Fowler's swing changes paying off at Augusta
Saturday, April 12, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Maybe Rickie Fowler secretly wants to be a lefty.
His best friend on Tour? That'd be Bubba Watson – Fowler is even known as "Uncle Rickie" by Watson's 2-year-old son, Caleb.
His Augusta National mentor? Phil Mickelson, the three-time champ who benefitted from Fowler's hot play Tuesday during a practice-round game that pitted the duo against Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson.
"I got to carry Phil around, so that was fun," Fowler quipped after posting a 5-under 67 to move to 3 under on the tournament and within striking distance of the lead.
"I think the person I've learned the most from here is Phil. There's no one – it's unfortunate to see him not play well the first two days, but there's no one that I have found that knows the course better than him."
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Fowler and fun at the majors haven't been synonymous in his young career, with only two top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the four majors – a T-5 at the 2011 Open Championship and T-10 at the 2013 U.S. Open.
"It's about time that I need to kind of step up and start playing well on the weekends, especially at the majors," said Fowler, who had a 73.3 scoring average in six weekend rounds at Augusta National coming into Saturday, with a pair of 70s his best.
That determination was in full effect Saturday. Fowler played Amen Corner at 1 under, posted six birdies on the round and inched closer to Watson, the 36-hole leader.
"He's already got one green jacket, so it's my turn," said Fowler, although the Oklahoma State-orange outfit (check it out here) and green jacket might create a fashion faux pas.
Fowler's run into contention began in December, when the 25-year-old recognized he needed help and linked up with Butch Harmon to work on his swing – a big decision since Fowler mainly went about fixing his own swing for a three-year stretch after his former coach, Barry McDonnell, passed away.
When asked about what he changed and the impact on his game, he deadpanned, "How long we got?"
The Murrietta, Calif., native would explain that his biggest fix was the initial start of his swing, or the takeaway. Harmon helped him get "more of the forearms to rotate and the toe to move first off the ball, versus I used to be a little – the club used to stay shut for quite a while and be outside."
While the initial results were not positive – Fowler missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Waste Management Phoenix Open and Northern Trust Open – he had a coming-out party at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, where he finished third. He added a T-24 at the Honda Classic and finished sixth last week at the Shell Houston Open.
"For the most part, it's just mental; it's between the ears. I feel really good with (the swing)," Fowler said. "I've been hitting a lot of good golf shots and making a lot of really good golf swings. So the biggest thing is just going out and trusting it and making it happen."
Harmon has produced a few Masters champions – Tiger Woods and Mickelson among them – a fact that is not lost on Fowler.
"When I started working with Butch in December, our main goal is to be here right now ready to contend and have a chance to win the Masters," said Fowler.
"So, so far, so good."