, from ticket sales to the amount of people viewing on TV. We'll see it this week. So, yeah, no, I would love to see him play well, just hopefully I can play a little bit better.
Q. Do you see with the all attention on Tiger that maybe other players, top players like Sergio, Dustin, yourself, there's less attention on you and more time maybe to prepare and it would help you go under the radar a little bit unlike past couple years?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yes and no. The guys will still get some attention. A lot of guys will enjoy not getting maybe as much, sliding under the radar, like you said, and getting to just take care of business and focus on why we're all here, to play good golf, see good golf.
Tiger's earned the attention. After guys like Arnie and Jack, them setting the stage and Tiger having kind of changed the game and take it to a whole new level, like I said, with having guys before him that kind of set the stage for him to do that. He's been the biggest needle mover in the game, and it's going to be tough for anyone to come close to that.
Q. I think you said you played with him in a final pairing of last day of a tournament. Do you remember when that was and what was that like?
RICKIE FOWLER: One that I remember, we were in the‑‑ I think it was final pairing we played at Memorial, he went on to win. I didn't play so well. But we have had a couple final days together. I think that might be the only final pairing, one of them being Bay Hill. He ended up winning, and I had a chance. I ended up hitting one on the water on 16. I was kind of taking a chance of getting one close and trying to chase him down a bit. Which not many people have chased down Tiger.
So we have had our fun. I think he helps bring out the best in guys, and obviously you want to dig deep. And when you‑‑ I think when you learn to play with him, obviously it's different, some guys play well immediately, some guys can struggle, like I said, he's been the biggest needle mover in the sport. It's been a lot of fun to get to know him more on a personal level and be a friend.
But you hear guys talk about the early 2000s and that intimidation factor. The young guys in a way have heard about that. I think they're getting just to see some of that as far as his presence and him being out on the golf course and getting a glimpse of what he's capable of.
But I think we relish the opportunity to play against him and see him back to maybe close to where he was.
Q. Since you brought up that Memorial round, in retrospect‑‑
RICKIE FOWLER: It was pretty bad.
Q. How much of that do you think in retrospect was due to the Tiger effect of just playing with him, trying to contend with him and the crowds when that was a fairly new experience to you?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I mean, whether there was a big impact or not, it was a great learning experience. It was something that I definitely grew from and has helped me since that day. I mean, anyone would be lying if they said that Tiger didn't have some sort of impact, especially if you played in a pairing with him early on in your career.
Once you're more established and you've been around, it's something more that you look forward to. I definitely enjoy getting to play with Tiger and having everyone around. And you would be playing Thursday, Friday rounds with him, it feels like a final group pairing. It's a lot of fun.
But, yeah, I would say it definitely had an impact. I didn't get off to the start I wanted and I had a couple swings that cost me quite a bit there, but, like I said, it was definitely a good learning experience. And if you go forward from there and learn from it, that's ‑‑ unfortunate that it wasn't a great round, but it was something that was beneficial.
Q. Quick follow. You saw him at perhaps his worst two years ago when it was painful for him to even go to his restaurant to sit and have a meal. When he said last week that he's a walking miracle, does that resonate with you based on what you saw then?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I don't get to see him a whole lot when he was in a lot of pain just because he wasn't out much. He would be basically laid up and sitting at the house and really couldn't move and do much. I would hear about it and be checking in on him and kind of seeing when he might be back up and putting or chipping and trying to in a way kind of keep him motivated. But I was excited for him to get back so we could start playing and practicing together back home in Jupiter.
And to see what he's been through with the multiple surgeries and for him to be back out healthy, and I'm‑‑ he says pain free, I'm not sure how much, if any, pain he has to deal with, but from the pain that he was in to where he is now, I think, yeah, it's pretty much pain free. But I'm not sure, he probably has a pretty high pain tolerance with what he's been through. But it is great for all of us players, the game. I'm sure there are more people or will be when he comes in for a press conference. So he's got a draw, and he deserves it.
So we're all excited, and I'm just happy that he's healthy and able to play the game and having fun with it. But also with his kids, Sam and Charlie, and getting to chase them around. And he may not be running as much with Sam, but at least he can play around and have a good time with them and not be laid up on the sidelines.
Q. You mentioned when you came in that you watched friends win here, Bubba and Sergio, and obviously we have seen you come out at the end of tournaments to watch. I'm just wondering why you do that. Is it a motivation thing at all or what?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, it's fun to see your friends win. It's fun to see them play well. I want to beat my friends when they're playing well. Like you said, it is a motivation factor in a way. Seeing JT and Jordan and Bubba, seeing Sergio win here last year, it is fun to see.
But it also is kind of a kick in the butt to get yourself to kind of keep pushing forward. And you want to be in that position and you want your buddies to, whether they decide to be there or not, it's kind of a nice bonus, a nice touch. But it's fun to have the bragging rights over your friends.
