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May 20, 2021

Rickie Fowler

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're happy to host Rickie Fowler, who opened with a 1-under 71 today Rickie, really good play, solid throughout. Kind of taking us through your round, what you saw out on the golf course.

RICKIE FOWLER: Definitely happy with the start. It's Thursday. As everyone says, you can't win it, but you can take yourself out of it on Thursday. It's all about getting off to a good start. I knew, starting on 10, it was going to be an easier start than going off 1 today. We'll get the chance to do that tomorrow going off 1, but starting downwind is a little easier to get the round going.

Then in the middle of the round, you play a longer tough stretch from 14 through to 4. Those are the hard holes right now, being back into the wind. I did a good job of managing and holding on through there. Then you get a little breather coming home playing down off the right.

So definitely happy about it. I feel like we managed our way around quite well. I missed one shortish putt for par coming in, but other than that, solid day.

Q. I'd like to talk about a consecutive shot sequence on 16. What happens to your mind coming out of the bunker and then you have to pull lumber going in?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, 16, it's a true par-5 today. You've got to hit a good drive and a good -- after that, probably a good long iron just to have a wedge into the green, which is still a tough wedge to where that pin was today.

So, yeah, I was trying to just get something low out of the bunker and get it running down the fairway. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too low and clipped the rough but managed to kind of -- it kept moving forward and got back down to a flat lie. Had a great number for driver off the deck, 3-wood couldn't get there. It could have. It was just going to be more work. If I go at 3-wood, the tendency would be to overturn it, and left is not good, or short left as well.

Driver, I can kind of aim at the middle of the green. Didn't try and turn it, just try and hit a straight one. If you catch it a little thin, it hangs right, which it's perfect. The leave is fine. You can figure out how to get it up-and-down. I love hitting driver off the deck, so it worked out to have a good number there.

Q. Did you tap the second shot, or did you just get unlucky?

RICKIE FOWLER: No, one, with the sand out here, you ball does sit down a little bit, just how soft it is. I got it a little thin, and then it clipped that rough in front of me. So it was on the thin side, but I didn't top it.

Q. Rickie, earlier this week you talked about putting being the trick. I think you were 1.8-plus on strokes --

RICKIE FOWLER: Sweet. That's good for me right now.

Q. When was the last time you were in that situation, and what kind of clicked on the greens for you?

RICKIE FOWLER: Actually, last Thursday, I might have been close to plus one maybe, and then it went the other way. I think I was close to minus four on Friday and missed the cut by one there.

I probably put three or four hours on the green. On these greens, not just out on the golf course. Just with time with the putter in my hand and just kind of getting as many reps and feels in as possible, trying to just get in a comfortable position, just hitting putt after putt, starting online and knowing where it's going.

So it wasn't a whole lot of speed work. I did my normal speed work that I would do out on course. And then here on the green out in front. Most of it was just spent time on the mirror and feeling comfortable of hitting my spot. Whether it was like -- usually I do anything like five to ten feet, and when I'm able to do that consistently, I can typically start pretty much every putt online from there. So a little extra time there.

I felt very good on the greens, just a slight misread on the one on No. 6, that is. So I hit a lot of good putts today. Definitely happy with the time we spent to take it into today and get some positives out of it.

Q. Rickie, where are you in the process right now of trying to fight your way back? How hard is it to do it right here in a challenge like this? It's an unusual course, and obviously all the wind.

RICKIE FOWLER: I'm starting to feel pretty darn good. The last few months, it's been a lot more just go play golf and not play golf swing. Put a lot of time in prior to the last few months of working on swing and doing the stuff we kind of needed to work on and accomplish. Now it's just go play golf.

Unfortunately, through that time, the putter has gone pretty cold, if not the coldest it's ever been for me, and that's been a club I've been able to rely on through my career from junior golf on up.

So, no, I'm very happy with where we're at. Things can still get better, but we're back to playing golf and hitting shots and having fun. I think, one, with this golf course and the wind and what it kind of demands of you, one, you can't try and go out there and be perfect. You've just got to go out there and hit golf shots and kind of play with what you have that day. A lot of times you can't fight the wind out here. It's heavy, as you guys felt being out on the golf course. It's a fun challenge.

Q. Has there been any difficulty fighting off frustration, knowing that maybe you're doing better, playing better than the results are showing?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's been tough. Especially knowing that at times, tee to green, it's been a lot better than what things may show or look. Partly, like I mentioned, because of things not putting well or just not having the ball go in. A lot of it is just, as a lot of you know, who have at least played some golf, you start to see some putts go in, and the hole starts to look a lot bigger, but as soon as you miss a few, it starts to shrink up on you.

That's currently where things have been. It's nice to at least make some putts today. I hit some good putts, and I kind of attribute that to the work we put in earlier this week.

Q. Rickie, coming into the special invitation, do you feel any extra pressure to justify your place in the tournament?

RICKIE FOWLER: Not necessarily. A little extra motivation, maybe. Obviously, very appreciative to have the opportunity to be here. Prior to getting the special invite, we were already under the assumption that I was in -- I'm not sure exactly how, but I was told that I was in. I'll take the invite and be here in a heartbeat.

So definitely happy about it, like I said. I think it's a little more motivation to go take advantage of it.

