Rickie Fowler Q&A: From the win to his schedule
Rickie Fowler is back in the United States after winning last week’s Korea Open for his first professional victory. Fowler will play this week’s McGladrey Classic. He spoke to Golfweek on Monday afternoon after settling in at Sea Island. Fowler discussed the pursuit of his first PGA Tour victory, the new wedges that helped him win and what it meant to beat Rory McIlroy by six shots in Korea.
What did it mean to get that first professional win?
It was big. I never really had that starting point where I went through a mini-tour or smaller tour to get to the PGA Tour. I jumped right into the middle of playing against the best players in the world. Not that we didn’t have some great players in Korea, playing against Rory (McIlroy) down the stretch, Y.E. (Yang) being in the same group as me. It’s definitely nice to get the first one out of the way, especially after it’s been just over two years now since I turned pro. It’s gone by fast. We’ve fit a lot into two years.
Is there anything you felt like you learned? You held at least a share of the lead after each round, and had a four-shot lead after the third round.
I focused a lot on making sure I stayed within myself, stayed patient and, with my swing, I made sure my rhythm was good because I have a tendency to get quick and move through my pre-shot routine a little quick. I just made sure I was fully committed. I talked everything through with Joe (Skovron, Fowler's caddie) and focused on rhythm throughout the golf swing. It definitely helped me hit a lot of solid golf shots. I felt really comfortable this past week.
Do you feel pressure to get that first PGA Tour win?
I definitely want to get it. It’s definitely one of my main goals right now. I definitely feel like winning in Korea was a big steppingstone toward that, especially with some of the guys that I did beat there at the top – Y.E., Rory, and there were a lot of good, young Korean players over there. I was impressed. I felt like last week was a big step toward winning on the PGA Tour.
It’s not that I feel pressure to win, but I also have high expectations for myself. My game feels really good right now. I’m really excited about this week at the McGladrey Classic. I think this is the last (PGA Tour) event I’ll play until next year. Getting my first win out of the way was big, but winning on the PGA Tour is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid.
How do you feel about all the expectations that have been placed on you by fans and media?
I’ve set my own goals. I haven’t let fans or media dictate any of that. Obviously, I think there are some similar goals and expectations, but I try to focus on the things that I want to do. Winning on the PGA Tour is probably highest on the list right now. Outside of that, I haven’t made it to the Tour Championship yet, so that’s a big goal, and next year is a Ryder Cup year, so those three things are right at the top of the list for me.
Was there anything in your game that felt really good last week?
Nothing crazy. It’s the first week I played with four wedges in the bag. I had always played 47-, 53- and 59-degree wedges. I had two weeks off prior to Korea. I worked with four wedges in the bag (replacing the 53-degree wedge with a 51- and 55-degree). It made me feel more comfortable within 130 yards or so. I had more comfortable swings with wedges. When Joe and I looked at some stats, he noticed my rankings in that scoring zone, inside 150 yards, weren’t great and needed some attention. Outside of 200 yards, last time I looked, I was in the top three (in proximity to the hole). It’s great to be a top player from outside 200 yards, but I’d rather be that good from inside 100 yards. We felt like we should pay some attention to that. This was the start of that.
What was it like beating Rory in Korea?
He’s beaten me, I’ve beaten him before, but to win a golf tournament and beat him was different. It was cool. He was there for the first part of the awards ceremony. I respect him greatly. He’s a really cool guy. It’s been fun to play against him, and nice to get a win against him finally. I look forward to playing against him for a long time. With the two of us being 22, we’ve got some years left.
What’s your schedule been like since winning?
It hasn’t been too bad. We went into Seoul on Sunday night so we could be close to the airport. We had dinner and just hung out. It was my agent Sam (MacNaughton), my caddie Joe and me. We had a good dinner in Seoul. It was late by the time we got in there. We just kind of kicked back, relaxed, had a couple glasses of good wine. I guess the wine was the celebration. We got up about 6 o’clock Monday morning there, which would’ve been 5 o’clock in the afternoon East Coast time, and I really haven’t slept since then. I couldn’t really sleep much on the plane, just because it was the middle of the day in Korea. I watched three movies, and finished half of a book. The book was T. Boone Pickens’ “The First Billion Is the Hardest.” I’m still working on getting to a billion.
What’s the schedule for the rest of the year?
I have this week, and then I’m taking a good amount of time off. I don’t think I’m going to play until the Aussie PGA. I’m hoping to get into Tiger’s event (the Chevron World Challenge). I think I’m first alternate, and then the Shark Shootout. Obviously a win this week would change this, but I’m between starting (next season) at the Humana Challenge or the Farmers Insurance Open. I know I’m definitely playing Farmers. It’s more or less if I want to get my feet wet and get rolling before then.