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April 4, 2011

Rickie Fowler


RONALD TOWNSEND: Good afternoon, everyone. It's a pleasure to welcome you to the 75th Masters and it's a special pleasure to welcome Rickie Fowler, the 2010 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. He had seven Top-10s last year and he played in The Ryder Cup and this is his first Masters, and we ask Rickie for some thoughts on competing in your first Masters before taking questions.
RICKIE FOWLER: It's definitely a dream come true. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed about playing on the PGA TOUR, and we made it out here, and as you said, 2010 Rookie of the Year, so that was pretty special for me.
To have a chance to play in my first Masters as a professional, after my good year last year, it's something I dreamed about as a little kid. Obviously I watched plenty of Masters growing up. The Green Jacket is obviously something that means quite a bit in the golf community, to have a chance to be in the tournament. I'm playing well right now. I feel like if I go into the week with high expectations, I feel like there's a chance that we could be walking up 18 in contention and that's something I've dreamed about, the special walk up 18; so just to be a part of this week is pretty cool. Soaking it all in. Really looking forward to playing the Par 3 Contest, and you know, I've enjoyed it, being able to play with one of my best friends, Peter Uihlein, playing as an amateur, and to be able to share the experience together.

Q. What are some challenges in the practice rounds learning how to play the golf course for somebody like yourself that doesn't have a lot of experience here?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, if I was going into it blind without any help from other players, it would be very tough. Luckily, especially having local caddies, I was here a couple of days last week, and the local knowledge definitely helps. I played one round with Phil, and you know, being around guys like that that see the place a lot or have played well here definitely helps with preparation.
Other than that, you know, I'm just trying to find my lines off the tees like any other course, and then obviously the greens here and around the greens are firm a little bit different than most places.
You know, spending a little bit of time there, and you know, from what I've heard, as the course changes quite a bit from now until Thursday, and the greens start to speed up quite a bit. So looking forward to that.

Q. When did you play your first practice round here, and what most surprised you about Augusta National from what you've seen on TV?
RICKIE FOWLER: My first practice round was last Monday. I flew up here and played Monday, Tuesday. The thing that surprised me probably the most is you can see a lot of the course when you walk out of the clubhouse. I didn't really know how the course laid. I just really watched it on TV. I didn't really look at a course map to see where all of the holes were routed.
To see how close some of the holes get together, obviously 11 and 12, and then I was pretty -- I didn't know that 16 and 6 were basically right there next to each other. So to see how the course kind of rolled through, it's almost a mountain, a mountainside here, it was pretty cool to me.
I thought it was pretty cool coming out of the back of the clubhouse and looking down over the whole course, is something I thought was special.

Q. There's a sense this year the tournament might be more wide open than it's been in years. How much of a sense do you have as a first-timer even that you can contend and win here?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I've been playing well the past couple of weeks. I played really well at Bay Hill. I just had a couple of holes that kind of hurt me. Other than that, the game feels really good, and I feel like when you're driving the ball well and putting yourself in position to make birdies, really, you can make any course fit your game.
So other than that, you know, there's a lot of guys playing well right now, whether it be the Europeans or the guys in the U.S., a lot of young guys are playing well right now and they are not afraid to go out and contend in a major.
Like you said, it's going to be pretty wide open. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of guys playing well, but hopefully it will come down to, you know, five to ten that have a shot going into the last nine holes Sunday.

Q. The first time players don't usually win here; Fuzzy was the last one. What do you think the reason is for that? And also what do you think Phil is going to get out of winning yesterday?
RICKIE FOWLER: Phil is obviously playing well. Maybe because he beat up on me Tuesday last week. He's definitely going to get a lot of confidence off of that, especially coming into Thursday, Friday. I think he shot 70-70 and to go into the weekend and do what he did it's only going to help.
And then for the first-time players, you know, it's not an easy golf course to just go out and learn. It takes some time, and it's a major. So you're going to see guys that have -- the seasoned veterans that usually do well. You saw guys like Tom Watson and Freddie Couples play well here a couple of years ago.
Hopefully we can get a couple of young guys on top this year.

Q. How is the course set up in terms of for you for your ball flight, trajectory; and secondly what's been the neatest experience you've had so far here?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, it's Augusta National, so if it doesn't fit your eye, then you probably shouldn't be playing here. (Laughter).
It's a great place. I obviously like it, and there's a lot of fun shots that you get to hit. Whether it be using the slopes or trying to hit a high ball in to stop it on a certain part of the green; it's just cool kind of how it rolls about the mountainside here.
As for the experiences so far, like playing the practice -- I played nine holes yesterday with two of my best friends, Bubba Watson and Peter Uihlein and I played 18 today with Peter, and Nathan Smith. Kind of just hanging out and being able to hang out as Augusta National is pretty cool.

Q. When you were playing with Phil, or as you say, as he was beating you up, was there any particular shots or approaches on a hole where you learned something from him specifically that maybe you wouldn't have been able to pick up on your own, just out doing your own practice rounds?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, he birdied 18 to beat me by one, so it wasn't too bad.
There were a few putts that there were some different breaks. Obviously with the local caddies, I went out prior to playing with him, so they showed me a little bit, and a lot of stuff that you wouldn't usually pick up.
Obviously with a lot of the breaks favoring towards 11 and 12 green down there, but there's a few breaks and a few leaves around greens that he thinks are key. Obviously you don't want to get above the hole here, and you can't stress that enough.

Q. When you think about watching this on TV, which images come to mind? What Masters, what players, what shots?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I mean, the highlights of '86 with Mr. Nicklaus; the one that I watched probably the most was Tiger winning in '97. Those are probably the two Masters moments that stick out the most to me.

Q. How is Peter playing? He has college left but how close is his game to being ready to being out here?
RICKIE FOWLER: He went out and made the cut a couple of weeks ago in Transitions down in Tampa. I felt that he didn't play very well. Looking at his card and looking at how he was hitting the ball, I definitely think that his game is ready to be out here. He can definitely play out here. I think it's about being comfortable.
Right now, he's hitting it well, I think. He's a player that kind of rises to the occasion. I've seen him play very well, and some of the bigger circumstances, say two years ago, Walker Cup, he went 4-0 and played some of the best golf I've seen him play at one of the highest stages that you can be in amateur golf. And then he goes onto win the U.S. Amateur.
I think as long as he gets out there and gets off to a solid start, I feel like he can have a really good week here.

Q. You just talked about playing with Bubba; what is the thing about his game? Is there one thing that he can do or he's got that you would really like to have?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, he can hit it really long, and he can curve it more than anyone. He's got great hands, obviously, to be able to curve the ball and be able to control it.
I think this course suits him very well. Especially with some of the length that he does have. I would take him as one of my top picks for this week.

Q. Since Tiger has not been playing at his best for about a year and a half now, it's almost interesting that one player has not stepped up and taken the lead. There's been a lot of different players, several -- I think nine winners this year out of the Top-100 and a lot of different major winners. Are you surprised that somebody has not grasped that opportunity?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not a whole lot. Obviously there's a lot of guys playing well right now and it's kind of tough to take ahold of that top spot and hold it right now.
Tiger is struggling but I don't have any doubt that he's going to get his confidence back and start playing well again. You see a lot of guys playing well right now, and it's tough to get out there and dominate. Like you said, there's guys winning outside of the Top-100, so it just shows how deep the professional golf level is right now.
RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you all.

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