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May 28, 2013

Rickie Fowler


DOUG MILNE:  We'd like to welcome Rickie Fowler into the interview room here at the Memorial.  Thanks for joining us.  You're making your 4th start here at Muirfield.  Finished second runner up in the first start in 2010.  And paired with Tiger, the pending champion, in the final group last year.  That being said, just some thoughts on being back here at Muirfield.
RICKIE FOWLER:  I'm definitely excited about this week.  Been struggling the last month and a half or so, so looking forward to being in a place I've had good finishes.  I've made a lot of birdies here before and looking to draw off past rounds here.  I've had success in Ohio.  So, yeah, excited about this week.
My game has been actually‑‑ I'm happy with where it's at.  My swing has been feeling good, just burning the edges and waiting for things to happen.

Q.  Without getting too technical, what did you change about your posture, you had the back issue?  What did you do to alleviate that problem?
RICKIE FOWLER:  A lot of it was ‑‑ well, probably one of the simplest things was try to stay a little more cupped at the top of my backswing, which was keeping me getting that weight off, which keeps from the right hip from kind of jumping forward too much.  And I was causing a lot of stress in my low back at kind of the transition, so trying to smooth that out and keep my swing a little bit closer to on plane.  But as far as characteristics and keeping my swing pretty much the same, there's not a huge difference, but definitely a lot of‑‑ a lot less stress on my low back right now.

Q.  What do you notice, you came out here and had all the kids.  The kids loved you.  As you age a little bit, what's your fan base now?  Do you sense it's older?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Since I've come out, it's probably grown about four years (laughter).
I definitely have a lot of loyal fans, definitely still with the younger generation.  It's a lot of fun for me to see a lot of little kids out there wearing Puma hats and Puma gear out supporting me.  Just seeing that I have some sort of impact on the younger generation and hopefully helping grow the game.  I feel that that's part of the job as professional golfers and being out here and playing on a weekly basis, to keep the game alive and keep growing it with the younger generation.

Q.  You do have good memories here, but also you've had some bad moments here.  Which ones pop into your head the most?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, probably the one thing that pops in my head is Tiger's chip on 16.  That was pretty special to see.
But I've made a lot of birdies here.  And unfortunately I've made a lot of others, too.  I've been in two good positions here, one when I lost to Rosie, obviously he played well on Sunday there.  And I was in a great position last year with Tiger and golf happened.
No, I really enjoy playing here.  For some reason I enjoy a lot of Jack's courses.  I'm not sure if it's a visual thing or what it is.  But I've definitely made a lot of putts here and that's one thing that has been‑‑ the hole has been a little small and covered lately.  So hopefully I'll be able to get a few putts to drop close.  I feel like I've been driving the ball well tee‑to‑green.  My short game has been good.  I definitely need to have some putts to drop to get the rhythm and momentum going.

Q.  When every other aspect of your game feels really solid, is it more frustrating when putts aren't dropping or do you actually feel like it's easier to be patient and just wait for it to happen?
RICKIE FOWLER:  It's probably the hardest when putts aren't dropping just because it can creep into the rest of your game.  I feel like when you're putting well it's a lot easier for you to be somewhat patient.  And it can help alleviate some stress on other parts of your game, just because you know if you can get it up there on the green, chip it up there, you're going to make the putt for par.  You hit a couple of greens, make a couple of birdies.  It's tough when putts aren't going in, you definitely have to stay patient.  I've been hitting a lot of good putts, hitting my lines, some of it has been seeing the right line and some parts have been a speed issue.  I've made a lot of putts around here, so let's see if we can get that started back up this week.

Q.  You talk about identifying with the younger generation, you were involved with the EA Tiger game, weren't you, in years past.  Muirfield is on that this year.  Have you ever played the game?  The reason I ask is I've asked Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the racing team.  He said they'll use it to train almost.  I'm curious if there is anything you can take away from it.
RICKIE FOWLER:  I actually haven't played the Tiger game a bunch.  I don't get to play a lot of video games.  That is one of the games that if I fire up PlayStation or Xbox, I'll hop on and play a few holes.  But really if I get downtime‑‑ well, I'd rather go hit balls and practice out in real life.  But, no, I don't use it a whole lot, but I have.
One of the cool places to play on the game is Augusta.  And now with Muirfield being on it, I'm sure it will be fun for people to see that there is quite a bit of movement on these greens and gives you a little bit more of a realistic feel.

