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U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

June 10, 2019

Rickie Fowler

Pebble Beach, California

MIKE TROSTEL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mike Trostel. Welcome to the Media Center here at the 119th U.S. Open Championship. Along with my colleague, Beth Major, I'll be moderating the interviews this week. Rickie Fowler, playing in his 11th U.S. Open, best finish in Pinehurst in 2014. You played a practice round yesterday, nine holes this morning. How is the course playing. Did anything jump out to you?

RICKIE FOWLER: It's obviously in really good shape right now. I feel like the golf course is going to be -- the USGA is going to be able to do whatever they want with it. It's soft right now. Saturday it got to where it was good, fast, firm. And then put water on it Saturday to kind of hold it and, like I said, it's in a position where with the weather where it's at right now, I think it can go wherever they want it to.

So I'm looking forward to it. I think it's got a good variety. Obviously it's a great driving golf course. I think they've done a good job with fairway width on shorter holes, some of the longer ones, they're towards the generous side. But, again, with the small greens here, being the U.S. Open, once the course starts to firm up, you need to be playing from the fairway. And the rough is fairly playable. I think you're going to see guys get some decent lies out there and be able to get some at least mid-irons on the ball.

But, again, once the greens firm up, you're probably not going to be able to hold the ball with how fast the greens are.

MIKE TROSTEL: For you, four top-10's, including a win at the Waste Management in February. How is the game heading into this week?

RICKIE FOWLER: I feel like I'm in a really good spot. I had a couple slow weeks. At the PGA, kind of just fought through the first few rounds. Once the wind came up on Sunday, kind of showed some of my weaknesses. I wasn't in a good spot with the swing and with the game.

I managed to get things heading the right way at Colonial. Didn't make any putts, so that didn't help.

Memorial was a great week to get things right back on the right track. Got a couple of days to rest at home, and came tout to the West Coast on Friday to get a shoot-in with one of my sponsors, with Farmers.

So a little workday, a little bit of rest, and like I said, I got to play 18 holes yesterday just to get a once-around the whole place, get reacquainted. And plan is to just continue to play nine holes each day.

The big thing is just staying rested and ready to go come Thursday, and obviously make sure that we have plenty of gas in the tank over the weekend.

Q. You've always been one of the guys who have always been there to congratulate the winners when they come off the 18th. Why is that something you like to do?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I mean, it's -- one thing, it's usually the guys that I am very close with, guys that I spend time with on and off the road, and for guys that live close by to practice and play a lot together. We're all -- we're all close, just closer to some than others.

And to me, I mean, one of the most recent, being for Tiger after winning Augusta, obviously a big point in his career, big point in the history of golf, his comeback, but once I'm done on 18, I've left everything out there, done everything I can do. Kind of show that respect, and it's cool to see your buddies play well. You want them playing well because it's -- it makes it a lot better when you beat them. And maybe a couple of guys waiting there for you. It's bragging rights. The guys you want to lose to, the least amount are your friends because you're going to hear about it. It's a love/hate thing. You don't want to be there necessarily congratulating the other guys; you want them being there congratulating you.

So I think it just shows how much respect there is between players. We appreciate good golf. And like I said, once you're done and sign your card after 72 holes, your work is done, there's nothing you can do about it. Like I said, I enjoy it. And for me, like I mentioned earlier, I want to beat the other guys out there and my buddies. The satisfaction comes when you know they're playing well and you beat them potentially at their best, and then you've got the bragging rights going forward.

Q. How would you describe how majors are different, just sort of psychologically? Obviously the course is tougher, we all understand that. But what's the vibe like at a major compared to a regular TOUR event? You've gone through enough, do you feel like you're getting closer and conquered it a little bit or understand it a little bit better?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'd say now to me I don't necessarily feel really any different. Yes, early on it's a bigger stage. There's more stuff going on. It's a bigger production. Now that I've played enough of them, they're very comfortable. It's very enjoyable. I obviously look forward to them.

