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June 13, 2018
Southampton, New York
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
Very happy to welcome this afternoon Rickie Fowler, who's here playing in his tenth U.S. Open. He finished tied for fifth a year ago at Erin Hills.
Rickie, can you talk about your preparations for Shinnecock, how long you've been here, and your preparations for the course and your preparations so far for the last few days?
RICKIE FOWLER: I came up, Justin and I flew up last Wednesday. We've been in the area for a decent amount of time, full week now. I have two full rounds in, which I played last Thursday, I played Sunday, and planning to get on the course a little bit this afternoon. Hopefully, the weather gives us a little bit of a window.
It's been fun to see the course change over time. Obviously, I've had a handful of rounds over here the last few years, and to see the changes to the U.S. Open setup with narrowing it up, bringing the rough in, bringing the fescue in.
For me, I don't think it changed a whole lot of the sight lines off the tees. I think they did a great job of keeping the course somewhat of what it is for the standard weekly, daily play here for a member, but to just tighten it up and make some holes a little tighter.
I'm really looking forward to it. This is one of my favorite courses in the U.S., and I'm excited to get out there and get a final look at the course this afternoon and get ready to peg it tomorrow morning.
THE MODERATOR: And you've played really well this spring. Finished runner-up at the Masters by a stroke, played well at Memorial two weeks ago. Can you just talk about how you're feeling about your game and feeling coming into this week?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm definitely rested, ready to go. It was nice to get a great finish at Augusta. We've talked about that plenty. Just as far as how we executed and hit the shots and do what we need to do on the back nine, it would have been nice to have -- either be a shot closer or have another hole.
And then it was nice to get a little bit of time off, we had a three-week break there, and getting back into the swing of things now and kind of getting into the meat of our schedule.
So it's Colonial, Memorial, get some good finishes and start seeing things coming back to where we want them. It was a perfect kind of lead-in to this week.
I'm happy with where we're at health-wise. And like I said, rested and ready to go because we do have a pretty good stretch, when you look at the schedule, from kind of that May/June through September/October.
Q. Could you talk about your round yesterday? And did you glean anything off of one of your playing partners?
RICKIE FOWLER: What was the second part there?
Q. Did you glean anything off of one of your playing partners?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, so it was -- last couple days have been nice to get away from how busy the U.S. Open is. Obviously, practice rounds can take some time. I think a big part of being ready for the week is being rested mentally and physically as well.
So being able to go out and play and, like I said, get away from kind of the hectic scene of the U.S. Open, I think can be very beneficial.
So we were at Friar's Head yesterday. I don't know. The highlight of my group, Joe, my caddie, he actually played kind of nice because I think he was pretty nervous playing with Tom Brady, and Jimmy Dunne, who's a legend in the golf world. I hope everyone got to see the special last night on Golf Channel. If you didn't, be sure to check it out.
Phil joined on the back nine. A teammate of his, Rob Mangini. So it was just a fun day with the guys hanging. My fiancee, Allison, was walking around, hanging out. So we all had a good time.
I'll tell you what, Tom Brady can putt. So if I can take that into this week, I think that's one thing I took off of him that will help me.
Q. Congrats on the engagement, first of all. Secondly, is there a different feeling this week to where you feel just different about the week? And how does Shinnecock fit your game compared to other U.S. Open venues?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm definitely excited for the U.S. Open finally being here. This is, when you look at a U.S. Open venue, a place that I have a decent amount of rounds of golf at. I've played enough times to know the golf course, and probably the one that I've had the most experience playing at leading up to a golf tournament, which is why it has allowed me the last couple days to go just play some golf and work on the game and not necessarily have to be on site.
No, we're in a great spot. I feel very good about the game. Like I said earlier, rested and ready to go. So excited to see the course, where it's gotten to.
Unfortunately, we got a little bit of rain earlier today, maybe some this afternoon, but I don't think it's going to have two big of an effect on how the course will play tomorrow. So, yeah, I'm fresh and ready to go.
