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Fowler Discusses Upcoming Season


Though a month away, the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship got rolling Tuesday with a media session to discuss this year's event.

The tournament, won last year by England's Ian Poulter, will be held February 21-27 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, in Marana, Ariz. Dignitaries associated with the first WGC event of the year were on hand, as was Rickie Fowler, now in his second year on the PGA Tour.

Despite not winning in his first season following an All-American stint at Oklahoma State, the 22-year-old proved he was an up-and-coming star with seven top-10 finishes and being named the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

The Anaheim, Calif., native was also a captain's pick on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Though the Americans lost to the Europeans at Celtic Manor, Fowler proved his mettle in his singles match with Italy's Edoardo Molinari, rallying from 4-down with birdies over his final four holes for a halve.

It's only a matter of time before Fowler earns his maiden victory, and he's hoping it happens sooner rather than later this year. Here's what the youngster had to say to reporters during his interview session in Arizona.

WADE DUNAGAN: Good morning, everyone, my name is Wade Dunagan. I'm the director of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship. It's my pleasure to welcome you to our 2011 media day event. We have several individuals that I'd like to introduce. Our speakers this morning, first of all, Mr. Gary Beckner, senior director global event marketing for Accenture, Mr. John Miller, the tournament chairman for the Tucson Conquistadores, and I'm especially excited to have our 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year with us today, please welcome Mr. Rickie Fowler.

Couple of other people in the room, Mayor Honea, I haven't seen quite yet, but he'll be here momentarily. We also have several members of the council from the town of Marana. Thank you for being with us today. We have Mr. David Mehl, his ownership for the Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, thank you. We have Mr. Allan Federer, the general manager of the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. And I'd also like to introduce Mr. Troy Little, the president of the Tucson Conquistadores, and Ms. Judy McDermott who is the executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores. Like to begin this morning by recognizing and thanking Accenture for their continued support of this event. Having a first class sponsor like Accenture allows our event to be successful in its international reach and impact, and helps us to reach our goals locally, and our commitments to charity.

I'd also like to recognize and thank the Tucson Conquistadors. They're a volunteer group of Tucson businessmen who support our group through sales and leadership, and have contributed over $22 million in hundreds of youth sports organizations, teams, individuals, particularly those serving disadvantaged or handicapped youth. They've been around since 1962, I believe. The golf course is in terrific shape, and the resort is absolutely stunning. I'd like to thank the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain in their extra efforts for preparing for our special world class event that will be seen in over 200 countries all around the globe. I'll tell you that this 2011 event promises to be one of the most exciting tournaments in the history of the event. We've got a number of compelling story lines coming up.

We have the fight for number one in the world with Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, and Phil Mickelson all expected to participate. We can expect this to be a truly international field. Last year we had 18 countries represented with 19 Americans and 45 international players. The Accenture Match Play Championship will once again earn the title of Golf's Global Summit. This season more than ever, you'll see an exciting new breed of players, challenging our established veterans. We'll have players like Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Adam Scott, as well as some standbys with Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, we have our defending champion Ian Poulter, and other local favorites for Arizona like Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. What better place to see this kind of showdown than head-to-head here at the Accenture Match Play Championship? Let's take a minute to watch a brief video as a reminder of what this event's all about.

[Video Playing]

At this time, I'd ask to you welcome Mr. Gary Beckner, senior director global event marketing for Accenture. Mr. Beckner, would you say a few words?

GARY BECKNER: Thank you. I want to thank all of the media that showed up here today. The importance of you being here helping to make this event successful, not only until Tucson Marana, but the state of Arizona, USA and around the globe, we really appreciate your support and the stories you'll be filing for this event. On behalf of Accenture and its 211,000 employees around the world, we really want to thank all the participants in the Accenture Match Play Championship World Golf Championship event. Specifically the International Federations of PGA Tours, the city of Marana and Tucson, and the state of Arizona, the Conquistadores who do an absolutely outstanding job in marketing this organization to the community and help raising the funds for the many needy charity organizations.

The Ritz Carlton development and organization and club who provide such great facilities not only for the golf course, but for all the players and -- for the golf course itself, but also all the players and all the attending people that come in to watch this event from around the world. Also to Rickie Fowler who showed up here today to represent the PGA Tour to assist us in presenting what we feel is a very exciting global event to each and every one of you. So, again, there are a lot of questions that people want to get to Rickie with, so I won't hold us up much longer. I do want to say, again, thank you so much to all of you for attending and covering this event, and to letting the people in the area know that there is something big coming to town a month or so from now. And it's going to be watched by close to half a billion people around the world and, the local people will have an opportunity to see it live. So, again, thank you all for coming. For those playing golf, have a great day, and we look forward to reading some of the exciting articles that you write about the event today. Thank you all so very much.

