The major season is upon us once again and one of the golfing world’s favourite young talents Rickie Fowler prepares to take on the biggest stages once again.
The 2010 US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year claimed top 5s in all four majors in 2014 proving he possesses a game that travels well. However the 26-year-old—for all the exposure he gets on television, print, and the web—holds just one PGA Tour title to his name.
So, what does success this year in the majors and at the US Tour’s events look like to him? Garrett Johnston sat down with the cool Californian to talk about his journey ahead.
Rickie, what do you make of today’s narrative in golf and where you fit among the younger players fighting for world rankings and wins?
Obviously we all have a long career ahead of us with most of us being in our mid 20s. It’s possibly a solid 20 years playing against each other, maybe more. So there are a lot of good young players right now and there’s a strong potential of having a good group of guys where there won’t just be one or two guys as a rivalry. Rory (McIlroy) has obviously distanced himself right now as the best young player and obviously the best player in the world. I’m not sure if two guys will stand out, it may be a bigger group.
For your 2015 season what does success look like for you?
Success I mean, that’s going through the year being in contention like I was last year but I want to win. So obviously getting my first win of the year would be the biggest thing but I’ve got to get myself into the mix, I’ve gotten off to a bit of a slow start and I want to win. That would be my definition of success for the year.
When you say winning, what types of events do you mean?
I really want to be there in the majors like I was last year and have the chances there. But I just want to win wherever it is, and if it happens to be in a major that’s a bonus.
How much confidence have you gained from your top 5s in every major in 2014?
Last year was a big step in the right direction for me to feel as comfortable as I did under the pressure in the majors. It’s a good stepping stone and I’m looking forward to getting things started at Augusta.
How excited are you for the majors this year?
I’m really looking forward to the majors this year, especially the first one, The Masters. After seeing what Bubba did there, I want to be in that position. Hopefully not in a playoff (2012) but win it outright. No, it definitely was cool to be there to watch it all happen. That kind of gives me the drive to want to go out there and do the same thing.
What’s your favourite major and the one you may have the best chance of winning?
I love all the Majors and especially being at Augusta and the US Open. The PGA Championship plays some great courses. But my favorite style of golf is links golf and I love the challenge that comes along with it. Whether it’s good weather, bad weather, you never know what you’re going to get over there.
It seems you get some mentorship from older guys (Phil Mickelson and Butch Harmon). How helpful is that for success?
Yes, having guys that are helpful and willing to be there with anything that we need is huge. Phil’s been great for me. Having Butch as part of my team, and me being part of his team now is awesome so I definitely have some great guys around me.
How long have you worked with Butch Harmon and what are you guys working on for your game?
Butch has been around the last few years with the different (money) games we have played at tournaments and so our friendship has grown and it’s been nice that he’s actually been able to see me and my tendencies over the last couple years.
The first real time I worked with him was when I spent some time on the range with him after I missed the cut at the 2013 Open Championship.
But yeah, as far as the basics, we’ve been working on cleaning up the takeaway, getting myself started in the right position, and trying to shorten up the back swing. My tendency is to get a little long and the club gets stuck behind me. So we’re working on very minor things.
When was the last time you threw a club in frustration like Rory McIlroy at Doral?
I threw one for fun/anger at Medalist a couple years back and I forgot to take off my glove and I threw it into a palmetto. That was fun to see how far it would go/after hitting a bad shot. But my mom made it pretty clear early on that if I were to break a club it would be gone and not come back so I try to keep 14 clubs in my bag at all times.
What’s your most common swing thought?
A lot of it is ‘good tempo’, ‘good rhythm.’ I try not to get too mechanical on the course. I try to figure that out early on, on the range or where we’re practicing but pretty much on the course I just go through the motions and make sure we’re staying within ourselves and not getting out of rhythm.
Do you have a favourite meal?
It depends on what time of day it is. But food kind of changes week to week.
Did you have an “aha” moment where you knew you loved the game?
Not exactly an ‘aha’ moment but I loved it from the start when I was three. I started playing tournaments when I was four and a half and it was always a dream of mine and never really a certain moment.
You’ve won once on the US PGA Tour in your five + years out here. How do you view that?
Well I always knew that it was going to be tough to win on TOUR. Obviously the people over the last, say, 10 years, 15 years, watching guys like Tiger and Phil, it doesn’t exactly help the normal PGA TOUR player’s cause as far as winning goes. I think guys like them have made it look a lot easier than it really is. I’m definitely happy with having the one win on the PGA TOUR as of now. But moving forward, my goal is to definitely have more than one win in the next four years. It was a great stepping stone, but I think that this year kind of turning the page and looking to do bigger and better things.
How do you deal with the perception that you’re known more for your clothes than your golf game?
I know that I’m known for what I wear on the golf course, but I want to be known as a great player. I remember when I lost to Hunter Mahan at the Phoenix Open (2010), my first year on TOUR, I remember him saying, one of his quotes was he wanted to be remembered as a great player and great players win. So I want to go out and win golf tournaments.
How much would you relish the chance to play in the Olympics in 2016?
It would be awesome. It’s a little ways out on the schedule but it would be an honor to be a part of that and it’s something that I’ll always shoot for.