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April 8, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it's our pleasure to welcome Rickie Fowler to the interview room.
Rickie, thank you for spending some time with us this afternoon. You've had a very strong start to 2019, including a victory in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a runner‑up finish at The Honda Classic.
Can you tell us about the state of your game right now.
RICKIE FOWLER: Definitely feel good where the game is at. Played last week and feel like I was able to check a lot of boxes leading into this week and make sure that everything is either where I want it or figure out the few things I want to work on and tighten up going into this week.
That's always been a benefit for me playing the week leading up to the Masters, I feel I can get a lot of work done and makes me feel good, and have less work to do come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
THE MODERATOR: Last year at the Masters, you had an incredible weekend, a 65 on Saturday, 67 on Sunday and a runner‑up finish. What do you take from that and how do you capitalize on that for success this year?
RICKIE FOWLER: Just have to do one better. A lot of confidence was taken from last year. I've been in similar positions before going into the weekend and either not had the Saturday or not had the Sunday I wanted. I did a good job of obviously putting together a good round on Saturday to put myself in position and fought through a maybe not perfect front nine to allow myself keep moving forward. The way I executed on the back nine Sunday last year was definitely something I pull from, and it was a lot of fun to be in the mix, birdieing 18, to make Patrick earn it a bit. But was just a little bit too far back, and Patrick put together a strong week of golf.
So it was fun. It was great to be in the mix, and like I said, have a chance. But time to do one better.
Q. A little off the beaten path. With what Corey Conners did yesterday, I know you were out there, how much do you appreciate that story, Monday qualifying, and getting here on the last minute, getting the last spot in here, and obviously you were playing. What did you take out of that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I mean, he played some good golf all week, but yesterday didn't play easy, San Antonio, and that's a golf course that there's some tough second shots that you've got to be pretty dialed in out there. And to see what he did, getting off to a really good start, making four bogeys in a row, and then flip the switch and play a pretty nice back nine there.
I've known Corey for a bit. He's lived down in South Florida in the Jupiter area for a while, and obviously a great player. But to step up, you know, when his kind of back was against the wall, took the lead and fell back, it was kind of cool to, you know, once I was out of it and too far back, I was just trying to work on some stuff and obviously try and move up. But to see everything that was happening from Charley taking the lead to Streelman got up there posting a round.
Like I said, it didn't play easy. For Streelman to play that round and then Corey, to see what he did on the back nine, it was pretty special.
I'm sure he's going to be enjoying this week, you know, after his first TOUR win and being a PGA TOUR winner now. Your first trip to Augusta is pretty special, but it definitely doesn't get old.
Q. So two questions. The first one, what are your impressions of the new No. 5, mainly like off the tee what kind of different lines do you take, the challenges of knowing every other hole but then having to calibrate for a new one. And second, your hair is getting pretty long. Are we bringing the flow back?
RICKIE FOWLER: The hair is getting pretty long. I haven't cut it in a while. We may be having some fun with it but just letting it grow for now.
No. 5, I think it actually makes the drive a little easier, as far as if you want to push it up where the bunkers are.
Today we couldn't because it was back into the wind, so it was tough to get it into that area. Beforehand, if you were going to hit driver you had to hug the bunkers pretty close and if you pushed it a little right you would go through the fairway. Now it's a little bit more straight‑on where you have a little bit more room, if you hang it out to the right a little bit, you won't run through quite as quickly.
But it is a longer hole. They softened the green to allow for some longer clubs in there, adding the potential pin placement on the left side there. Today, back into the wind, I hit driver, 5‑iron‑‑ my second drive. My first one I hit left of the bunkers. It was still in play. It was fine.
For me, it's a love/hate relationship with 5. I think it's a tough second shot, just because ‑‑ it is one of the bigger greens out here, but you have to be so precise where you're landing it to put yourself in the right position. I think the changes there, I like. It's a big golf hole now, especially back into the wind, but it will be interesting to see how it plays throughout the week.
Q. I know your focus is solely on this week, but just looking ahead a little bit, I think the PGA TOUR returns to Detroit, Detroit Golf Club, and your association with Rocket Mortgage, how much have you been involved with that as far as publicizing it and getting to know the people up there and the course?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm excited to be up there in Detroit. I think the Tour hasn't been there in ten years or so. I know they have done some renovations at the course there. We are going to do our best to try to get the best field we can and push the event.