WADE DUNAGAN: Thank you, Gary. The Tucson Conquistadores have been the heart and soul of this event. Without their dedicated service, this event would not have the charitable reach it does in Southern Arizona. Please welcome Mr. John Miller, tournament chairman for the Tucson Conquistadores.

JOHN MILLER: Thank you. On behalf of the Active Life and senior members of the Tucson on Conquistadores I'd like to welcome all of you to beautiful Marana, Arizona, today. I also want to thank you, Gary, for Accenture's long-term gifts to the game of golf and to this event in particular. Without you, this wouldn't be possible, so thank you. Of course, I'd like to thank the PGA Tour and their staff here in Tucson. It's a great pleasure putting on such a world class event and working with you people. So thank you again.

Right now our members are busy organizing the over 700 volunteers that come out to help us put this tournament on every year. These folks are mostly from Southern Arizona, and their zest and zeal for this event is really quite unmatched. They sign up early, they come out early every day, and they're really a great testament to the passion that Southern Arizona has for this game. Also, our members are busy selling ticket packages to the event. Again, Southern Arizona has embraced this tournament. For that, we're very appreciative, and I'm happy to say that the ticket sales are up this year, so we thank all of Southern Arizona. All of the ticket proceeds that come out of this tournament go to fund our many charities. For the past 49 years, the Tucson Conquistadores have funded large things and small, whether it be a uniform for a child that couldn't afford it or possibly a baseball glove, all the way up to huge things like gymnasiums for the Boys and Girls Club or a baseball diamond for the Special Olympics.

It's what we do. It's what we're in business for, and it's not possible without this event. So, again, we thank you. Also, we just recently dedicated our clubhouse at the First Tee of Arizona, which we built and now operate, and we're happy to give back to the game of golf in that way as well. In recognition of our efforts, I'm proud to say that we were recently honored by an award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. We were awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Award for this year, and we were extremely honored and humbled to receive it. It's a little bit of recognition for our work. Finally, I hope you all enjoy your round. It should be about 80 today as opposed to the 39 and sleeting that it is in New York City. So enjoy yourselves and thank you.

WADE DUNAGAN: Thanks. And, again, congratulations to all the Conquistadores on the award. Now it's my pleasure to introduce our special guest today. I'm not going to ask you to come up yet, but Rickie recorded seven Top 10 finishes in 2010, including one of his two runner-up finishes just up the road in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He finished inside the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list, qualifying for the Masters and the U.S. Open.

Rickie was a captain's pick for the United States Ryder Cup team, and responded with an electric performance against Edoardo Molinari, posting birdies on the final four holes to come back from four down to have the match. You're already hearing a lot this season about the crop of young talented players, and Rickie is certainly part of this group. In fact, before we turn things over to our guest of honor, let's take a minute to watch a short video of one of the new PGA Tour commercials that features Ricky as one of the new up and coming challengers. With that, please join me in welcoming the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Mr. Rickie Fowler. Rickie, we certainly appreciate you taking time from your schedule to join us today. I understand that you arrived on Sunday, and I hope you've enjoyed the hospitality here at the Ritz Carlton.

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's fit into my schedule that I was able to come out a little early instead of flying out to California and back out here. So I decided to come out, see the course a bit, hang out at the Ritz Carlton, and it's been a nice couple of days. Relaxing, the hospitality's been awesome both at the hotel and down here at the golf course. It's been a perfect stay. It's nice to go home to my family, but it's kind of hard to leave a nice, relaxing vacation spot like this.

WADE DUNAGAN: Glad you could make it early. Could you open with a couple of comments about your expectations as you start your season, I believe, next week at Torrey Pines?

RICKIE FOWLER: My expectations this year are to continue playing well. I had a great rookie year, and a had a lost fun getting my feet wet on the PGA Tour, kind of just getting my career started. So I want to keep playing well. I want to get my first win out of the way. I want to make my way into the Tour Championship, and I want to play on the Presidents Cup team. So we'll get that all started next week, and hopefully have a good week here in a month's time.

WADE DUNAGAN: I have a feeling that first win's going to come very soon. Mr. Beckner was mentioning that this will be your first Accenture Match Play Championship. Obviously with your Ryder Cup experience, what are you looking forward to in playing this event for the first time, match play?

RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I love match play, although I haven't had as much success as I would like to in match play. Between U.S. Juniors, U.S. Amateurs, Walker Cups and recently the Ryder Cup, match play is pretty exciting. You don't see us play it very much, and for the most part all you're seeing is us playing stroke play. What is pretty cool about this event and what I look forward to is the one-on-one, head-to-head matches. It's do or die. That's what I faced at the Ryder Cup the last four holes. I had to make putts on 17 and 18 that if I don't make putt on 17, I don't go to 18, so you'll see some experiences like that. You heard from Jeff Ogilvie on the video here that you're going to face certain putts throughout each round that you have to make, and it's a mentally draining tournament. It's a lot longer than what we're used to facing. So it's special in its own way, and I look forward to being out here in a few weeks.

WADE DUNAGAN: Because of you, I owe my wife two extra hours of yard work, because I wasn't leaving the television set during the Ryder Cup. So I haven't worked that into my schedule yet, but I'll get it done. Let's open it up for questions, please.

Q. You've had a chance to go around the course a little bit and take a look at it, what are your initial impressions of the golf course, and how does it suit your game?

RICKIE FOWLER: I like the course a lot. I was just able to see the course once. I played nine holes the last two days. I played the back nine first and played the front. I had a lot of fun out there. I was basically just kind of hitting shots and getting to see the course. But there are some long holes and some holes that play a bit short. But I've heard a lot of stories about the greens and how different they are. I look at it as kind of a challenge. They're different than what we're used to seeing, but the greens seem to be sectioned off pretty well to where they may be pretty big, but you're going in a small area. I find it interesting and kind of a fun course. Like I said, with the greens being sectioned off, you're going at small targets which in a way can make it a bit interesting in match play. Maybe a guy has a 50-foot putt, where a guy has about a 40-foot chip, and the guy with the chips in a better situation. The way I looked at it, it looked to be a great match play course, a lot of risk-reward. It's not a very easy course from the looks of it. It's got some length, and I'm looking forward to getting some more time on it and hopefully playing throughout the week of match play.

Q. You're a pretty seasoned young pro. Your background from Oklahoma State and all the things that you've accomplished there obviously helped out. But what did you learn this year, this past year, about yourself and not only your golf game but anything else that might bring you to that next level?

RICKIE FOWLER: I've been asked the same question a few times and kind of the main thing that I've come up with, and one of the main things I've learned this past year is patience. That was key to me playing well in the few events that I did. There were a few events I felt I struggled and patience was probably a part of the reason I did struggle. And match play is going to be a bit of patience out there. They're tough matches and it's a long week. Back to why I said patience, in a normal round or normal tournament you're playing Thursday, Friday Saturday and basically trying to set yourself up for Sunday. The tournament's not won on Thursday or Friday, and you have to be patient and wait for your time. I had a few times this year where I snuck into a good finish Top 5, Top 10, because I was able to hang around the first three days and put up a solid round on Sunday.

Q. I know you're a Southern California guy. Did you grow up going to La Costa? Do you have any history with the tournament at all?

RICKIE FOWLER: I actually did go to La Costa a couple of times. I remember going down there and watching some of the guys play. As a kid I wasn't one of the ones that just loved to go to tournament. I'd much rather go out and play on my own. But there were a few occasions where we'd go down because it's only about an hour from where I grew up. So that was really one of the only tournaments that I spent time going to as a kid.

Q. What do you remember from those tournaments at all?

RICKIE FOWLER: I remember watching the guys. Actually, one of the guys I remember watching a little bit one year was Poulter and getting to know him and be around him a bit this past year has been pretty cool. Obviously he's a great player, and he's one of the best putters I've been around. But seeing him, I remember seeing Corey Pavin was playing a bit then, and being able to play for him on the Ryder Cup was pretty cool. Seeing how everything ties together, the golf community is very small. It's pretty cool to now be playing in the Accenture Match Play.

Q. Guys out here talk every year about some of them change their attitudes out there when it's one-on-one. Do you anticipate that changing or do you just kind of stay the same?

RICKIE FOWLER: Basically, I'm going to stay the same, but my game plan may change. There are certain situations where I may play more aggressive because of the situation with it being match play versus stroke play. I guess there would be a little more risk taking in match play. You don't have to worry about certain consequences of taking an 8 or a 9 if you're trying to make a three. Stroke play you're trying to play more conservative at times. So I think you'll see some interesting plays and some pretty exciting moments coming from the match play this year.

Q. Did you ever find yourself checking the world golf standings to see if you were going to be included in the event?

RICKIE FOWLER: Well, last year if I went out and played really well early on I might have a chance. But I knew I was outside of it a bit. So I went into last year basically just trying to keep my PGA Tour card. We took care of that fairly early in the year, and we went on and moved to different and bigger goals. As I continued to play well, my world ranking kept getting better. Once it was inside the top 40, I would say, I knew I had a pretty good chance of being here this year. I wouldn't say it was one of my immediate goals, but I knew being inside the top 50 is kind of the number you want to be inside of to get into a lot of the big events, a lot of the World Golf Championships. I knew if I was inside that, I would definitely make the top 64 to be here this year.

Q. You've mentioned the World Golf Championships a couple of times. Do the players look at those as being incredibly important as far as career wins or events to play in?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, the players look at the World Golf Championships basically like majors. Obviously you've got the four majors, and bigger PGA Tour events. But when you're looking at the WGCs you're basically planning around those and majors. So, I mean, you almost consider them like majors. Obviously, they aren't the four majors. But the World Golf Championships are the top events you can play other than the majors.

Q. Some of the promotional stuff that the Tour is using on television, like the video, sort of set you up the year as generation against generation. How do you view that being a young guy coming out here? How do you view playing against the older guys? And how well do you think your generation will do this year?

RICKIE FOWLER: It's pretty cool to see the comparisons because those are the guys I grew up watching and they were playing when I was a kid. Having the chance to be able to play against them and possibly beat them at times, it's a pretty cool feeling to be playing against guys like Tiger and Phil and Lee Westwood now. When you go out and you play against the best players in the world, you want to beat them. Doesn't matter about their age. But comparing, the generations coming up, we don't care how old the guys are, we're trying to win. Doesn't matter if a guy's 45 or 22. We're not worrying about age as much as possibly the generations show, but it's pretty cool to be considered part of the new young guns coming out and having a chance to make a difference.

Q. One of the things that obviously stands out about you is your style. You have you a lot of pizzazz with the attire and everything. And the Tour, a lot of it is show biz. How much do you enjoy that show biz aspect of the Tour and standing out because of the way you look and the way you appear?

RICKIE FOWLER: I kept it a bit quiet today (laughing). You know, I'm basically dressing by who I am. I grew up in a motocross background, grew up riding and racing dirt bikes and started playing golf all at the age of three. So I had a bit of a different up bringing than most PGA Tour players these days. I wasn't a member at a private club. I grew up basically hitting balls on the public driving range and playing public courses. I guess I came from just a normal, average, middle-class family. Having the motocross background, I've always had a little different edge to me than most country club golfers, I would say. I've liked to always stand out in my own way. Wear different clothes than most people, and you know, Puma was a great fit for me, as you can see. I mean, the clothes look good, I think. It's been a great fit. They obviously wanted someone that was a bit different and non-traditional, and that's who I am. I don't really have a swing coach. I had one from when I was seven through high school, and I've seen him a handful of times in the past years. I'm actually look forward to seeing him tomorrow morning. But it's just who I am. The way of standing out, wearing the bright clothes, it's a way for me to stand out a bit and have fun with that.

Q. You painted your garage orange, right? Did I hear you say that?

RICKIE FOWLER: My garage is orange, and it looks good (laughing).

Q. Do the neighbors say it looks good?

RICKIE FOWLER: They can't really see it. It's tucked away. Maybe they'll catch a glimpse of it. It's pretty bright.

Q. I've heard you answer the question a few times in the last couple of days. Talk about Twitter and your relationship with your fans and ability to interact with them through social media?

RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, Twitter and all the other social media networks, I think it's been great for the PGA Tour, for the players, for the media, for celebrities, anyone that's kind of wants to make a difference. It's been great for me just because my fans are able to see me in a little bit different way than just seeing me on TV, on the course in that aspect of life. They're able to see me and Bubba Watson mess around on our free time, and mess around on our scooters at the PGA Championship or go out to dinner or go get ice cream or just traditional locker room talk back and forth. They're able to see a different side of the PGA Tour players. I think it's great. It makes them feel like they get to know us a little bit better. It also, I think, grows their interest in the game.

WADE DUNAGAN: Thank you very much for joining us today. All the best the next couple of weeks, and we look forward to seeing you next month at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

RICKIE FOWLER: Thank you.

WADE DUNAGAN: Last month we announced the 2010 Accenture Match Play Championship raised more than a million dollars for local charities and it's raised $6.2 million since moving to Tucson in 2007. Thanks to the support of Accenture, the Tucson Conquistadores, and the fans in the community. That is what makes golf so special. We need everyone's help in this room to remind all of our fans that with their support and attendance at this event, they are directly supporting the local charities of the Tucson Conquistadores in Southern Arizona. Like to thank all of you for joining us today as well. If you'd like to arrange any one-on-one interviews, please see Mr. Chris Reimer with the PGA Tour, and we'll take care of that after this conference. With that, we'll see you all again next month at the 2011 Accenture Match Play Championship. Thank you all.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.