Q. Have you changed up your practice and playing routine when you're at home?

RICKIE FOWLER: I've been spending a lot more time over at Grove. One, the practice facility is bigger and less people over there. But over the last couple of months, I've been going out to medalist a bit more. But I usually rotate when I'm home, Grove being probably -- I'm probably there about 75 percent of the time. The other 25, I'll split between Medalist and Turtle Creek.

But prior to this past stretch, I went and spent some more time at medalist because it was in a bit better shape, and the greens were -- they're always good there, but it was good to get some rounds in.

Q. Do you play any games against other Tour pros right now as you're trying to build back up?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, that's pretty standard for us being home. If it's one week off, take a couple days off early, and then get back into it. I'll be in the gym through the week, but try and get at least two, three games before going back out.

If you get longer breaks, you can get some more games in, but usually it's between Grove and Medalist, and there's a few other courses from Bear's Club, depending who's home -- that's the nice thing about being in Jupiter. There's always guys to go play against.

Q. Rickie, interested in your perspective on Xander Schauffele. He's been top ten in three of the last four Majors. If he doesn't go in the water late, it would have been the last four at the Masters. What do you see in his game that allows him to continually knock on the door? What goes through your mind when you're that close and you know you're playing well but you can't quite get over the top in one of those tournaments?

RICKIE FOWLER: I've been in a similar position, but looking at Xander, you can't really find a weakness in his game. He's got plenty of speed.

He's a great driver of the ball. He makes a nice sound when he's hitting iron shots. He can work the ball -- flight the ball up and down. Great hands around the greens, and he putts well.

That usually, when you add all those up, some pretty darn consistent results, and it showed. He's a good guy on top of it.

It was a bummer to see the finish at Augusta. That's not usually where you want to see someone. He's an impressive player.

Q. Rickie, I'm just curious, having been through what you've been through the last few months, is your mental state different coming in as opposed to when there's different expectations on you and you've been playing great??

RICKIE FOWLER: Well, it's definitely been more than a few months. In a way, it's just putting things into perspective and understanding that I get to do this for a living. And that's awesome. I've had a great run so far out here. I definitely want more.

But at the end of the day, we get to play an amazing game for a living. So kind of just putting things into perspective and understanding we have it pretty darn good out here, and we have fun. Go play golf.

Q. Just going to follow up on that one. Just kind of wonder, for years, right, I think like having a spot in a Major is second nature and all that. I just wondered how, when you did realize, oh, need an invitation, how that kind of sat with you and how that worked its way through your mind.

RICKIE FOWLER: Well, it wasn't necessarily with this because I mentioned earlier that I was under the assumption that I was already in with this, but where stuff started setting in was once I got outside -- moved outside the top 50 in the world, wasn't going to be in Augusta. So, yeah, I've had to deal with that for a few months.

But it's time to jump back on the horse. First get back inside the top 50 and keep on moving.

Q. Have you felt like you are a top 50 player?

RICKIE FOWLER: Not as of late, no. I took a little break and stepped back. We're on our way back now, though.

Q. Those money games you play at home, have you made any money in the past few months?

RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, you can ask Kis a couple days ago if I took any money. Actually, Larkin, Gross, the club pro and I took down Kis. I won't throw his partner under the bus, but I can throw Kis under the bus. Yeah, I have put some money in the pocket.

I think not having to hand out any money to M.J. has been probably the bigger wins because of how Grove sets up for him, where he's able to press. If I'm able to win the original match and lose -- not have him flip the original match because of the press or multiple presses. So if I don't lose money to him, that's actually a win.

Yes, I've had money go out and come in.

Q. Jordan has said, speaking of himself and lately about you as well, that when you go through a struggle, sometimes it's hard to do it in silence because there's so many eyeballs on you. Have you noticed how difficult that can be compared with other people in here? Go through your struggles and work it out without people asking you every day how's it going?

RICKIE FOWLER: It's tough for anybody regardless, spotlight or not, because you deal with the personal and mental struggle on your own. Yeah, it's probably a little different, whether it's answer questions or know that there's people talking about what's going on or whatever it may be.

When you're going through anything, whether it be something personal with any of your lives or my golf game or whatever it may be, it's hard. It doesn't matter whether people are watching or not, but it adds a little bit if they are.

Q. A couple things. One, to follow up on Fergie, how many do you have to give Jordan when you're playing him?


Q. And is he a quick payer?

RICKIE FOWLER: Oh, yeah, but you have to be as well. When I say ten shots, it's not that he's -- he's good. A lot of the guys in the shop, there's side bets and stuff, typically is over/under number 77.

Q. You kind of talked about this fact you've had this realization -- maybe you've had it before -- about how good your life really is. Does that come out of this kind of poor play, or does this come out of something else?

RICKIE FOWLER: No, it's always been there. It's just something that I've been able to try and remind myself of. There's people that I always think about in down times or tough situations, one being Jarrod Lyle, another kid who used to follow me at the Phoenix Open who passed away a couple years ago.

So just situations like that, realizing hey, I'm out here and upright and playing golf for a living, so things could be a lot worse.

THE MODERATOR: Hindsight says we should have brought you in Tuesday or Wednesday, but thanks for finding us today and enjoy your afternoon.

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