There’s no question Rickie Fowler came of age in 2014. Unfairly billed as l’enfant terrible of US golf, more concerned with fashion than fairways, the 25-year-old responded with his most consistent season, including top-five finishes in each of the major tournaments, a place in the world’s top 10 and a go-to role in the US Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles. More importantly, he looked the player most likely to challenge the growing supremacy of Rory McIlroy.
Esquire spoke to Fowler at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at the start of the year, convincing us that 2015 will be the year he adds his name to the list of golf’s major winners.
What do you know about golf in the region? What are your thoughts on the courses and set-ups here?
I have never played in the Middle East during this stretch on the calendar so I am not completely certain what to expect. From what I hear from the American guys, I see it handling similar to the US: quick greens and thick rough off the fairway. I look forward to finding out.
After twice coming so close in majors in 2014 are you confident you can land one in 2015? Which of the four offers the best chance?
I’m really proud of what I achieved in 2014. I pushed the likes of Rory McIlroy really close at The Open and the US PGA, so I know I’m close to winning something. I just need to keep focusing on my game, keep improving and use the experience I have gained to go one better in 2015. It’s hard to single out one that offers me the best chance, but I have played well at a couple of Open Championships and feel comfortable on links courses. At St Andrews in 2010, I closed out with a 67 in tricky conditions so I am excited to be heading back there this season.
You had a rough-ish start to 2014, with a few missed cuts in May and June, before enjoying a string of top-10 finishes. Did you change anything or did you just peak at the right tournaments?
I think it is a bit of both, because I had been doing a lot of hard work on the range with my coach, Butch Harmon, to try and make me more consistent. By the time the majors came around I felt pretty comfortable, so you could say that it was good preparation and timing.
You’re currently ninth in the world rankings. Is that something you look at?
It’s hard not to because it is a good indicator of how you’re playing in relation to your competition. But I think most players are trying to play well and win as often as possible and if you do that the rankings will take care of themselves.
You’re known for your on-course style and your relationship with Puma. Do you have input into your designs, and will the hair stay under control?
When I started out, I wore orange to support the fact that I went to Oklahoma State, but as a rule Puma gave me the clothes and I put together the outfits. Now, we’re working more in-depth and I have some input as they’re designing. As for the hair, the Ryder Cup haircut was a one-time thing to get some team spirit going, but I think you’ll see it a little more under control this year!
What does time off look like? We know you’re an expert motocross rider?
I focused a lot on motocross until I broke three bones in my foot, which stopped me taking it so seriously, but I still love to go out on my bike when I get chance. Recently I went cliff diving with my fellow Red Bull Ambassador, David Colturi, and that was an amazing experience.