04 February 2019: Rickie Fowler couldn’t be in a happier place. He is a winner again and is engaged to his longtime girlfriend Allison Stokke. At least when he isn’t around a slippery mound around the 11th green at TPC Scottsdale. After enduring extra penalty for a dropped ball that rolled back into the water and a triple bogey, Fowler still found the resilience within to earn his fifth PGA TOUR victory.
Curiously, Fowler has shot over par every time he has held the lead after 54 holes. Yesterday was the seventh instance of Fowler holding the lead going into Sunday and he shot 74, which was enough for a two-stroke victory. In this interview after his well-deserved victory, Fowler spoke at length about the experience and its import to his mindset.
Q: Congratulations on your fifth career PGA TOUR win. With the win, you move to number 7 in the FedExCup standings, inside the top-10, Presidents Cup standings and a host of other things. Maui, I heard you mention the Sentry Tournament of Champions as an option. Otherwise just another routine day of golf, right?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I don’t know if you were watching, but I hope I never have to go through that again. The way I was playing this week, I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I thought it was going to be a lot easier than that out there today. We got dealt a tough day of weather and conditions. There weren’t many low scores. It was just kind of grind it out, had a couple tough breaks and kind of just had to deal with the punches. A couple of big ones. But it feels good now. But I tell you, it was definitely not fun out there. Seems as soon as I kind of got something going, I would take a step or two back and had to kind of dig myself out of some holes. So definitely happy coming out on top. But I really don’t want to have to go and win tournaments that way.
Q: I know more questions will come up about that, but one of the things that stood out with what I heard you say earlier is that life is more than about that kind of thing. You really kind of put it into perspective that whether you won or lost day there’s much greater things in life to kind of keep you moving forward. If you could just kind of touch on that again and kind of how that kind of keeps you focused and the bigger picture.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, for me, whether people say I’m not someone that gets mad enough or I guess whatever it may be, that they think golfers should be or people that win should be. But at the end of the day out there for me, the way I was brought up by my parents, my grandparents and the people I surround myself with is life’s a lot bigger than just the day-to-day stuff. Trophies are great and all. And this is amazing, this is something we have wanted to, I’ve wanted to win here for 11 years now since I first came since the Thunderbirds gave me a spot. But sitting there on 11 with things kind of seeming like they’re definitely not going my way, you just kind of are thinking, you know, if we finish, if we happen to finish, second, third, fourth, the sun’s going to come up tomorrow, going to live another day, we’re going to move forward. But thinking out as there are a lot bigger things out there. I always think of Jarrod Lyle, especially with after the Thunderbirds, them putting his bag and a plaque up there yesterday. And I have Leuk the Duck on my hat at all times, so he’s always with me. He’s along for the ride. So thinking about Griffin Connell, a friend of ours and fan of mine that we lost a little over a year ago. So it’s things like that kind of help put those times in perspective. Life could be a lot worse. And so then you kind of look at things in a positive light and just say, hey, all right, we’ll go see what we can figure out and make the best of the situation. It was nice that we were able to play a good final five, six holes and put ourselves in a spot to go get this thing finally going home with us.
Q. You mentioned your family is here. A few years ago you were emotional, I believe mostly because your grandfather was here and you wanted to win so badly in front of him. He was here along with the rest of your family. What did that mean to you and what did they say to you afterwards?
RICKIE FOWLER: Oh, it was awesome. Yeah, my dad hadn’t been there for a TOUR win. My mom and sister, they have been there for a bunch, so they’re fine. My sister’s home, pregnant right now. She probably could go into labour tomorrow, so hopefully she doesn’t, I hope she can hold off a little bit. But from my dad to my grandma and grandpa and adding to the list, Allison’s parents. So it was nice to get a win in front of some family, some friends as well that were here. So it’s, yeah, it can be added pressure at times, but it’s fun and welcomed added pressure. It’s fun to kind of show off in a way in front of your friends and family and they want to see you play well, they’re obviously there rooting for you. So it’s, but on the other side of it, like you said, a couple years ago, it sucks when you feel like you come up short, because you want to be able to celebrate and they’re pulling for you so hard and you know it, but that’s something that keeps us going as well. So to be here hanging with you guys and having the trophy, I’m definitely happy with this week.
Q. To follow up, how much confidence can you take from this? Usually, you win and you feel confident afterwards moving forward. The way you won today, can you take confidence from this?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I mean I had a ball roll in the water, got two penalties there, and I mean other than those two holes, considering the conditions, it was a solid round of golf. Just misjudging when that rain came in and how much that ball was going to skip on 11. I think the Super Bowl is going. We got some good commercials, I hear. That was a big kind of turn around, I mean at worst I make bogey there with a semi-decent chip and I’m still very much in control of the golf tournament. But with everything that happened there, that was a two, three shot swing pretty quickly. Yeah, it sucked. But it was kind of just trying to put all that behind me, understand that playing well the first three days and giving myself that cushion is what kind of allows for some mistakes, and you don’t have to go out and play a perfect round. On the flip side, if you’re four shots back you may have to go out and put together a damn near perfect round of golf to win. So luckily I didn’t need a perfect round today.
