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Fowler Going for Two in a Row in Charlotte
Much was expected of Rickie Fowler coming out of college. After all, the native of Murieta, Calif., made the cut in the 2008 U.S. Open as an amateur, was a two-time member of the U.S. Walker Cup team, and became an All-American at powerhouse Oklahoma State.
Upon leaving college early and turning pro in 2009, he signed big contracts with Titleist and Puma and logged top-10 finishes in his first two PGA Tour starts, going on that season to earn enough money and retain his Tour card. The following season - at 21 years and nine months - he became the youngest American in history be named to a U.S. Ryder Cup squad.
In both 2010 and 2011 Fowler came close to logging his first Tour victory, but it wasn't until last year in the Wells Fargo Championship that the young player finally got his breakthrough maiden victory.
After closing with a 69 at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, he finished tied with D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy at 14-under 274. Fowler then secured that elusive victory with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole.
This week Fowler is back in Charlotte as the defending champion in the Wells Fargo; the $6.7 million event starts Thursday. Fowler will be paired in the first round with Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney; the trio start at 7:40 a.m. ET on the 10th tee.
On Wednesday, Fowler met with reporters and discussed his affinity for Quail Hollow and what that initial victory last year meant to him. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Like to welcome our defending champion, Rickie Fowler. Rickie, if you want to talk about your thoughts coming in to where you got your first win on Tour last year and then we'll take some questions.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's fun to be back. It's the first time I've been sitting here since I had the trophy last year, so just reliving memories this week and enjoying being back and seeing a lot of the staff and tournament committee and stuff, seeing guys and some of the players from last year and bringing up the defending championship. I feel like I'm big man on campus right now, so it's kind of cool. Other than that, I'm just looking forward to playing with Rehhan today and getting ready to play a golf tournament tomorrow. So we'll put everything behind us after today.
Q. How much have you noticed on Tour in the year since the win that things have kind of changed for you? Everybody knew who you were before you won, but how much have you noticed things have kind of changed now that you've got that first win?
RICKIE FOWLER: Things haven't changed a whole lot. I guess now that I'm a PGA Tour winner I guess there is a little more credibility, but other than that, I don't get treated any differently. They still treat me like the little kid out there on Tour. No, everyone's been great to me since the day I got out here on Tour. Nothing's changed. Maybe after I win ten, 15, 20 events, then they might look at me a little differently, but we'll work on the second one for now.
Q. Will you talk about getting to play with Rehhan today, and this is obviously an opportunity that he's definitely going to cherish for the rest of his life?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm looking forward to it more than he is. No, it's going to be a fun day. I love being able to hang out with the younger generation whether it's when I'm home in California or home in Jupiter, on the road, spending time, signing autographs for younger fans, to getting to play 18 holes today with Rehhan. I know when I was younger I liked guys that I looked up to whether it was in golf or action sports, any time I got to spend with them whether it was just five minutes with them saying hi, it was pretty special. I'm looking forward to being able to get back today and play some golf and hang out and have a good time. But I think it will be just as much fun for me as it will be for Rehhan.
Q. Getting that first win was that kind of a chip on your shoulder or a monkey off your back that's helped you move along?
RICKIE FOWLER: It was nice to get the monkey off the back for sure. For my own sake and just from some of the questions or, I guess, expectations whether it was from some of the media, fans. But I felt like I had higher expectations for myself, so I wasn't really worried about what anyone else thought. But definitely nice to get the first one out of the way and get the monkey off the back and move forward.
Q. Are those expectations greater now that you have one under your belt both internally and externally?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think so. I've always, as I was saying, I've always had high expectations for myself. This year coming in I wanted to work on winning multiple times and then obviously playing well through the FedEx Cup and playing a little better getting to East Lake, the ultimate goal being on the Ryder Cup team. So keeping the goals is still within reach, but I definitely have higher expectations of myself. I know I belong out here and I know I can win out here. I don't ever want to show up at a week of a tournament and not think I'm playing to win. I want to be in contention every week and I want to be fighting for a trophy. I've been playing well this year, working on some swing stuff and getting my back healthy, and I feel like I'm heading in the right direction.
Q. How disappointed are you that you haven't added another win, and can you go a little further into how the back is reacting this year?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I've had a couple of solid finishes. I've only been in the mix a couple times, most recent being Bay Hill. I had to take a chance at Tiger there on 16 and just unfortunately got one a little heavy. But definitely felt good in the position there to give him a little bit of a - let him know that I was actually around, making a couple putts and wasn't going to back down. So I'm looking forward to getting back in that position, and hopefully that's this week where I did it last year. Then as far as the back, ever since - I think I told you guys Bay Hill was the first 72 hole event where I played without medication since the U.S. Open last year. You know, it's been feeling good. I feel like I'm heading in the right direction with the swing, with what I'm doing with my trainer in the gym and my soft tissue guys, making sure that my body's healthy and working properly. No, I'm excited moving forward and looking forward to playing through the summer healthy, unlike last year.