Q. Rickie, when did you first put this on your wish list, because you first played here about four years ago. And where else have you played around here?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, so the first time I played, I believe, was 2013. I did a week trip up here. Joe, my caddie, he came in for the first few days, and then he flew out, and my sister flew in for the next three or four days. I think in a seven-day stretch I played 13 or so rounds of golf. Two of those were for sure here. I played one, so I wanted to make sure I got back.
It wasn't necessarily -- I wasn't necessarily just trying to get up here to see the course because a U.S. Open was going to be here. I've always heard about the great golf in Long Island, especially in the Hamptons, and I wanted to get up here and see and play some of the golf courses because I just love to play golf.
I played quite a few out here. I haven't played Southampton next door. I haven't played Montauk Downs. But for the most part in this area, I've played most of them, even to Fishers Island, which is a little hop over to the island there.
But like I said, Shinnecock is my favorite as far as it's a real golf course. It's going to test you day in and day out, and it's very straightforward right in front of you.
Like I said, it was nice to have a couple of those trips. I think we played one a couple years later, and I got back out to Shinnecock. I feel like I have at least seven or eight rounds here.
Local caddies here are great. We've had a good time, and getting to stay with Jimmy Dunne this week might help out a little bit. So maybe he can rub off a bit.
Q. I just wonder, with as well as you have played in Majors, are you surprised that you haven't picked one off yet so far? Obviously, you're still young and have a ton of golf ahead of you. I just wonder when does it become a thing for you, and how do you maybe deflect putting pressure on yourself to kind of get that first one out of the way?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, definitely. I've been very close. I feel like there's a few you could look at and say, if it wasn't for that one guy, we would have won. There was a couple of Majors where there was a runaway or someone just happened to play just that little bit better.
There's some scores that I've shot that have been good enough to win Majors, but we haven't been able to get it done that specific week.
You know what, at the same time, I kind of like to look at it as far as I'm good enough, and I basically won a Major. I won the Players against, arguably, the best field we play on all year on a golf course that is a very good test as well. No, we just got to happen to get one done at the right time and have that week.
We all know I'm good enough to win. I know I'm good enough to win. Being prepared and making it happen that specific week, there's been a few guys that have been very good at that -- Jack, Tiger.
Phil didn't get his first for a while so there's still hope. I'm not too worried about it. I'm excited about some of these courses that we have coming up, especially this week. But in the coming years, we have some great Major venues.
Obviously, Augusta is one of my favorites and I have had success there. It would be nice to throw on a jacket at some point, but we'll keep doing what we're doing. I'm definitely not trying to put any extra pressure on.
These are special weeks so we're making sure that we're getting ready for those four. It would be nice to make some cuts at the Players because I know I can play well there. Just need to get to the weekend again.
Q. Rickie, you mentioned just coming up here to play some golf courses because you love to play golf. Rory had talked about this as well, just playing for fun. How rare is that among Tour players in terms of playing just for fun, not having an objective or preparing for a tournament?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, as far as it kind of pertains to last week and this week, guys coming up to see the course or staying around, seeing Shinnecock a little bit but playing other golf, we're all still working on some things and making sure the game -- we're not just going out and slapping it around and not caring. Still hitting shots.
Phil and I had a match yesterday. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of it, but I'll give it back to him this week. There's little things that kind of help prepare you, and you don't necessarily have to be at the site of the tournament.
What's special about here is there have been a lot of guys that have played this course before, have come up here early to play it, and part of it is because there's a lot of options for fun places to play golf outside of the venue.
I think the local area and friends of ours and the members and the clubs have been great at allowing us to come out and enjoy their courses.
I talked about having a couple trips up here. This is a place that people want to come play golf. So to kind of balance the business and the work side of it and getting ready for a Major championship, but at the same time, being able to get away and relax and enjoy just golf every once in a while, I think it's very beneficial.
But it is a unique setting being here at Shinnecock and the amount of world class golf courses we have around.