Q. You were looking pretty beat up for a while thereafter that all happened. What did you and Joe talk about and how did you sort of get yourself mentally ready to do what you did? Because I mean those two 2-putt birdies were obviously huge.
RICKIE FOWLER: It was always looking forward, just keep being ourselves, keep kind of going through the process and staying within our game plan. I texted a buddy who won last night, Adam, he won the 250 Supercross last night in some tough conditions. I didn’t think it was going to be as tough today but I think we got pretty much the same conditions. He texted me back. I got his text this morning. At the end of it was just go be you. And that’s something he and I always talk about is keep being you out there. So between that and Joe and I just talking, just keep moving forward, keep picking small targets and hitting our shots, making good swings. We have been swinging really well all week, making a lot of putts, driving it well, so just had to kind of try and put everything behind us. I think standing on 14 tee, Joe’s like, hey, you would have taken this at the beginning of the week tied five holes to play let’s go win a golf tournament. So you kind of just has to put the first 67 holes behind you and go play five holes.
Q. Just to follow up, have you ever been tested mentally more than you were there on 11?
RICKIE FOWLER: No. And I would say no and not coming out on the right side of it. You get tested all the time and there’s plenty of times where you end up in difficult situations and you’re going to have bad breaks and make a bad score and move the wrong way. I think it’s rare to end up on the good side of it at the end of the day. So to have a few things go wrong out there today as I said, some of that was set up from playing well the first three days and giving myself some wiggle room. But like I said earlier, it wasn’t fun, I don’t want to have to win like that again.
Q. JT said that he talked to you in scoring and told you that you’re going to get a lot more out of this by showing resiliency and coming back as you did rather than going out and winning by five or six. Do you agree and what do you, what did you learn most about yourself today?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I mean I’ve been in this situation a couple times before and come out on top, but not having that much go wrong. Abu Dhabi a few years back, I think I had a four-shot lead, it was down to one after 7 and kind of battled back and ended up winning. Honda, a couple years ago, I think it was a four-shot lead as well. It was down to might have got down to one or tied, I can’t remember. And a similar situation. But those were kind of either slow starts or one hole. This was just a kind of combination of things. I mean two holes that, as I said, other than those it was a solid round of golf given the conditions. Take those two holes out and I’m 2-under par. So, yeah, as JT said, I think there’s more you can get out of this than — I mean, yeah, I wanted to go out and win by five, six, seven shots, it would be awesome coming down 18 knowing that you could putt your way to victory. But to kind of put ourselves with our back against the wall, knowing a lot, pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong and compounded in one situation there on 11. To put that all behind us and keep moving forward and keep digging, that was big. Definitely proud of Joe and myself out there today.
Q. When you and Tiger play at home I’m sure there’s a lot of needling but is there ever any serious moments when he talks to you about how you approach Sunday golf versus the other three rounds?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, not necessarily. I mean the way I’ve always kind of understood or when I’ve talked to him about it is obviously sticking to the game plan and executing. Today, as I said, other than, I just didn’t execute those two holes. And he texted me last night, good playing and go get the job done. I wish we could have gotten the job done a little cleaner and a little better. I feel like we if I could erase those two holes this victory would, it’s still a good victory, but it would look a lot different. I’m definitely proud of the way we were able to get it done. But, no, just getting to be around Tiger and playing and to have matches with him, whether you’re up or down with him, and we have fun. I think it is something that I’ve always seen has made me a better player when I’ve been able to have matches with friends. And like I said, up or down and just figuring out a way to win. And then when you’re playing against one of the best players that have ever played the game and arguably one of the best match play players of our game, it’s a learning situation, even if you’re not asking him or talking to him about what’s going on or what he thinks about.
Q. To follow up, over the course of your decade out here, have you found that Sundays are different?
RICKIE FOWLER: They definitely are different. It’s a different feeling. I think I’ve done a good job of being there more and more and trying to make them feel more like just another day out there. I felt like I was in a really good spot to go do that. I just never really got the round going how I wanted to and so I always felt like I was fighting and kind of coming from behind of where I wanted to be. So that’s another thing that helped me ultimately win. I had high expectations for myself. I wasn’t just trying to pad my lead or just sneak by. Yeah, as I said earlier, it sucks the two holes happened that were a big shot to the round of golf today. But I felt really good all week, I felt great going into today, I really felt like I could go out, I truly believed that I could go and get the job done and win by five, six shots. But it was a tough situation out there today and I felt like we did a good job of just continuing to move forward and putting things behind us.
Q. I saw that Bones had given information to Joe about Grace’s ball going in the water on 17. Did it change your game plan or anything when you were told about that?