I know Detroit is obviously a great sporting town. So to see if we can pull some golf fans from, not just Detroit, but the areas around, and to see what Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans, everything they have been doing in the Detroit area, trying to build the city back up a bit. Hoping that the Tour being back there, it would be nice to see it hang around and not have a ten‑year absence.
I haven't seen the golf course yet. It would be nice if we can get up there beforehand. I'm not sure if we will or not. But it's great to have some awesome partners, and one of them being Rocket Mortgage, and to see them, the investment they have put into golf, but also getting the tournament back up to Detroit and it all being involved with helping kind of rebuild the City of Detroit a bit, it's great to be involved, and I know I'm excited to get up there.
Q. You said your finish last year provided you with a lot of confidence, but does it also bring with it a heightened sense of expectation or pressure?
RICKIE FOWLER: No. I've had a lot of good finishes here. It was just nice to, like I mentioned, I've been in that position a few times and not either played well on Saturday or not played well on Sunday. And to kind of put those behind me, and have a great weekend and really be able to have a chance to win; I know I can play this golf course well. I've had plenty of good rounds around here.
But to get into the weekend and put up a great round Saturday, and be in the mix, and like I mentioned, it was more so fighting through the front nine and really giving myself a chance, and the way I executed on the back nine.
No, there's been some interesting rounds around here for me. I remember one of them, going back a few years, I think I doubled 1 and I doubled 10 and I ended up shooting 68 and I had 21 putts. It's an interesting place, this place is.
What's fun about Sundays, typically here at Augusta, really on the back nine, there's a lot of pins that when you're able to play well and you're able to play aggressive, you can make a lot of birdies, which is one of the things we were able to do last year. But it's also a place that if you're a little bit off, even with it potentially playing very scorable, it will pick you apart very quickly.
For me, it's leaning on how I played last year over the weekend, especially the final nine, and keep swinging well and go attack when the light's green and play smart when it kind of leans towards that.
Q. Was there any part of you that dwelled on what could have been, or were you so at ease that you gave it your best shot?
RICKIE FOWLER: I left it all out there. It would have been nice if there was one more hole, when it was all said and done, but no, I hit the shots that I wanted to, and obviously you can look back at the whole week and be like, well, if I would have done this or would have done that.
But no, I was happy with, you know, how I played. Like I said, how I hung in on the front nine and made sure that I was still in a position to go get it done on the back. To me, the one that I look back at, I thought I hit a perfect shot into 17. I thought I was going to have, you know, something inside of ten feet for sure. It pitched just into the false front and ended up just kind of having to settle for four and move on to 18.
Had plenty, full intentions of birdieing the last three, which would have been nice. But after being in those positions before, and like I said, not having executed, or, you know, played a round on Saturday or Sunday when I needed to, it was nice to put those together, and birdieing the final hole is always nice, but it's better when it's in that situation and when you have a chance to maybe send yourself to a playoff.
Q. You have played well here before. I wonder in your mind how well you think this place suits your game when you're playing well?
RICKIE FOWLER: To me it's perfect. I love this place just because of how much it allows to you use your imagination. You know, I kind of brought up the crazy round where I had two doubles and shot 68 and had 21 putts. Like I can putt well around here. I love putting these greens. Like I said, you have to be able to use your imagination and kind of see how the ball is going to roll and feed, depending on how the greens‑‑ how fast they are running.
But to see different shots and playing from uneven lies, it's a fun place. I mean, to me, links golf is my favorite style of golf, just because of how much it allows you to use your imagination to hit different shots, and Augusta, without it being links golf, is very similar. You have to‑‑ there's so many different shots you can play out here, just choosing the one and committing to it.
You can use slopes as much as you want. You don't have to. There's so many different ways to play this place.
Q. You've mentioned a few times here how pleased you were with your play on the weekend last year. Are you more ready to win a major championship than you were three, four, five years ago, and if so, why?
RICKIE FOWLER: Definitely. Last year was big, just playing well on the weekend. Like I talked about, executing that final nine and hitting shots when you're under the gun and in that moment and under all that pressure.
I also think that getting a win earlier this year at Phoenix, getting over all the stuff that happened there, yeah, this is‑‑ I'm more ready than I've ever been.