Q.  When you first won, when you had that emotional thrill got done, did you and your team sit down and say this is now going to happen?  How much did your approach to the game change?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, it was kind of unfortunate.  Shortly after that is when I had been playing injured with my low back, from then up until the beginning of this year.  So I think a little bit of that, I'm finally kind of getting to settle down.  It really was nice to come off the win last year at Quail Hollow and play well next at PLAYERS.  I felt like I was in a position to go continue on to win and get myself in contention, had somewhat of a minor setback with my back bothering me so much.
So I'm looking forward to getting back into that position where I feel like I'm in the driver's seat going out and getting back in contention.

Q.  From a practical standpoint, you're now eligible (off microphone) maybe the bad back, you couldn't take advantage of something, but going forward you can, right?  You get into more events, higher rankings, all the things that are huge with the win?
RICKIE FOWLER:  The win, one of the only things it did get me other than what I had before was getting me into Kapalua.  Other than that I'm inside the top 50.  I was in all the majors.  So I think other than giving me status on Tour, getting me into Kapalua and giving me that little bit of confidence knowing that I have won out here now.  Other than that I was definitely in a good position heading into that win, as well.

Q.  Looking at two weeks for Merion, what's your opinion of Merion?  How do you feel it sets up for your game?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I love Merion.  I played the '09 Walker Cup there with a few guys that are out here, as well.  A lot of us played well that week.  And it's a really fun golf course.  Hopefully the weather cooperates and they'll be able to set the course up the way they want to.  If they're going to do that, it's going to play tough.
There are some short holes in the middle of the golf course where you'll be able to attack a few holes with wedges.  The closing stretch is not very easy, so it could‑‑ it has the potential to play really fun and very interesting for a U.S. Open with how short some of the holes are in the middle and the closing stretch.  So I'm hoping that the weather will cooperate and we'll see a great week there for the U.S. Open.

Q.  With the Sergio incident of a couple of weeks ago, you're a young gun and I believe you're sensitive, we believe you're sensitive.  But what about the rest of the higher or the older players in the PGA, what have the PGA said or what have they done?  Has there been a memo in terms of sensitivity and understanding in terms of Tiger and other potential African American players?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, we all know a line was crossed.  And I know that Sergio never really intended to do that, just in the setting it came out the wrong way and took something where he was trying to be funny and just got a little too far.
So unfortunate that it happened.  I know that he's sincere with the apology and everything, and hopefully everyone can‑‑ Tiger and Sergio can move on.  And everyone is a great competitor out here.  And unfortunate that some of the stuff happened.  But like I said, if it all moves on smoothly, it will be better off.  But hopefully you don't have to deal with things like that in the future.

Q.  Rickie, as a kid you grew up dreaming of being a champion, winning events, probably making a lot of money.  But then when it actually happens and you have business opportunities arise, how much if at all does the money or the business side of it complicate this world?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, it definitely is‑‑ there's a lot of time management that goes into everything.  We wouldn't be able to play on a daily, weekly basis if it wasn't for sponsors, the other volunteers.  And so it's not like you can go out here and put everything just towards golf.  Sponsors are a big part of why we get to do what we do.
So with that being said, yeah, you can put too much on your plate, but at the same time with being in a certain position it is nice to have people wanting you to represent their companies or be a part of their company.  So just learning how to manage that, when to do photo shoots or commercial shoots and kind of picking and choosing the time.  If you can master that, let me know.  It definitely is‑‑ definitely a big challenge with trying to manage that perfectly.
But it's fun getting to live my dream playing with PGA Tour and being able to be a part of companies like Puma, Cobra.  I can't list them all.  I think I have about 12 core partnerships.  And it's fun for me to be able to do this week to week and represent some great companies.

Q.  As a follow‑up, have you ever had to say to Sam or whoever, like, enough, or I've overextended myself or I just can't, I'm overwhelmed, has it come to that point?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, the first few years just feeling out what I can handle, what I can't handle.  And I've talked to some of the other older guys out here on Tour, and they're still trying to‑‑ not trying to‑‑ as the years go on, the amount of stuff you can handle and what you're willing to do and not willing to do changes.  So it's going to be an ongoing adjustment every few years.
So I feel like I'm in a great spot right now.  Like I said, I have some great partnerships with the companies I'm involved with.  Some of the off‑course stuff is actually fun to be able to do.  You've seen a lot of the stuff I do with Red Bull.  They're fun days for me.  So I'm definitely blessed to be in the position I'm in.