Q. Rickie, you mentioned a lot of the great golf courses. There had to be something else about this area that made you want to get engaged here. What was that, and what kind of connection do you think you have to this area, because it's a great life moment and it happened here.
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, nothing against the area. It wasn't necessarily -- there was nothing planned out. I just really didn't want to carry the ring around any longer.
So it worked out perfectly. We kept things very, very casual. And like I said, I didn't have anything planned out. Like I said, I didn't want to have to keep toting that thing around for that long.
Q. Can you talk about the greens here? Are they the toughest aspect of this course? And what are some of the two or three tougher greens out here?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, for sure the greens are -- or at least a handful of them are very much, you know, what this golf course is all about. For the most part, the driving is not very narrow.
There's a lot of holes that are pretty open. There are some tough driving holes. But you still have to pick very tight lines because once these fairways get as firm as they kind of are now and continue to get firmer, the rough is very much a defense as well.
But they've given us enough room to hit the fairway and then give yourself a chance to try and hit the green because there's a handful of these greens out here that the square footage is -- they're large, but as far as the actual area that you can land it and stop the ball on is half, if not smaller.
So the greens, if you can hit a lot of greens in regulation out here, I think that's going to bode well, but that's also going to reflect on how you're driving it. For me, the first thing is get the ball in play, get the ball on the short grass to give ourselves a chance to hit these greens.
Some of the par 3 greens are some of the toughest. No. 2, if that's your second hole out of the gate and you're on the back tee, it's not necessarily an easy one. 11 is my favorite hole out here, I think by far the smallest green. But 7, obviously, there was some difficulties with that in the past. I don't see that this week, but it's an interesting green.
That's what's fun about this golf course. You get a lot of old school architecture in it. You get a lot of slope in the greens. It kind of tells you where you need to hit or miss it and where you can't. In that way, this golf course is fairly straightforward. It's just hard.
Q. Rickie, it's great to hear you're staying with Jimmy Dunne. I'm curious if he's told you anything about his record around here and if he shared some tips with you about playing this course and if you can share those tips.
RICKIE FOWLER: Any time you're around Jimmy, you get to hear great stories. It's fun to pick his brain and hear about his rounds of golf, where he's played, who he's played with. He's obviously a member, not just here, but some pretty amazing golf courses around the country, around the world.
He's not shy about, if you ask about his round here, he's proud of it, as he should be. I think you can get a lot -- I brought up the special they had last night on the Golf Channel on Jimmy.
I think they did a great job of showing who he is on and off the golf course, how 9/11 was a big part of his life and still is. And pretty amazing, like I said, to see what he can continue to do. On the golf course, he plays pretty well. But to see the kind of guy he is, the kids and families he's helped over the years.
It was special to get to watch that, but also be able to watch it while he's sitting right next to us.
Q. Rickie, for those who don't know, can you share with media here what he shot during that round?
RICKIE FOWLER: I believe he turned it 4 or 5 under, but he made a hole-in-one on 11. That's not why it's my favorite hole. I'm not going to give credit to Jimmy for that.
In the special last night, they kind of stopped after that. There's two more circles. He birdied 12 and 13 after that. Come on, Jimmy, why don't they talk about your two 3s after that?
He shot 63, which is a pretty amazing round around this golf course, and it wasn't too long ago. Like I said, Jimmy can still play. We had a good time the last two days. We played National on Monday and Friar's Head yesterday. We'll have plenty of rounds left together, and hopefully he's putting up 63s as my partner.
Q. Rickie, as it relates to the Majors, is there anything that you learned or took away from the Masters that was different from your previous close calls?
RICKIE FOWLER: I would say just confidence is the main thing. I left there knowing that I could go win a Major championship. I would say prior to that, I knew I could, but as far as validating it and really being there, and the way I played on the back nine and being in a position, I was there a year prior in contention, didn't get off to that great of a start and didn't play very well coming in.