Yeah, I feel like it is something you need to get used to to where they do feel like you're playing another event. Not to take away from majors by any means. They're special weeks of the year. There's just -- there's a lot more going on than a normal week, maybe other than a tournament like Phoenix where there's hundreds of thousands of people all through the week.

So to me, like I said, they don't feel any different now other than just there's so much more going around than just a normal week.

Q. If you have friends who are struggling over a period of time, what, if anything, do you say or can you say to them? And if you would ever find yourself in that position, how would you want them to react or what would you like them to say or do for you?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I'm someone that I definitely love to help. I think there's, for the most part everyone out here, if you went and asked a question, whether it was about a certain shot or how they go about something, swing, short game, putting, whatever it may be, I haven't found anyone that's not willing to help. I feel like that's just the way it is and the way the game has been.

So for me, I love being able to help my buddies, whether they're playing well or not, whether it's something they're struggling with mentally, just getting over maybe swinging bad or whatever it may be, or working on a certain shot. And I won't necessarily say, Hey, I want to help you with this, I'll just ask what they may be working on.

For me, I've been someone that's -- I pride myself on putting and understanding the stroke and how everything works. I love being able to help out when I can. I don't like seeing guys struggle. I mentioned earlier, I want to beat my friends when they're playing well. I don't want to beat them just because they're struggling with something.

But I feel like there's plenty of guys, like I said, if I went to and wanted to ask them a question about something or wanted help with something, they would be there. And there's obviously some of my close friends that would be there or maybe give their two cents if they knew I was struggling in a certain area. It's a good little fraternity we have out here.

Q. I talked to a couple of players who actually talked about feeling shame; that they don't want to mention that they're struggling because they feel like they'll be injured. So if you have friends like that, how do you approach it?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I think that's something where I kind of mentioned a second ago, is if it's something I can visually see or kind of understand that they may be struggling in a certain area, that I may ask questions. Not say, hey, I want to help you here, but ask questions of what you're working on, if it's a certain part of the game, what they're working on, and then just kind of say, hey, if you ever want any help I'm here, let me know. But I'm not someone that's just going to be, hey, I want to help you here.

But, yeah, I can definitely see that. I think kind of the first thing getting through if there's an area struggling, you've either got to fight your way through it or be willing to ask guys for guidance or something that may be able to help them moving forward.

Q. If research is right, you've only played three competitive rounds at Pebble Beach in a tournament. Does that put you at any disadvantage?
RICKIE FOWLER: No, I've played -- yeah, somewhere around there. I played the Callaway event here, as well. One of my -- one of the events that I played early when I turned pro. But I've played a couple of times after those times I've played professional events here.

To me I look at Pebble as not necessarily a place that the more you play it you have an advantage, necessarily. It's a pretty straightforward golf course. There's only a couple of tee shots that are somewhat blind that you need to just make sure that you're comfortable on lines. It's pretty much right in front of you. Very small greens.

So it's -- I love that about it. It's not very tricky. You hit it in a lot of the middle of the greens here, and you're going to be in a good position. So, no, I've played well here. I had a chance to win, like I mentioned, it was the Callaway event I played, it was a while back.

But how could you not like this place and get good vibes, especially the last couple of days with the weather we've had and just makes you feel good. It's a beautiful place.

Q. I know you played with Viktor today. How much have you played with him? How do you think he'll play this week, and how do you think he'll play when he starts playing for money?
RICKIE FOWLER: Viktor is going to be fine. I'm not worried about him. It is an adjustment. Sometimes it takes longer for some guys than others. Some guys you see come out and play very well and there's no real transition period. But I think him having played well here last year puts him in a good position.

There's a couple little things that have changed from the Amateur. I know they've brought in some different cuts of where the fairway and rough meet. But for the most part he's seen the golf course that he's familiar with from the U.S. Amateur. And I expect him to play well here. I think he can -- he has a chance to have a great finish. But you never know with golf. Just because you play well at one place doesn't mean you're going to do it again.

I'm excited for him to start his professional career soon. I think he's going to have a lot of success. I hope that would be sooner rather than later. But I'm looking forward to helping him if I can at all. He may not need it. He might come out and just get on a run and go.

Q. What do you remember about Tiger's win here in 2000? If I do my math correctly, you were 10 or 11 years old. Do you remember watching that, maybe how it affected you, or what sort of sticks in your mind about that?
RICKIE FOWLER: Obviously it was pretty dominant. Very impressive week. I don't remember watching it a whole lot. I was a little young, Tiger is getting a little older now. We make sure he's aware of that, too. We share the same trainer so it's okay.

No, obviously him kind of '99, early 2000s is probably some of the most impressive and dominant golf I think anyone's really ever seen. To see what he did here at a major. Joe, my caddie was telling me, he was actually watching some of the reruns of it. I think they had some of it going last week. But I think Tiger told Stevie that he wasn't going to make a bogey the final round, and fist pumping his par-putt on 16 when he's clearly in a different golf tournament. He's not going to lose at that point.

But it was just cool to see him sticking to his kind of game plan and goals and just executing. And when you can get in kind of that frame of mind and block everything else out, that's ultimately where you want to be and where you want to get to. It's a lot easier said than done. But that's ultimately what I try and do every week. I don't think -- we haven't seen very many dominant performances like that, not many since then.

Q. With regard to JT. Obviously you guys are buddies. How difficult has it been for him in your eyes, and you're speaking to him with the injury, just kind of pull out of Bethpage and whatnot just a couple of years ago, looked like he was going to go on a bit of a run. Have you helped him at all along the way with that?
RICKIE FOWLER: I like to think that I've helped a little bit. I have to ask him, see if I was able to help at all. But I think the biggest thing, when I had the injury last year and had to skip a couple of events, leading up to the Ryder Cup, Furyk had texted me and said he heard something from Davis Love years back. He said no one's ever said they came back from injury too late.

So for me I knew I was in a good spot for Ryder Cup; I just had to make sure that I was healthy and ready to go. And ultimately I wanted to play in the Ryder Cup. You don't want to just show up at a major event after some time off. So everything worked out good for me being able to come back when I did.

But that was something that I just kind of stressed on JT, was just take your time, make sure you're good to go. You don't want to come back early and then have lingering pain or it turn into something more or something that became more long-term. So I think he went about it great. I know he was bored out of his mind. It's not fun sitting at home and seeing your buddies playing events, obviously a major in there, and knowing that you should be out there and want to be out there.

But I think he's done a good job with it coming back, and I feel like he felt pretty good at Memorial, it was just more about getting back to playing and getting the reps in. So him adding Canada was smart just to go get competitive golf in. To me I think that's some of the best ways to get ready. I enjoy playing the week before majors if I can and if the schedule allows for it. If not, at least having -- like I played the PGA, Colonial and Memorial, so three weeks in a row, and just had a few days off. Coming off of a two- or three-week break into a big event or especially a major is not something I would necessarily recommend.

So I think the timing of it worked out well for JT being able to play the last two weeks into here. So I'm just glad he's backs swinging.

Q. On the theme of physical training, load management is a buzz word in sports these days. Certainly the NBA Finals we've heard about load management, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. I'm wondering compared today versus when you first started on the Tour, do you talk to your trainers about how often you should be hitting balls, is there a discussion of that kind of load management in terms of your training and preparation? Has that changed from today versus when you first started?
RICKIE FOWLER: I would say as far as practice and stuff like that goes, I would say I'm a lot more efficient now. When I'm home, there's a lot more times where I take three, four, five days off and not really touch a club. I've never been a big practicer. I've always just enjoyed going out and playing. And then if there's a certain shot that I may struggle with on the golf course, I may go work at that. I'm not someone that goes to the range and struggles with something I'm working on or trying to figure something out. Until I started working with Butch say five or six years ago, at that point I needed to put in more reps to get used to what they we were trying to accomplish.

