(Reuters) – Rickie Fowler knows he is capable of getting into the major championship mix and has what it takes to win a big title after claiming last year’s Players Championship.
“Next step would be winning a major,” American Fowler, 27, told reporters on Tuesday at Oakmont Country Club, site of this week’s U.S. Open.
Fowler finished in the top five at each of the four major championships in 2014 and enjoyed his first multiple victory season on the PGA Tour last year by also claiming victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship in the FedExCup playoffs.
He will be playing his first two rounds at Oakmont with role models for his quest – Masters champion Danny Willett of England and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, winner of four majors.
Rather than be cowed, Fowler said he hoped the grouping would help bring out his best and that McIlroy has been a frequent practice partner.
“I’m really looking forward to playing alongside Rory and Danny. Both of them playing well, Danny coming off the win at the Masters, and Rory has been playing well for quite some time now,” the American said.
“We get to spend some time together. We practised a bit together back home in Jupiter (Florida). We played 18 (holes)this morning. We played nine yesterday. So we’ve seen a lot of each other the past week and more to come.”
Fowler has been going through a rough patch, missing his last two cuts, at the Players and the Memorial tournament, and blamed his putting. In April, he missed the Masters cut after carding 80 and 73 at Augusta National.
“Not the start that I wanted to the majors this year, but we’ve got three ahead of us, and I’m really looking forward to this week,” said the world number five.
“I’ve been putting well the past few years. I feel like I’ve always been a strong putter. To not see putts go in the past few tournaments is tough.”
Fowler called Oakmont’s notoriously fast, sloping greens “some of the craziest greens I’ve ever played”, but hoped his strong ball striking could put him in favorable position on the putting surfaces.
Beyond that, he is hoping to maintain a theme of familiarity and comfort.
“Having my mom, dad, and sister out this week with their two little dogs and staying in a house. So set up a little spot that feels like home for the week, and just out playing another tournament, but it happens to be the U.S. Open,” said Fowler.
“Now I’ve just got to be the one that has the lowest score.”
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)