Former Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler is ready for a “fun ride” in this season’s majors, believing he’s making enough birdies to be in the Masters mix this week.
The 28-year-old American was golf’s nearly man three years ago, finishing second in both the US Open and The Open, third in the US PGA and fifth in this event.
He’s struggled since then in the game’s biggest events, but is feeling upbeat about them this season, having received a timely confidence boost with a Honda Classic victory in the build up to the Green Jacket battle.
“It’s been a nice start to the year,” declared Fowler, who, of course, claimed his Scottish Open triumph at Gullane in 2015. “I’m making a lot of birdies right now, and that bodes well around this golf course.
“You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have to settle for bogeys here and there and, in the past couple of tournaments, I have allowed myself to overcome mistakes and bogeys.
“Having a lot of offence is something that I want to feed off of and, if I can continue to make a lot of birdies, maybe a couple eagles in there as well, that’s going to be very good around here.”
Fowler missed the cut in this event 12 months ago – the first time that had happened to him in six appearances. He’s determined it won’t happen again.
“Last year was tough,” he admitted. “I just made some dumb mistakes that easily could have been avoided. I know this golf course too well now to really make those mistakes.
“I really kind of had to kick myself in the butt because I should have been playing on the weekend even with making a couple mistakes.
“I just happened to kind of compound them and take myself out from being able to have a chance to go into the weekend and play well. It’s kind of live and learn. Hopefully that’s something that doesn’t happen again.”
Having chalked up seven professional victories worldwide, including four PGA Tour title triumphs, Fowler is happy with what he’s achieved in his career so far. He’s getting to the stage, though, where questions are being asked if he’s got the game to become a major champion.
“I would say under,” he replied to being asked to rate his accomplishments to date. “But I definitely wouldn’t be disappointed about the career I’ve had, especially with where I’m at right now, and where I feel like the game is going and where it can go.
“You know, this starts the season, and I’m ready for a fun ride coming in. Yeah, I would have liked to have won more. I would have liked to have been there in some more majors like I was in 2014. But, hey, it’s tough out here.”
A tough test certainly lies in store in the 81st staging of the Masters, with the first and second rounds set to be played in winds gusting up to 35mph on Thursday and Friday.
“The forecast keeps changing every day and it seems to be getting worse,” said Scottish No.1 Russell Knox after playing nine holes on the first official practice day.
“Last year, it was pretty windy on the Thursday and Friday and it looks as though it is going to be that way again this year.
“If it’s going to be that windy, it is going to be hard, really hard, but I think I learned a lot from last year of how tricky the course can play. If the conditions are similar, then I should be able to put last year’s experience to good use.”
Both Knox and Sandy Lyle, the only other Scot in the field, put their work in before thunderstorms and a tornado disrupted preparations and led patrons to twice being evacuated from the course.
“I was meant to get in today and practise in the afternoon, but I changed my travel plans to get in last night due to the weather forecast and I was able to get nine holes in this morning,”added Knox, smiling.