I don't think you could ever say that you're‑‑ this is my time, I'm going to go win. You have to go win it and then say it afterwards.
No, like you said, compared to four, five, whatever years ago, yeah, I'm more ready than I've ever been. Not saying that I can sit up here and tell you I'm definitely going to go win, but I like my chances. I love this place. I know I can play well around here. For me, every time I get to play it, it's fun. Like I said, I get to use my imagination around here.
I mentioned it earlier, this place it never gets old. The tournament never gets old. I played a few holes with Larry Mize, and this is his 36th Masters. I said, "Well, with the few that I've played, I feel like it never gets old."
He said, "Yeah, same way." So it's still a special place.
Q. As a general rule, how tight is the target you're aiming at going into these greens?
RICKIE FOWLER: For me, I would say, we're typically picking a two‑ or three‑yard square box, and that's the area we're trying to land it in, as far as starting points and ending points, pretty specific, whether it's an edge of a bunker or a tree in the background. Kind of lean towards the idea of aim small, miss small. We're trying to land it in quadrants out here in certain areas, but I would say as far as aiming points and finish lines, they are very tight.
Q. You said you checked all the boxes last week. What boxes were they, and what was it like to see Butch out there today?
RICKIE FOWLER: Do I have to go through all the boxes?
Q. Not all of them. The key boxes.
RICKIE FOWLER: For me, I get a lot out of playing the week before a major when it fits in the schedule. You know, seeing how my distance control on wedges, from flighting the ball, working the ball left‑to‑right or right‑to‑left, mid‑irons, how I'm hitting them, long irons, because Augusta, I feel like you hit basically everything in the bag and everything is going to get tested. You know, from how I was putting to also how I'm driving the ball.
So I feel like we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish last week. It would have been nice to play a little bit better on Saturday and be really in contention and try and go win the tournament.
But I'm happy with what I was able to get out of last week. For me, like I said, I get the most out of playing the week before. Some guys don't like to play before a major. Sometimes they like to get work in at home with their coach or work on the game and spend time on the driving range.
For me, playing and just seeing where the state of my game's at and what I may need to work at, makes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday a lot more efficient. I know exactly what I want to do. Depending on what tomorrow's weather brings, I played the front nine today. I'll probably play the back nine on Wednesday. So it becomes more of just a rest thing. I don't have to go and try and look at the golf course a whole lot. I'll work on the game and try and fit everything in.
So that's what works for me. It doesn't work for everyone else. Some guys go about it that way.
But also, yeah, it's always great to see Butch. I've seen him a little bit. He gets down to the Floridian every once in a while. But I know with him, not traveling as much, won't see him on the road as often. We still stay in touch quite a bit. Yeah, it's always fun having Butchy around.
Q. How much of your imagination do you need to play the new No. 5?
RICKIE FOWLER: I don't think you need a whole lot there. It's just a long hole. It's like I mentioned, especially today back into the wind, hit driver down the middle of the fairway. If there's help, it could be 3‑wood. And then really, other than the front pin, I think you're still trying to hit it in towards the middle part of the green. It will be interesting to see with that left pin if they do use it. Now, short is actually a good leave to that pin, versus long.
But I think that's one of the holes that there may be the less‑‑ the least amount of thinking going into it. It's right there in front of you. The leave to the right to the back pins is easier now. They have softened the slope on the right side of the green. Hopefully I play it well. It's pretty simple but it's a hard hole.
Q. Had you been up here to preview the golf course?
RICKIE FOWLER: I saw pictures. No, today was the first time I had seen it.
Q. Can you talk about the weather that's coming up this weekend. We have some rain coming tomorrow. We have some rain maybe later this week. How is that going to affect the course?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, as you know, here at Augusta, they can make some crazy things happen. It's another reason this is a special place. I mean, I know we're going to get a lot of rain this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow. But there's some times where there's storms that are supposed to be coming through and sometimes there's a bubble and they somehow just miss this place.
This place is also built on a really good kind of vacuum system. They can get a lot of rain and it doesn't‑‑ the next day it seems like not a whole lot happened. I'm not too worried about the golf course. If the rain that we get tonight and tomorrow, if it's not a significant amount, with the good weather on Wednesday, I'm sure the golf course is going to be where they want it come Thursday, and it looks like we have some pretty good weather throughout the rest of the week.
So that's one thing I never worry about here is the golf course. It's pretty cool to see what they are able to do here.