But now I feel like I'm in a good spot. For me, I'm not someone -- like I said, I don't spend a whole lot of time on the range. I'm going to go there with a purpose, get it done, make it efficient. So I'm not too worried about the amount of swings. If I go play golf, I mean, hopefully I'm hitting it very few times. So there's not a whole lot of stress throughout the course. Three hours if I go play at home, there's not a whole lot of full swings.

So limiting the amount of time on the range, making that efficient and then getting the right stuff done in the gym between the lifting. I typically don't lift at events, just lift at home. And then get my soft tissue work at home, as well, make sure the body is still moving properly, and then mainly just tissue work on the road to make sure everything is firing and moving.

So I think we've got a great setup. Everyone is different. Some guys are going to spend a lot more time on the range which may require a little bit more treatment, and maybe not rehab, but just making sure things don't go the wrong way.

So, no, there's no perfect recipe. But I think I've done a good job of learning over the years, and I've kind of gone to keeping it as efficient as possible. Obviously you want your career to last as long as you can. And then with how our calendar goes basically throughout the year, we don't really stop at the wrap-around. And it's not stressing the body too much in the gym for me. I feel like it's been the best -- not necessarily the biggest guy. I don't throw around a whole lot of weight. But you don't want to -- when you do put weight, it's just going to put stress on certain parts of the body, and there's no reason to do that in my mind. There's other ways to strengthen without using a whole lot of weight.

Q. Did Pebble Beach, the Pro Am, just never really fit into your schedule? And then I know you kind of answered this, but did you give any thought to maybe trying to make it work this year, or do you feel so comfortable with the course that no need?
RICKIE FOWLER: I did think about it. For me you're being with Farmers and playing Torrey, I love that event and I love Phoenix and my relationship with the Thunderbirds there. So I thought about it. I didn't think it was going to be very beneficial being that probably going to get -- you get two competitive rounds and maybe a practice round on it. But weather and conditions are so different. You look at the weather right now versus what it could be early in the year.

Yeah, I thought about it, but with where my schedule is at, playing the two weeks prior to Pebble and then from Mexico to THE PLAYERS, I went on a four-week run. So it wasn't something that I thought felt fit in with -- I didn't want to wear myself out too early. That would have been a seven tournaments in eight weeks, which we try and keep that off the schedule.

Q. How do you view the whole conversation about best player without a major? Is that a compliment? Is that a sense of frustration? Do you find some encouragement with a guy like Phil and didn't win his first major until 34 and won several since then?
RICKIE FOWLER: It's a compliment in a way. Obviously there's a lot of great players that haven't won a major. It's not necessarily something I think about or worry about. I know that when the time is right, it's going to happen. And I've been in the position to have a chance and right there in the mix come Sunday. I don't necessarily put my life on it, looking at what success is. If I don't win a major, that's not going to necessarily define me. Do I want to win a major? Yes. I would love to and then knock off some more after that. But it's not going to define who I am. But I'm going to continue to go out and put the work in and put myself in position to go do it.

I'm looking forward to it, especially the last few years with how comfortable the major weeks have felt, just a matter of time.

Q. Along those lines, is there one that you felt like got away from you? And if so, how long did it take you to maybe get over that?
RICKIE FOWLER: One that I thought I had -- one of my better chances probably Valhalla, PGA, having the lead on the back nine and made a bad swing on -- I can't remember if it's 14 or 15, par-3. I ended up making bogey. But obviously Rory played well that back nine and got himself the win.

No, it's fun when you're in the mix. I thought Augusta last year with Patrick winning, I had a chance to make a few more birdies on the back nine there. I thought I hit it to almost gimme on 17. Came up a couple yards short of a perfect number.

I wouldn't say I've necessarily had one in my hands and let it slip away, which is a good thing. But we have to go get ourselves one, because we've been in the position enough times where it could have went the other way.

I think in '14 when I finished top five in all four I had the lowest scoring for the four combined. But that doesn't get you a major. So obviously we can play good enough, but it's about getting those 72 holes and getting the job done.

MIKE TROSTEL: Thank you very much. Best of luck this week.

RICKIE FOWLER: Thank you.

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