Q. Obviously you had mentioned Memorial 2012 when you were paired with Tiger late on that Sunday and he went on to win, and 2013 there at Bay Hill when he went on to win that one. You guys were late late parings there. What would it mean at this course on this at Augusta National to be paired with him late with the Green Jacket on the line this time?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think it's something you've dreamed of as a kid. From, I would say, my generation, maybe some guys a little older than me, and then definitely guys younger, he was someone we watched growing up. '97 Masters is something I've watched multiple times. Especially if you've grown up in the UnitedStates, if not around golf and around the world, you've dreamt of walking up 18 with a chance to win the Masters.
In a way, if there was one guy growing up that you could have a chance, it was playing against Tiger or being in the group with him or having a chance to beat him.
So I feel like I'm ready for that. Maybe back in 2012, 2013 that would have been a bit tough to accomplish, but with where I'm at and my comfort level with this golf course, the way I've kind of‑‑ where the game's heading and trending the last few weeks heading into this tournament week, I'm in a good spot, and it's‑‑ it is great to see Tiger come through the fall from us playing at home, having our matches and having a good time, to him back in tournament golf and making a presence and making his presence known on the weekends.
So I would love to have the chance. Like I said, it's something I feel like a lot of kids growing up around my age, that's something that you always thought would be a cool experience.
Q. You seem to have an appreciation for the history of the game and the pageantry. Talked with a few players today about some of the more iconic shots in Masters history. What are one or two that come to mind, and have you tried them, say, in practice rounds and in December or early Masters prep?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, there's, I mean, quite a few when you start kind of looking back. One that I remember pretty well, I mean, Tiger's chip from long left on 16, I feel like everyone's kind of gone down there and at least looked at it. I've tried it. It's pretty impressive.
Q. How close did you get?
RICKIE FOWLER: I didn't make it. I mean, if you hit a good shot there, 10 feet's good. I mean, you have to hit it perfect, which, I mean, you watch it, and he hit his spot perfectly and it went right down the fall line. I'm not sure if I‑‑ if you had a good lie, that's the shot you would play. There's some other options that may be safer, but I don't think there's been anyone in the situation or circumstance that's been better at pulling shots off or making putts when needed.
Then I think some of Phil's putt on 18 to win there. Some of the putts are a little easier to hit than the shots, but you at least look at what guys have done.
For me one being there in person was Bubba's shot on 10 in the playoff. I was standing with Ben Crane, and I think Badds was with us, we were on the back left of the green, so being able to see that shot in person, and you couldn't pick a better person for the shot that needed to be hit.
Q. Could a right‑hander hit that shot with a wedge? You can't do that, right?
RICKIE FOWLER: You would need to try to hit it with a 4‑ or 5‑iron. So that's what I was saying. It's the perfect spot for Bubba. And he's‑‑ Phil could try to pull it off, and I'm sure Phil could, but a rightie couldn't do it. It was that shot and that tournament. It was‑‑ that tournament was for Bubba to win.
Q. A non‑Tiger question for a second here. They do exist. You touched on it at the very beginning, just a moment ago, but people talk about places where they have a comfort level. How do you think your game in particular stacks up here when you think about what's necessary here? Is it a good fit for you?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's a great fit. Like I was talking about earlier, it's more of the mental challenge of making sure that I pick the right shot and hitting the right shot at the right time, picking which pins or which holes to be aggressive and when to kind of play away and play smart, and that all comes to just making the right decisions and then really comitting and trusting the process and what we're trying to do.
I know I can hit all the shots needed around here. I know I'm a great putter and can make putts here. I putted well here. One of my best putting days, I think it was first round a few years back, I doubled the first and doubled 10 and shot 68 with 21 putts. I can make putts here. Obviously you got to put yourself in the right positions. So when you do that, there's plenty of putts to be made, but you put yourself in the wrong positions, and you can three and four putt these greens pretty quickly.
So like I said, physically, golf swing‑wise, and my game, I know I can play and get around this place, it's just more the mental battle.
Q. After your clutch closing stretch to win THE PLAYERS, have you fought, yourself, expectations that you should be able to close out or play down the stretch every Sunday like that? How‑‑ could you look at that as a great advantage, but you could also put pressure on yourself to replicate it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, no, you can't expect that every time that you need it. That's‑‑ a close or a finish like that over the‑‑ whatever you want to look at it, whether it's the last six or last four holes, I may never have a finish like that in the rest of my career. Being able to birdie‑‑ well, the par I made on 12 was amazing with the lie I had in the bunker, to making birdie on 13, made a great par on 14, just to set up what I was able to do the last four.
So really the last seven holes, if I don't hit the shot I did out of the fairway bunker on 12, then I really don't have a chance.
Yeah, that could be a once‑in‑a‑lifetime kind of finish. It will be nice to be in a situation knowing coming down the stretch that I need to make a couple birdies or make up a few shots, knowing that that has happened there or I've done something before, it's something to lean on, but it's not something you can‑‑ it's not something you can definitely expect. Maybe one or two birdies with the last couple, but to play the last 4‑ or 5‑under has to be the right setup, just was the perfect setup there at THE PLAYERS.
Q. If you never have a closing finish like that again, will you be okay?
RICKIE FOWLER: Hopefully I'm a little further out front and don't need that. Then I'll be plenty fine with that.
THE MODERATOR: Rickie, thank you again for your time today. We wish you all the very best this week.
RICKIE FOWLER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports