KOHLER, Wis. (WFRV) — Rickie Fowler discusses playing with Phil Mickelson during Tuesday’s practice round, preparing for the PGA Championship, and playing on a links-style course.
JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon everybody, welcome back to the 97th PGA Championship here at Whistling Straits. I’d like to thank Rickie Fowler ahead of time for spending some time with us here today.
Rickie, welcome to your 6th PGA Championship of your career. I’m curious as to your thoughts on the golf course and anything that you see that’s different or is it the same as what you saw in 2010?
RICKIE FOWLER: The golf course looks great to me and to my looks out there, I’m enjoying it more and it looks a little more welcoming to me the second time being here, possibly being that my game is in better shape and feeling better about that coming in.
The course is in great shape. The rough is nasty. The greens are still on the soft side which makes it scorable right now, but I’m sure they’ll dry out if weather permits through the week. And I think it’s going to be a very fair and fun test this week.
JOHN DEVER: Had a couple of wins this year, and really strong play the last two weeks. Is it safe to say you’re as locked in as you could be or is there more in there?
RICKIE FOWLER: I played well at Quicken Loans, I had a great week there. Last week I struggled a little bit tee to green, but was able to score and get the most out of the week.
Between those two I feel like I’m seeing some good sides and some bad, definitely put me in good position for this week. I was able to get some good work in. I felt good out there today, got some work on the range afterwards, and going to keep it light tomorrow. But, yeah, feeling very good about the game and excited to get rested up and get things going Thursday.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how much you think those practice round, those Tuesday things with Phil energizes Phil. Obviously he’s got the younger guys out there with him. Can you talk a little bit about the needling that goes on, and kind of what you get out of it, as well?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, the Tuesday games I think are great for everyone involved, whether you play well or not. It gives you an idea of where your game is at and kind of let’s you know what needs to be worked on or tightened up for the week.
And I know Phil loves getting in there, grinding it out, trying to hit a few shots that matter, get the ball up and down and make some putts when he needs to. Because, in a way, we all use it for the same thing, just to kind of check and see what’s on, what may need to be tightened up for the coming days.
But it’s a very good checkup and that’s what I enjoy about it. It is fun. We talk a lot of trash out there. We have a good time, a lot of good laughs, nothing too serious. It’s always fun to roll in putts on the other guys. So it’s great preparation for the week.
Q. So who won today?
RICKIE FOWLER: We won the press, if that counts for anything. No, they got us. Jordan and Justin got us 1-up.
Q. Just to follow up on that, what is — how much do you learn from those experiences? Because you’ve been part of them now for a while, versus moments like you had at The PLAYERS, for example, in sort of clutch circumstance. Is there a correlation between the two?
RICKIE FOWLER: I think so. It definitely, outside of actual tournament golf and being in contention, I feel like it’s some of the best preparation to, when you are in contention or have shots that matter or on the line when you’re in a tournament, just because you don’t want to lose to your buddies. And it’s just a different situation you’re putting yourself in, rather than just going out and hitting shots and trying to post a score for fun or play a practice round. It makes things matter and count a little bit more, just to kind of get the juices going, getting ready for the week and the ultimately gives you kind of that checklist to go over and see where everything kind of stands.
It’s nice that it is Tuesday. It gives you — gives you Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday to kind of use that, if there is anything that needs to be tightened up.
Q. At least one more about the game. You made a pretty nice, long putt on 18 today. Did you think you might actually walk away with some money for a second?
RICKIE FOWLER: No. Jordan was in there pretty close. He’s a decent putter. He’s made a couple of putts this year or the past year. So it wasn’t really any doubt that he was going to miss that. Me making the putt was to save some money. And it was nice to walk away with that.
Phil and I made some birdies coming in. So it was nice to kind of finish off the match that way. It didn’t sting as bad.
Q. You’re obviously still young, but I was wondering, do you ever get concerned or do you feel pressured by the fact that you haven’t won a major yet, considering how well you’ve finished last year, specifically?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, not concerned at all. It’s been great to get the two wins this year, getting the win at The PLAYERS, basically the best field that we play against all year and a great win. Getting the win on a links course at the Scottish Open. And to win the way I did, making birdies coming in, definitely made it that much better.
Just all building or kind of a process into winning a major. So this wouldn’t be a bad week to start that.
Q. You talked at Quicken Loans about how much you took from last year and finishing in the top five in all the majors. But you also said getting a win was important. With that in mind, is there any added pressure, because it is the last major of the year, that you would put on yourself?