Q. So many kids look up to you, and I'm curious what your advice would be to children who are serious about the game. Do you say lock in, try to improve, go for your dreams or experience all sports when they are young?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, on the young side‑‑ first, it's fun and cool to be in the position where, you know, I have the younger generation looking up to me, and to be in that kind of role model spot. It's fun.
So I enjoy it. I love spending time with kids playing junior golf, as well as other sports. I definitely recommend kids playing more than one sport. I feel like it helps‑‑ it will help down the road with whichever sport you do choose to play.
But on the golf side, you know, I always tell kids, just have fun and find one or two, three buddies. Go have some sort of competition and compete as much as you can, whether it's a putting on contest, chipping contest, go play nine and have a match.
I just think that you can get so much out of playing or simulating competition and competing against friends. It's still stuff we do today when we're home in Jupiter, go have matches with friends, whether it's two‑on‑two best‑ball or just one‑on‑one, chipping contest, putting contest. I feel like ‑‑ you do get a lot out of doing drills and practicing, but I think you have to have both, and the fun part about competing, and especially when it's with your friends, you're going to get better while you're having a good time.
Q. There was a period, I think while Tiger was out, it seemed like the game of golf was trying to manufacture rivalries to draw in new interest. I think you were supposed to be in an event with Rory back in 2016. What do you remember about that time of golf when, again, Tiger was out, and everybody was looking for some kind of new rivalry to take hold of it, and are there future instances or matches planned for primetime on the heels of Tiger versus Phil to rekindle new interest in a rivalry?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's definitely great for us, great for the game, fans, me, everyone, to have Tiger back around and healthy. It's only better for everyone. So I'm glad he's been able to kind of make a bit of a comeback and get healthy to where he's able to play and come out and play with his buddies, because you know, seeing him laid up at home wasn't fun. I know he was getting bored.
But I know when I got to play with him before he came back, I was like, all right, you're good, you have plenty of speed. Just stay right there.
To see what he's done, it's been huge for the game. Looking back when he was out, I think that, you know, people are always looking for different stuff. I wouldn't say there are necessarily any rivalries. We are all just trying to beat up on each other as bad as we could. At the end of the day, there's a lot of us that travel together, live close to each other, share houses weekly; so we enjoy it.
I would say that for me, I've always looked at it, going back to kind of the competing with friends and using that to get better, the people you hate losing to most are your friends. You don't want them to have the bragging rights or being able to hold something over you.
I'm sure there's going to be more matches to come. I don't know of any as of right now. I know we've looked at doing some potential in the past. It wasn't just going to be Rory and I. There were going to be a couple celebrities involved. I think just finding different ways to show golf than the standard Thursday to Sunday tournament golf.
I think it's great with all the different platforms out there now, there's so much good content that you can create and make and show, and any way we can help show the game in an even more fun and exciting way. You know, we're all out here to grow the game. I love the position I'm in. You talk about being a role model and being able to grow the game that way; I think the more we can make it look cool and fun, the better.
Q. There was a lot of things that were thrown at you in that final round in Phoenix that you had to overcome. Can you take away, or can you compare having to overcome pressures of a major championship from what you experienced there in Phoenix? Is there any comparison or how would you compare or contrast?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, you can learn from, really, anything. But you know, that one being in a position where I was very much in control of the golf tournament and felt really good about my game all week there, and to have everything slip away in just a few minutes; obviously in major championships, anything can happen at any point. It's a fine line between making 4 and 7.
To kind of regroup and get back on the horse and play the last, you know, kind of five, six holes the way I did, I mean, it took a lot, but I remember standing on 14 tee and was talking to Joe, my caddie and we were just like, at the beginning of the week, if you were to say, you're on the 14th tee, you've got five holes to play‑‑ I think I was tied at that point, but you know, this is where you'd want to be.
So you just kind of have to throw everything else out and put everything aside and go play golf, which sounds easy. It's really not. That was a big win for me. Having the relationship I do with the Thunderbirds and they gave me a spot when I was an amateur, to being close so many times there; it wasn't just making triple on 11. There was so much more behind it in getting that win there. That was my first win, having my dad and my grandma and my grandpa around. A lot of monkeys off the back there.
THE MODERATOR: Rickie, we wish you the very best this week, and thanks again for joining us.
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