RICKIE FOWLER: No. When we had gotten that information, I mean obviously we could see the board as well, knowing that he made 5 on 17. I mean you see a couple years ago when I ended up losing to Hideki in the playoff, I mean there’s no real other play on that hole other than going for the green. Obviously making sure you miss, stay right of the water, but the layup’s harder than hitting a driver or 3-wood, depending on the conditions. So, no, it didn’t change what I was going to do there. In a way, it kind of freed me up if anything. Just knowing that, hey, we have a chance to hit a good one here, make 3 and be in a really good position playing the last.
Q. With everything that was going on today, still putted really, really well and made a lot of big ones. Did you take as much confidence from your putting kind of all weekend as anything else?
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, I did putt well all week. I don’t think I really — I don’t remember, I mean I may have erased it, but I don’t remember missing a putt because I hit a bad putt. The ones that I missed out there this week were just misreads or maybe just a little off on speed. Other than that I felt like I putted great, hit my lines, did a good job of still making putts. Like on 11, making a putt for what was a triple, we had to figure that out. It took about a hole. But just making putt after putt, even the one on 13, two holes later, just a good par save. I mean things could have gone really south pretty quickly and the putter was one of those things that definitely helped keep us in there.
Q. Was that good triple?
RICKIE FOWLER: It was a really good triple, yeah. If you were to say your chipping short sided behind the bunker hitting your sixth shot, I would have taken seven pretty quickly. But it wouldn’t have been a good triple if you said you were just short right chipping for 3.
Q. You’ve been close a few times before.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, this one is a little more special. It’s not just the normal event. I love the atmosphere here, I love the fans. They have always been great to me. The Thunderbirds have been nothing short of amazing to me, giving me a spot here when I was an am at Oklahoma State like they did with Wolff this year. The Waste Management upping their title sponsorship again. They have been great here. But the number of friends and family I have at this tournament, year after year, it’s been kind of disappointing the times that I’ve been in contention and not been able to pull it off with everyone here. There’s definitely more pressure at this event just because I want to get the win for a lot of other reasons, other than just myself. At the end of the day I’m going to go take care of you myself out there and glad I could do that today.
Q. And so finally now you move into the 7th spot in the FedExCup points. You got the Wyndham Rewards at the end of the regular season plus Presidents Cup year you’re now in the top-10.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, winning takes care of a lot. Like you just rattled off there’s a lot of good things in there. Obviously, it’s nice to be back up in FedExCup points because when you don’t play much in the fall you kind of start the calendar year pretty far behind the eight ball and playing catch up. So this is a nice start to get back kind of in the race for that. Like you said with the new Wyndham Rewards at the end of the regular season and get to go to Kapalua next year so that’s never terrible.
Q. A wild Sunday for sure for Rickie Fowler at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. You go from a five-shot lead to trailing in the span of a couple of holes. How did you steady yourself and ultimately go on to get the victory?
RICKIE FOWLER: It really wasn’t fun there for a couple of holes. I mean to have what happened on 5, but then 11 and kind of just rolled with the punches. The nice thing about going in with a 54-hole lead and having a bit of a cushion, it allows for mistakes. It would have been nice to be a little cleaner today. But other than the two penalties there on No. 5, I mean other than that, it was a pretty good round of golf, considering the conditions. And to step up after that, I feel like I played the last five holes pretty well. And so, yeah, it was just had to find a way to get it done. It wasn’t very fun. It will be fun now, and it will be well worth it. Good learning experience. But, yeah, I don’t want to have to go through that again.
Q. How were you able to draw deep with the second shot on 15 and then the tee shot on 17 which seemed to be the tournament for you down the stretch?
RICKIE FOWLER: I’ve been driving it well all week, making good swings. I just kind of had to put the really only a few bad swings I’ve had all week. There hasn’t been many. So get rid of that, just step up, pick some good lines, don’t try and be overly aggressive or anything. There on 15 we were just trying to hit it in the middle of the green. Really on 17 trying to hit it in the right centre of the green and that one was just maybe it just turned a little bit off of there and end up in the left centre. So obviously big shots, after — I got criticized back in I think it was 2010 from laying up. I was at uncomfortable yardage, so I definitely wasn’t laying up today on 15. And I’m just happy. I mean I made some really good swings down the stretch to at least give myself the opportunity to finish it off.
Q. I know how special it is to have not just your parents, but your grandparents and fiance’ Allison, to be here as well. To get a victory in front people that mean so much to you. What’s that like?
RICKIE FOWLER: It’s awesome. My dad, my grandpa, my grandma, and Allison’s parents, they haven’t seen me win yet. So the amount of times I’ve been in contention here, my dad’s always been here, my grandparents have always been here. So it’s always been pretty disappointing to have been there and feel like we were so close to getting them a win. So it’s nice to finally get that done. I’m happy for now. But, yeah, it was good. As I said, it was not fun out there today, but to be able to have everyone here to celebrate with and it will be a lot more fun from here on in.