MORE INTERVIEWS: Hyundai Tournament of Champions transcript archive
JOHN BUSH: We welcome Rickie Fowler to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after his win last year at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Welcome to Kapalua. I know you've been here for a few days hanging out with some of your Red Bull friends. Talk about this island and what it means to you and this week in particular.
RICKIE FOWLER: Yeah, it's been fun. It's actually my second trip. I don't remember my first one. I think I was like three or something. So first real trip to Maui.
Yeah, like you said, been hanging out with a couple of my Red Bull buddies, Ian Walsh and Kyle Lenny live just outside Pe'ahi by Jaws and hung out there a little bit, planning to go back over there next week after the event and just enjoying some time on the island, getting used to the life over here.
Today was I think my third round of golf since I've been here, so been kind of balancing fun and golf at the same time, so enjoying it for sure and looking forward to getting things started tomorrow.
JOHN BUSH: Recap your 2012 season for us and your goals for this year.
RICKIE FOWLER: Got off to a so‑so start, had a good finish at San Diego, ended up playing well in May. Had some really good finishes and got my first win which was awesome. Then it may have looked kind of funny after that, I was keeping a secret for a while playing injured. Was trying to do my best to get through. Wanted to make it through to THE TOUR Championship, which I did.
Then was obviously working towards The Ryder Cup. Fell a little short there. But took some time off, rehab, definitely heading the right direction. Still not 100 percent but had a good week at Tiger's event. Felt like I was swinging well and played well there and just feels good to be back in competition.
And after the two‑month break I had, kind of fueled the fire a little bit to come back out and makes you want to play and compete more.
Q. How would you describe the injury to my readers who went to Harvard medical school?
RICKIE FOWLER: I had inflamed joints on both SI's, actually, the left and the right, and L‑4, L‑5, left facets.
Q. Can you repeat that?
RICKIE FOWLER: The SI joints, which are kind of low back in your hips.
RICKIE FOWLER: Inflamed, yeah, swollen. They were p----d off at me.
Some of it, I kind of got into some bad habits through the guys at TPI, looking at my 3D. If you look at kind of your posture when you set up and when I was getting into my backswing, two years ago my back, if anything, my backbend went forward at the top of my backswing and I was actually going the other way. It was only a difference in like five degrees. That's what was causing some of the pain.
It was a difference of five degrees, but it was more that it had gone from either staying in posture or forward to kind of bending backwards, which doesn't really work well in the low back.
So worked on some fundamentals in the golf swing, not changing anything, but just making sure we are not using the low back as much.
Q. Would you have seen that if you had got in earlier?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm sure it's something that could have been monitored. It was just, you know, bad habits over time. If you don't work on your alignment on a day‑to‑day or week‑to‑week basis, your eyes start to go one way and you start to compensate, and two weeks, three weeks down the road, you're aimed left but it feels like you're aimed right.
So it's just little things, but checkups that we'll definitely be on top of. I'll probably be making a visit to TPI in the next few weeks just to Monday or and make sure we're heading in the right direction.
Q. If not for an injury, what's the longest you can imagine taking off?
RICKIE FOWLER: It depends on what kind of stuff I have to do, if I had‑‑ if I was around fun things, I could take a little bit of time off. But I love to compete. I love the game. So I wouldn't be able to stay away very long.
Q. When did you start feeling that, and why did you keep playing through it? Chasing The Ryder Cup?
RICKIE FOWLER: Really started feeling it ‑‑ I've always had a little bit of low back, not pain or issues or anything like that, but just minor things here and there, just the way I swing. I put a lot of stress on my body and with working with my trainer, Coach Noss, we've always‑‑ everything has always been injury prevention and making sure that we are strong enough and making sure the body is healthy.
Just got into a couple bad habits that got away from us a little bit but started feeling it kind of U.S. Open. I had a month off there between that and the British. British was not fun with how I felt.
Obviously I love playing over there and snuck it around a little bit. But I had some time off. I wasn't‑‑ and I definitely wanted to play through the Playoffs, and I was in a good position to make it to THE TOUR Championship, which was one of my goals coming into the year.
So it was something that it wasn't, I guess a really bad injury that I had to think about not playing. It was something with basically like having a bruise somewhere. It's going to hurt if you hit it or bump up against something but wasn't like I could really hurt it any worse. So took some pills and played through it and tried to figure it out in the off‑season.
Q. So are you 100 percent this week?
RICKIE FOWLER: I'm not 100 percent, yet. I'm definitely working towards that. But with everything that I've always done, enjoying riding and stuff like that, I don't exactly‑‑ I'm not always 100 percent. I like to have fun and I've always found a way to hit the golf ball.
No, I'm definitely working with my trainers, my physical guys, to get to 100 percent here soon. But no, not 100 percent yet, but soon.
Q. Can you talk about some of your goals for 2013, both golf and non‑golf related?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, since we are here, on the course, I definitely want to make sure I'm ready to play every time that I tee it up. I want to be in contention more often and work towards having a multiple‑win season. Finally got the first one out of the way, so started trying to pick off a few more from there.
Off the course, definitely want to grow my brand and my fan base and work with charity. So work on kind of growing the off‑course a little bit more. And hopefully free my mind up to keep playing well.
Q. With the increasingly compressed schedule, how hard is it to find enough time to recharge?
RICKIE FOWLER: It is tough because, you know, we have a short season this year, just through September. Luckily I'm in a good position where I get to kind of pick and choose where I want to play. I will have some times where I'll take more than a week off leading up to events or in between.
Just to be able to allow for some free time for myself but also have other off‑course obligations with sponsors and stuff like that, so usually when you take two weeks off, there's some sponsor obligations in there, as well.
So with two weeks off, usually try and get five or six days in there where I get to recharge a little bit. So sometimes a week just isn't enough.
Q. Sort of a two‑part question, there's been some talk about some of the players not being here, and possibly moving it back to Southern California. I mean, do you think that more players would show up if we did that? And is there a time that you would envision missing or skipping this tournament?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I wouldn't think of skipping it any time soon. I definitely take it‑‑ well, I've always dreamed of playing the Tournament of Champions, even when it was at LaCosta and in SoCal.
But being over here, it's cool to come to Maui, talking about all the stuff I've done so far and what I will be doing, definitely gives me the motivation to win this year so I can come back.
As far as moving it and stuff like, that moving it to California, if more guys will play ‑‑ I'm not sure. I don't think where it is really dictates on who comes or who doesn't. I think kind of timing and scheduling probably has more of an impact.
But I think with it being here at Maui, a lot of the guys that do come, families or not, they definitely enjoy coming because it is here in Maui.
Q. Are you tempted to hurt yourself with all of the island activities?
RICKIE FOWLER: I don't know if I'm tempted to hurt myself but I do take risks.
Q. Do you do things in which you might hurt yourself?
RICKIE FOWLER: Of course, why not? Well, I'm holding off on surfing until next week. Ian is going to take me out and put me on some mellow stuff.
Q. What types of things, would you say?
RICKIE FOWLER: Jumping off a cliff house, mountain bike riding. Nothing I don't do on a daily basis, though.
Q. How big is the cliff house?
RICKIE FOWLER: Just a 30‑foot jump‑‑
Q. Over what?
RICKIE FOWLER: Water‑‑ it's deeper than the pool I jumped into at PGA.
Q. What pleased you about your game last year, and winning, how much of a relief was that?
RICKIE FOWLER: You guys stopped asking me about my first win.
No, it was big for me to get my first win here on the PGA TOUR. Obviously won the year before in Korea and it was nice to get my first win as a pro. But to get the first one on the PGA TOUR to solidify myself as a PGA TOUR winner‑‑ through the year, I felt like I was better around the greens, ball‑striking was better than the year before.
But still improving. I felt like I drove the ball a lot better and put myself in the short grass a lot more often, which kind of freed me up, instead of trying to hack it up by the green and getting up‑and‑down more times than I needed to.
Just a little bit more consistent and feeling more comfortable each year being that I've had more rounds at all the courses, getting used to and feeling more at home on all the courses since I've actually had more than ten rounds or so at each one now.
Q. Going back to Quail Hollow, you and Rory have a lot of similar ties, age, relationship, appeal, the whole nine yards, there could be the making of a nice rivalry there, but from what he did, say, August, onward, does the difference gap, whatever you want to call it from him, seem far away, and how do you make that up?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I'm definitely a few wins behind him, a couple majors.
But no, definitely I look forward to playing against Rory for a long time. I hope that I can catch him at some point. You know, he's the No. 1 player in the world right now for a reason. He's played the best, hands‑down, in the last two years. Obviously there's been a few guys that have been consistent and played pretty well like Luke, Lee, Tiger. But no, I've got plenty of time to catch him, but he's a step ahead of me right now.
Q. It has not been that long since the Nationwide event where you had your PUMA shoot. A local pro here, David Havens (ph), uses one of your PUMA drivers as an incentive for his junior development program. Talk about growing the fan base and growing the game‑‑ if you had a kid in private, what would you say to him about the game of golf to entice him to play, maybe just the top three connections you would make with a young kid?
RICKIE FOWLER: Well, I'm definitely not going to force someone to play. I always try and make sure that they are enjoying what they are doing, whether it's playing golf or any other sport. Because that's kind of the way my parents went about things, bringing me up.
When I started playing when I was three, it was because I wanted to do it and I always tried to make it fun. I was always around with my buddies at the driving range playing games, chipping contests, putting contests. I definitely try and push kids that way to make sure they are having fun with whatever they are doing, and having their friends be involved and competing against each other, because the competition is definitely the fun part of it.
If you can keep it fun and keep getting better, it makes things a lot easier than sitting on the range for eight hours and just beating a ball one after another.
Q. This golf course, certainly different than most golf courses you'll ever get to play. Can you talk about this course a little bit and what are your thoughts of it?
RICKIE FOWLER: So far, I like it, it's definitely different than what we see week‑to‑week on TOUR. It's definitely a second‑shot golf course, I feel, or you know, whatever your approach is going to be. Off the tee, it's fairly simple. If you're driving it halfway decent, you shouldn't miss many fairways, if not any at all.
No, second shot, for sure, there's a few spots that you cannot hit it on a few greens, or miss short‑sided in a few areas. So just to get the ball in the fairway, you've got to be pretty on top of your iron play, especially in the wind starts blowing.
Q. What's the farthest afield you've received a fan letter, Facebook, fan‑‑ like the most far away, improbable place that someone is a Rickie Fowler fan?
RICKIE FOWLER: I haven't seen a whole lot of the fan mail. I usually get that in bunches, so I go through those as quick as I can.
For the most part, all the stuff is Twitter. I don't know, I feel like I haven't had any random places. I think I did like a little contest a few months back and sent something to Alaska. I feel like there's at least someone everywhere. I feel like it's gotten to a point where I'm pretty well spread throughout the world I feel like.
It's cool to see the growth in Asia, for sure, with my Asian background and playing in Korea and hoping to get over to a few other countries over there, as well. But I feel like that's where I've probably grown the most and seen the most potential for growth.
Q. Hunter said he never envisioned the day where he would play a competitive event in Turkey and yet there you are.
RICKIE FOWLER: I haven't spent much around that area yet. I haven't played much in Europe yet. I definitely want to play more in Asia and more in Australia.
Yeah, it's cool to see the amount of fans when you do show up. Like last year or two years ago when I won in Korea and to see the amount of fans and support that there were there; and to find out that in Seoul, there's like about 11 million people and 3 million are golfers. Just to find out the numbers and how much growth there has been the last ten years, pretty amazing.