RICKIE FOWLER: There would probably be more pressure if I hadn’t won this year. I came into the year just focusing on getting a win wherever it might be. And to be sitting here with two wins so far this year, definitely been a successful year, but ultimately it would be nice to have a major championship on the rÃ©sumÃ©. Like I was just saying, this would be a great week to start that, but I don’t want to — I definitely don’t want to push myself or try and make things happen too much.
With where my game is at and where it has been, if I can just go about my game plan and take care of my business, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be in contention and have a chance to win this week. But I do have to make sure that I stay patient and stick to my game plan and focus on what I need to do.
Q. Yesterday the PGA issued a who’s favored to win and you ranked fifth. Hideki Matsuyama ranked in ninth. As a rival in the same generation, what is your impression of Hideki?
RICKIE FOWLER: I’ve gotten to play with Hideki a few times. And he’s a great player. He’s a very good ball-striker, very consistent ball-striker, he doesn’t hit the ball off line very much.
So when you come to a golf course that is a premium on driving and getting the ball in the fairway and having control of your golf ball into the greens, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t play well this week.
He’s proven to play well in the U.S., the win at Memorial was huge. And he’s a lot of fun to watch play golf. I definitely can see him having a good week here.
Q. You’re a quarter Japanese. Do you feel any samurai spirit from Hideki?
RICKIE FOWLER: I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other a bit more over the past couple of years, and we have a lot of fun playing together. There’s a little bit of a connection, since I’m a quarter Japanese, and it would be fun to sometime in the future get to play in Japan together, play against each other, maybe, and we’re going to be playing against each other for a long time. We’re still young kids out here.
Q. It’s hard to win every week on the PGA Tour, but exactly why is it so much harder to win a major championship?
RICKIE FOWLER: I don’t know if I would say it’s harder, by any means. There’s just — you get fewer chances at playing in majors and winning.
I almost looked at what Jack said in saying that they’re the easiest to win. I’m trying to go with that outlook and go out there and just focus on sticking to my game plan and taking care of the business that I need to take care of out there. And ultimately putting myself in a position going into the weekend to be in contention.
So I don’t look at them as any harder to win, you just really have to be patient and not push any harder than needed.
Q. This would appear to be a third consecutive major on a links-style golf course. What are your thoughts on that and playing this particular type of course?
RICKIE FOWLER: I’m excited about this week here at Whistling Straits. I didn’t have the best of weeks in 2010, but once I got back out here, I love the look of it. It definitely has the look of a links golf course, but doesn’t play completely firm and fast like a links golf course.
But there’s some pretty spectacular views out here on the lake, kind of a natural setting of it. I’ve got to try and stay focused on my lines off the tees and not get caught up in daydreaming looking around and enjoying the views too much.
But when I came back out Monday for the first time after 2010, I really liked the look of it. I’m excited about this week here.
Q. What guidance has the Tour given you about bunkers and not bunkers and where have they been putting those messages?
RICKIE FOWLER: I’ve seen a couple of messages, whether it’s through the locker room, social media. I’ve been told everything — all sandy areas are bunkers. So I’ll be sure to make sure that either we’ll just stay out of all those areas, if possible; and if we get in there, we’ll make sure everything is done properly.
Q. Keep the bunker thing going, here, were you as aware in 2010, I guess, and then secondly, you’re pretty close to Dustin, known him for a while, and been around him a lot, just curious, recollections from that year of watching it unfold, where were you, and what you maybe recall in the aftermath of it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I feel like we were all aware of 2010, how everything was. But it didn’t cross my mind when I was watching, there in 2010, it never crossed my mind that he was in a bunker, just because where he was. There’s people all around him in the bunker. There was trash all around. It looked more like ground under repair to me. It would have been tough to really tell, unless you had all the people out of there, to where you could actually see maybe a lining of a bunker, because it was all kind of trampled down, and like I said, there was trash and footprints and all kinds of stuff going on.
Q. Did you guys ever have any conversations about that, even just kind of shooting the breeze over the years?
RICKIE FOWLER: Not really, no. I think we stayed away from that a little bit. I know there’s been jokes made of it over time. But I think they’ve done the right thing with the bunkers, you’ve got to go one way or the other. They’re either all bunkers or all waste bunkers.
If you’re in any sandy area, you’ve got to be aware that it’s most likely a bunker and just be aware where you are at.
JOHN DEVER: Many thanks to Rickie Fowler. Good luck this week, sir.