February 4, 2016
Rickie Fowler's victory two weeks ago at Abu Dhabi has provided more confidence in aggressive play at this week's PGA Phoenix Open and the quest for his first major title.
The 27-year-old Californian has jumped to a career-best fourth in the world rankings after his fourth victory in the past nine months at the European Tour event.
"Getting the win two weeks ago definitely put me in a little bit of a different mindset coming into this year than I have been pretty much all the years before," Fowler said.
"It felt like trying to get off to good starts, getting into contention and trying to get the year going from there. This year is a little different. Feel like I'm able to go out and be a bit more aggressive, play a bit more offensively."
Fowler won the Players Championship, Scottish Open and Deutsche Bank Championship last year.
"A lot more confident as far as coming off four wins in the last nine months," Fowler said. "The game feels great. Towards the end of last year is some of the best I have ever been swinging. I've been playing well, but I know I can keep getting better."
In 2014, Fowler shared second at the US and British Opens, third at the PGA Championship and fifth at the Masters, where he again will seek a major breakthrough in April.
"A major is my main goal right now going forward," Fowler said. "I feel very good off the wins I've had this past year and excited about the majors this year and Augusta just around the corner."
Fowler downplays talk about himself joining reigning Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day of Australia and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy in a new "Big Four" of 20-something stars. But that means winning majors.
"I know with what Rory, Jordan, and Jason have done, they have definitely distanced themselves," Fowler said. "You can see it in the world ranking, in the points there. I am the fourth-ranked player, fourth in line, big four, but I've got a little catching up to do."
But Fowler believes he is ready to make that move in ways he has not been before.
"A big part of it is having the belief and the confidence and knowing that you can do it," he said. "Obviously winning one before, I'm sure the guys have a different feeling being at majors now. I feel like I have won some tournaments with some pretty good fields, the Players arguably the strongest we play.
"I definitely feel like I'm ready. I know I can win in those situations, but we only get four chances a year. If you can get your game to peak at those right times, I don't know if there is a secret remedy or anything for that, but I think a lot of it is just knowing and believing that you can get out and go do it."