Q. Can you talk about the greens, and secondly, what is your attitude going into the week based on the conditions of it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I played nine yesterday. I played the front nine. I mean, you can't lie about it, the greens are shaky. But I feel like come tournament time with the way they'll be able to possibly cut and roll the greens, I mean, you're still going to be able to make putts. There is still a hole out there. So the way I'm going into it, someone's going to have to make putts this week. Someone's going to win the golf tournament. They're still giving out a trophy and a jacket at the end of Sunday. Some guys may not go into it with the right attitude. They're automatically going to be out of the tournament. I think it would be similar to playing in tough conditions across the pond, and go into it trying to have some fun, make some putts and see if we can win a golf tournament.
Q. Surprised by the number of guys that have WD'd?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yes, and no. Some guys get used to maybe certain conditions or may not think it's the best way to prepare for next week. But I've got some good memories here, so I'm looking forward to it. Compared to the greens I grew up on around home and played when I was a kid and through high school golf, these are pretty good.
Q. When you first came out, you got in contention right away. A couple times you lost in a playoff. Did in any way that maybe distort your view of how difficult it is to win out here? Did you let yourself think at all that winning was easier than maybe it is?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, I was actually pretty excited with the way I played coming out, getting myself right back into the mix, especially with where I had been through the summer and dealing with my back. Being able to come out and kind of get right back into the mix. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a win yet this year.
Q. I'm sorry. I meant when you first turned pro and you had those close calls right off the bat. Did it make you think that winning would come easier?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, not necessarily. We're playing against the best players in the world out here, so it gets harder with each step. Going from local junior golf to national junior golf, to amateur golf and college golf, each step gets harder to win because you're playing against better and better players. So I knew it was going to be tough to win out here. I just happened to come out and turn pro when I was playing - I was on top of my game. With the way I played through that fall season and end of Q school really gave me a lot of confidence to go make my way through Q school.
If I would have won one, I may have been in a similar position. But I definitely like the way I went and having to get through Q school. Being in Q school and trying to make it in the top 25 is almost like trying to go out and win a golf tournament. I was in position where I had to go and play well on the final day there and ended up doing so, so it gave me a lot of confidence going into playing my rookie year out here. I think it's all working out well.
Q. There's been a lot of news in the golf world going on off the golf course. This morning the USGA and R&A said they're going to review the Tiger incident at the Masters. We had yesterday Vijay's ruling, we had a slow play penalty at the Masters. What do you think the general public looks at all of these situations and thinks what's going on in golf right now? Is it a little bit of a black eye period for the sport?
RICKIE FOWLER: I actually haven't really paid attention to much of it. I try to stay - I don't read a whole lot up on it. I've seen bits and pieces of it here and there. Obviously, Tiger's ruling was big news at The Masters. I heard about the slow play ruling, and I just found out about Vijay's thing and him withdrawing. I don't have a whole lot of knowledge on all the aspects of each.
Q. What do you think an outsider looking at the sport?
RICKIE FOWLER: Outsider looking in? I'm not sure. I definitely know slow play can be an issue out here at times. I definitely don't have to worry about it. I don't mind seeing guys have to speed up a little bit here and there, especially come Sundays. I don't know. I'm not sure how the outside is really looking in. Maybe I'll send out a Twitter question later today.
Q. What do you read, Rickie?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not a whole lot. I'll browse through some comments on Instagram or Twitter, but not very much. I'll block some people here and there. That's always fun.
Q. You're a guy that has a lot of style. How much last year when you finally won and broke through did that play into the relief that shows that you can have substance with style? Because you probably heard a lot about that before you won.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, a lot of people say I'm over-hyped. I just dress up and play golf. No, I'm actually ranked in the top 50 in the world and a decent player (laughing). No, the partnership with Puma for me has been a great fit. It's allowed me to kind of express who I am. Show my personality and my characteristics and go out and feel good on the golf course. I don't exactly feel normal in khakis and a white shirt. I was forced to wear that when I was at school at Oklahoma State, but now I'm able to dress freely and have some fun doing it. It's nice to get the first win just to quiet a few people down, and we'll see if we can get a few more.
Q. That's why you left Oklahoma State early?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yes, two years, I had to get out of there. I wanted to wear some orange.
Q. When you work on your swing, who are you working with, anyone?
RICKIE FOWLER: Nothing in particular right now. Really just working on fundamentals and making sure that I keep it headed in the right direction. I was just putting a lot of stress on my lower back. So I'm trying to get that out of there.
Q. Do you work with anyone?
RICKIE FOWLER: No one in particular, no.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.