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February 19, 2014

Rickie Fowler


KELLY BARNES:  Please welcome Rickie Fowler to the interview room.  Rickie, you just faced a very strong opponent in match play and got out to early lead and hung on to it.  Can you talk about your round, what made the difference today in pulling it out?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, obviously I knew it was going to be a tough match against Poulter.  He's been known to obviously play well here, play well in match play.  And I knew I was going to have to stay in every hole, if possible.  I had one hole I tried to make something happen, because I knew he was going to make probably a 4 on No. 11.
Other than that I struck the ball well, was able to rely on the golf swing and hitting good shots.¬† I made two birdies on the front nine that I remember, but one was a two‑putt and one I hit to two inches.¬† Didn't really have to worry about the putter.¬† Hopefully I can get the putter warmed up and make some putts, because I'm going to need them tomorrow.

Q.  Any kind of underdog feeling or anything going into today?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† Oh, yeah, definitely.¬† I mean Poulter was obviously favored.¬† I knew‑‑ if I was picking a bracket and I was an outsider looking in, I probably would have picked Poulter.¬† He's played well here and in match play.¬† I went into it, I knew I was the underdog, I knew I had somewhat nothing to lose.¬† I missed three cuts, unfortunately.¬† I've been swinging really well, and the results haven't been showing.¬† I knew I was playing well and just had to go out there and strike the ball well.¬† And made a nice save on 13.¬† I had one putt that went in, hopefully I can pull on that tomorrow.

Q.  Did anything click for you today?
RICKIE FOWLER:  No, I mean I really didn't play a whole lot different today than I played last Thursday at Riv.  So like I said, I've been swinging well.  The swing feels really comfortable.  I know a lot of people question whether it's swing changes or if I'm not comfortable with it.  But really just need to get the putter warmed back up.  Once I start making putts it's going to be a little bit of a change.

Q.  Tomorrow you get maybe the hottest player in the world, Jimmy Walker?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† Yeah, Jimmy Walker is hands down the best player in the world right now.¬† Him not being a 1 seed is kind of misleading.¬† It's going to be a tough match.¬† I know he's a great ball‑striker, he's been making a lot of putts and has a lot of confidence right now.¬† I'm going to have to do the same thing.¬† I'm going to have to strike the ball well, stay in every hole and roll in some putts tomorrow to have a chance.¬† And going into it as an underdog, obviously, it would be nice to send him home and me go on.¬† But we'll see how it plays out tomorrow.

Q.  You said you were friends?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, Jimmy and I spent some time together, obviously, since I've been on Tour.  He's a great guy, both him and his caddie, Andy, they're a lot of fun to be around.  It is tough playing your buddies.  And with him, also being with Butch, as well, quite a bit in common.
It will be tough but hopefully we both play well and see who comes out on top tomorrow.

Q.  Does your strategy change when you're up in a match against a guy like Poulter, is there less pressure, more pressure or are you just trying to win the hole?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† Yeah, it's shot‑by‑shot, hole‑by‑hole.¬† And really you're just trying to beat that guy.¬† Against Poulter it's tough no matter what.¬† You can be up 4‑up with 4 to play, and he's going to find some way to put some sort of charge on.
It's really just keeping the foot on the gas and trying to stay in every hole, like I was talking about earlier.¬† Because he's going to find a way to have a look at birdie.¬† And you can't really play safe unless he's‑‑ I took a conservative line on 10 with a wedge from the rough, after he missed the green short side left.¬† I just tried to stick to my own game plan and focus on finishing out each hole and making him work for it.

Q.  When did he make his push?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† After I made eagle on 13.¬† He came back and made a big putt on 14 with me being in there about 8 to 10 feet.¬† I had a good look at birdie.¬† Just missed my line, but he made a good putt there.¬† It was a big swing.¬† If he misses and I make, I go 4‑up with four to play, versus he makes and I miss and I'm 2‑up with four to play.¬† That was a big swing.
He obviously made some good swings coming down the stretch.  Gave himself looks at birdies.  He just didn't make a few putts and I snuck on in.

Q.  You said at the beginning that you couldn't remember your birdies.  Was that because they were so simple or because you were so into it?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, they were simple.  I didn't have to make a putt, which was kind of nice there on the front nine.  I really just tried to stay in the moment, keep focusing on each shot, each hole.  And you can't really think about what happened in the past.  I feel like you can make a lot of birdies in match play and not really know what you shot just because you're focusing on each hole, one hole at a time.

Q.  Is that where you were today?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, I tried to just keep playing each hole, just trying to do anything I could to win the hole against Poulter.  Or halve.  A halve against Poulter is pretty good.  Once I got up, just tried to stick with the game plan and hit good shots and just hang on.

Q.  If memory serves you beat Phil pretty handedly in this format, too.  Is there something about being the underdog that you like?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† Yeah, well, in that year I made the turn and was 3‑up against Phil.¬† Phil is another good match play player.¬† I knew he was going to try to find a way to make a little run and try and come back.¬† And in that situation I knew I needed to make something happen and not let him have a chance at coming back.¬† And I went birdie, eagle, par, eagle.¬† So he didn't have an answer for that.
That was a lot of fun and I knew Poulter was going to be the same way today.  I couldn't give him anything.  I was going to have to make him earn it.