So to kind of flip the script and really have a chance and at least make Patrick earn it, after I birdied 12 on the back nine, my kind of plan and what I thought I could do was to birdie in with the two par 5s. And 14, the pin's kind of in a bowl, and 16 you can get to.
Obviously, I didn't get all of them. 17, I thought I hit a perfect shot. If it carries another yard, it kind of stays up on the plateau there to the pin. It was just fun to actually step up and execute. And that, you know, like I said, kind of solidified and validated my actual belief of what I can go do.
Q. Rickie, a couple of things. Firstly, I believe you just said that the 7th green, you don't see many problems there this week. Could you explain why.
RICKIE FOWLER: Don't see many problems?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I don't see it to where -- I don't think they're going to let it get out of control to where -- they had to water it in between groups in the past U.S. Open here.
I mean, it's still a very tough green. It's a very hard par 3. If you don't hit it in maybe a 10 foot by 10 foot circle in the kind of front portion of the green, it's going to be very hard to keep a ball on the putting surface. A miss in the bunker or a miss kind of a little bit long left is something you can get away with. Guys are going to miss it right at some point, and it's going to be interesting to see what they make after that.
It's just a great, old school par 3. There's a lot more putting surface up there, but as far as your target and where you need to land the ball is very small. That's just the way this golf course is. It will be, I think, played very fair this week, but if you do miss your landing spot, you're not going to be on the green.
Q. And also, Rory was talking about the dominance of American players recently in both Majors and the Ryder Cup and he credited a lot of that to Tiger. What are your thoughts on it?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think everyone in the game can benefit from Tiger. I mean, one of the guys that's talked about it a lot, and I think more over the last couple years, Phil talks about how he's been able to probably benefit the most from Tiger through his career.
And I think with him being back, the TV ratings are back up. No one moves the needle like Tiger. I just think across the board, not just guys and players or even women players and players on the LPGA Tour, I think everyone kind of gets inspired by Tiger.
A lot of us playing the game now, at least, grew up watching him. Some guys had a chance to play against him through his prime. I didn't, but I've heard plenty of stories.
To have him back as healthy as he can be and showing his face and getting into contention, it's great for the game, it's great for the fans, it's great for TV, it's great for us players. I definitely enjoy having him back out and playing, and I want him playing at his best because I want to beat him at his best, and he wants to beat me at my best because someone wants to have bragging rights when we're at home.
So it's great. Like I said, I think it's beneficial for everyone, not just in the U.S.
Q. Rickie, so many of your fellow players and friends, they all to a man talk about there's no doubt that they feel like you're going to win, not one Major, but multiple Majors. I just wonder, with some of your friends like Phil and the guys that have won them, have you sought advice at all or gotten any advice from these guys, just kind of whatever it may be, just keep your head down and keep doing what you're doing or whatever? I wonder if you've talked to guys about that specific topic.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah. I wouldn't say I've had serious sit-down lunches and dinners and gone fully in depth. There's little things here and there. And obviously, ask guys questions, whether we're out playing, if it's a practice round at a Major or away.
I don't necessarily think there's any secret to it. Obviously, you've just got to outplay everyone that week. Jack, I brought him up earlier, has been one of the most successful in Majors, not just with his wins, second place finishes.
I think the game is a bit different now than when Jack played. I think the depth of fields are a lot deeper. There's a lot of guys that can win. Not to take anything away from Jack. You've still got to win the golf tournament. There's going to be other guys that are playing well and hot that week.
No, it's just got to keep doing what I'm doing.
Q. Have you had encouragement from guys like Jack?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, definitely, from Jack to Tiger to Phil to Freddy. Freddy is someone that I've looked up to since I was a little kid just as far as kind of how to handle everything and how he played. He's always been one of my favorites. To some of my peers -- Rory, Jordan, Justin. Sometimes I give Justin a hard time. It came a little quicker for him. I've had to wait a bit.
We'll get it done, and once we get our first, it's definitely not going to be the last.
THE MODERATOR: Rickie, thanks so much for being with us today. We appreciate your time and wish you well throughout the week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports