With an early-season victory and many birdies, eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler has renewed confidence he can capture a long-awaited first Major title at the Masters this week.
The 28-year-old American, who managed top-five finishes at all four Majors in 2014 without a victory, took his fourth US PGA title five weeks ago in the Honda Classic at PGA National, his first tour win after holding the 54-hole lead following four failures.
"To win that early in the season on that golf course and being out front and closing the deal, it has definitely helped," Fowler said.
"And I think it showed from how well I’ve been swinging the past few weeks and then heading [in] the right direction coming into this week," he said. Fowler, who has never broken 70 more than once in any of his six Masters appearances, shared third place at the Houston Open on Sunday with form that gives him faith his game is exactly where it needs to be.
"I’m making a lot of birdies right now.
"That bodes well around this golf course," Fowler said.
"You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have to settle for bogeys here and there. So having a lot of offence these last two tournaments is something that I want to feed off.
"If I can continue to do that here this week — a lot of birdies, maybe a couple eagles — that’s going to be very good…."
In 2014, Fowler shared fifth at the Masters for his best showing yet at Augusta National.
He also shared second at the US and British opens and third in the PGA Championship. That put Fowler among a select group to finish in the top five in each Major in the same year alongside Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth — but as the only one not to win at least once in doing so.
"I would have liked to have won more.
"I would have liked to have been there in some more Majors. But, hey, it’s tough out here, but I’m enjoying the ride."
That is part of why Fowler said he was underachieving compared to his expectations.
"So far, I would say under. But I would look back and I definitely wouldn’t be disappointed about the career I’ve had," Fowler said.
"And especially with where I’m at right now, and where I feel like my game is going and where it can go," he said. While Fowler had won in South Korea and Abu Dhabi after 54-hole leads, to do so in a US event bolsters his confidence in his shot-making as the Masters looms.
"To hit the shots I needed to at the right time and give myself a cushion to play the last couple [of] holes, it was special," Fowler said.
He found competition the best warm-up for Augusta and very nearly added Houston to his title list.
"It would have been nice to make a couple more putts and be a little closer at the end, but I got a lot out of last week, and that’s really what we wanted to accomplish the week before coming in here," he said.
"The biggest thing for me is making sure I’m committed on every shot. Some bad shots are going to happen, but the more committed [I am] and [the] more I can trust what I’m going to do and believe in it, the better off I’ll be," Fowler said.