Q.  The tendencies you described as being a lot of birdies here and occasional others sounds like a good setup for match play here.  What are your thoughts about The Presidents Cup and are you looking forward to it?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, I definitely have a lot of work to do to make the team.  But I have showed that I've played well here before.  Like I said, I have made a lot of birdies around here before.  I would like to play well through the summer and give myself a chance to be on that team.
With that being said, it's going to be a great setup here for The Presidents Cup.  It's a great venue.  A lot of great fans around here and just looking forward to getting my game turned around so I'll be here later this year.

Q.  Are you thinking of adding anything to your schedule if it came down to it and you needed more points?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I'm a ways back on points right now, so it's going to take some good play.  Outside of that I do have a fairly busy schedule moving forward.  After the U.S. Open, I'll play Travelers and AT&T.  From there you can kind of guess the schedule with the British, Akron, PGA, and on to the playoffs.  Not a whole lot I can't add to make sure that I'm ready to play on those weeks.  No, just got to focus on playing well and making it available for me to be here later this year.

Q.  Kind of a follow‑up along those lines, clearly The Presidents Cup being at this course brought out the International contingent for The Memorial this year.  Is there any buzz?  It seems like psychologically the United States side has a tough time coming together as a team compared to the International or European team?
RICKIE FOWLER:  It's nice to see some Internationals here, obviously some great players.  I'm sure there will be talk of where some U.S. guys are potentials or some of the internal potentials are, where they're finishing up this week.  But it doesn't really matter until the week of.  But like I talked about, it's a great venue here, a lovely golf course.  It's a great setup.  And with the fans in Ohio, huge sports fans, I don't think the U.S. will have any problem coming together.  With the fans being on our side obviously here it will turn out to be a great week.

Q.  Can you pinpoint what went wrong and what it was like playing with Tiger when all that happened and he hit that shot?
RICKIE FOWLER:  I actually didn't hit very many bad shots to start the round.  I had a couple of putts that missed and got a little frustrated, got ahead of myself and tried to push a little too hard.  And once I kind of got to the back nine, I was a little ways out of it.
Tiger was in contention, and at that point I was trying to stay out of his way and stay out of his way on 16.  I had just gotten the shot for SportsCenter top 10.  It was fun to see what he did there, how he handles himself coming down the stretch.  Obviously I was able to sit there and watch, being out of it.  And then with up the way I got off to‑‑ I got off to a fine start, like I said, I just might have missed a few putts, got a little ahead of myself.
Definitely helped me at Bay Hill earlier this year, where I put myself in a great position, two back with three to play and just ended up catching the shot a little heavy.  But it was a little bit of a difference between shooting 84 here against Tiger final round and then actually showing him I was around at Bay Hill and ready to play down the stretch.  But golf is a learning process and that 84 was part of it.

Q.  Is there a way to quantify what you said about the donation for Oklahoma tornado victims?  Can you get any sense what that generated, what kind of response have you gotten since?
RICKIE FOWLER:  You have to think it's been a really good response from everyone.  Obviously everyone around me that is involved with Oklahoma or other OSU alumni, it's been fun for me to be able to have some sort of contribution, to join up with Crown Plaza last week and get the fans involved.  It was never really like, hey, I'm a successful athlete or celebrity, I have to give money.  It was more that I wanted to do it because of the ties in Oklahoma and get other people involved, whether they had ties to Oklahoma or not.
So getting the fans involved last week, I think they averaged around 120,000 people for the week.  So to get maybe half of them to donate and just fun to get more people on board and get them aware about it and help out some people in Oklahoma.

Q.  What was your best memory of the week there, and what was it like to play for Buddy Marucci at Merion?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Probably best memory, after we won on the 18th green with two of my fellow teammates from Oklahoma State, Peter and I both went 4‑0.  I think Morgan might have went 3‑0 or something.  I'm not sure if he played all four matches.  It was fun being there with him.  Playing for Buddy the two years I got to play the Walker Cup was awesome.  Still great friends and I play with him in Seminole Pro‑Member every year, three time defending champs, if I might add.  A lot of great memories.  Some of my best friends on Tour are from the Walker Cups that I have played in.  Pretty cool memories to be able to draw off those in a couple of weeks.

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