Q.  When you first started with Butch what was sort of your mindset as to being patient?  You know it's going to take a little while.  Do you cut yourself that slack or are you looking for immediate results?  How did you approach all that?
RICKIE FOWLER:¬† I knew any sort of change is tough, it's going to take time.¬† The first time I hit balls with him was actually after I missed the cut at the Open Championship last summer, and I said, come take a look, tell me what you think.¬† And obviously ended up starting to work full‑time.¬† It was back in November.¬† But some of the stuff, just trying on the range there felt completely foreign.¬† I felt like a hack on the range, I was fat go and thinning them.¬† So kind of interesting to think that I was headed the right direction doing that.¬† And to where I am now.¬† The golf swing feels really good.¬† I feel like when I am‑‑ when everything is clicking it's a lot more efficient.¬† I'm hitting the ball harder and I feel like I have a lot of control over it.¬† So like I talked about earlier, if we can get the putter warmed up a lot of good things can happen.

Q.  How scary was that, you said you felt like you weren't hitting it well.  In your mind you know it's the right thing to do but the results aren't there?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, it's tough when you don't get any immediate results.  If you know, hey, you're going to be in a great spot in one year from now, but you've got to suffer through missing some cuts and not playing very well, it's going to be a tough year.  If you knew you were going to come out on top you would go through that.  But during that period it is tough.  Like I've been saying, I've been swinging really well.  The game has been great, but when you're not making putts to kind of help out on that side, it's tough to really make anything happen.

Q.  Can you give us a sense of what some of the changes were, tightening it up or different plane?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, cleaning up the backswing, as far as I used to take it outside and kind of reroute, the club would get laid off.  So now everything is a little bit more kind of straight back, straight back down.  But try to keep the hands as far away from the head as possible, creating a bit of space there.  Trying to shorten up the backswing and one of my tendencies was my spine angle.  I kind of, on the backswing, it would get to where I was steep and it was tough to shallow out the club.  So trying to stay back on my right side and keep everything shallow through.  And then working on getting the upper body and the head moving through the ball a little bit better.  I got into some habits where I'd kind of hang back and have to flip the club to save it.  It feels really good.  I've made a lot of good swings.
Made a good swing on 17, hit it in there about 12 feet.  Didn't make the putt, but luckily Poulter missed.  Swing is good, just need to get that putter going.

Q.  Who were your role models growing up, and how do they influence the way you play now?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Some of the guys I looked up to, outside of golf, Jeremy McGrath and supercross and motorcycle racing.  I've known him since I was ten, but he was one of the guys that I looked up to as far as who he was on and off the track, how he handled situations.  He was the best at what he did.
Guys on Tour, obviously I looked up to Tiger, because he was kind of dominating when I was in the middle of becoming a good player.¬† And then Fred Couples, dressed up as him for Halloween when I was like seven.¬† So I really liked the way Freddie handled himself inside the ropes.¬† He was kind of a‑‑ looked like he wasn't too stressed out in there, had some fun.¬† And those are probably three main guys that I really looked up to.

Q.  Was there a point last year around the tournament where you said to yourself, I've got to do something different?  Was there one moment or did it just sort of evolve into I'm going to have somebody else, Butch, look at me?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Well, I really hadn't had anyone since kind of, I'd say, high school.  My coach that I grew up with, Barry, once I went to college, obviously I didn't see him a whole lot just because I was in Oklahoma.  And he passed away almost three years ago.  But he wasn't as involved.  I maybe saw him two or three times a year tops through those last five years or so after high school.
So I'd say 2012, 2013, when I was dealing with low back issues and pain around L4, L5 and SI, a lot of it was just swing related.  I was just putting a lot of stress on my low back.  And once I was dealing with not swinging great, I wasn't getting the results I wanted, didn't feel like I had the control I wanted.  Between me and my caddie and my agent and people that are close to me, we felt that Butch was the best at what he does, and he's probably the most respected around the game as a coach.  So we thought, hey, might as well go for the best.  And it was actually really cool.
I got a text from Bill, the guy who owned the driving range that I grew up at where I worked with Barry, him and Barry were really‑‑ I mean best friends.¬† And I got a text from him about a month or two after I started working with Butch, and he had told‑‑ Barry told Bill that this was‑‑ right before he passed away he said, you know, when the time is right, Rickie should go work with Butch.¬† So that was kind of the stamp of approval.
So it was pretty cool to get that.  I know I'm doing the right thing and just have to be patient.

Q.  How is your back doing?  Is it better?  Changing your spine angle and all that stuff?
RICKIE FOWLER:  Yeah, it's good.  Really the backswing, the change in direction is what was putting a lot of stress on my back.  And right now shorter backswing, I'm not really engaging the low back, as much.  And I'm hitting it harder.  So can't complain.
KELLY BARNES:  Thank you, Rickie.

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