Rickie Fowler technically may be in Austin, Texas, but he has Georgia on his mind.
Augusta, Georgia, that is.
“We are here to basically try and get ourselves back in Augusta,” Fowler said Tuesday during a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club.
Fowler, 34, has made 10 career starts at the Masters, including finishing second in 2018, but hasn’t played in the first major of the year since 2020. Time is running out to earn an invite for the 87th Masters, which begins April 6.
Fowler, who ended 2021 ranked No. 103 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has climbed to No. 59 on the back of three top 10s so far this season and is coming off a tie for 13th at the Players Championship. The top 50 in the OWGR after this week automatically qualify for the Masters. That’s one of the primary reasons Fowler is back at Austin Country Club for the first time since 2016.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of the group format,” explained Fowler of the round-robin group play, which begins Wednesday and was instituted in 2016. “I loved the 64, just knock out. You knew exactly what you were getting into. But we are here to basically try and get ourselves back in Augusta.”
During the press conference, Fowler was informed making it to the quarterfinals would give him a good shot of vaulting into the top 50 again.
“I knew I needed to come here and play well. I wasn’t sure of exactly what I needed to do. The nice thing with the kind of world rankings and what’s coming off, really, anything I do that puts points on the board is only going to move me up from here moving forward,” Fowler said. “So, yeah, I mean, my short-term goal is to obviously get myself back in Augusta. If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to continue to move forward.”
Fowler will have his work cut out for him to advance out of his four-man pod. As the No. 49 seed, he’s been grouped with No. 2 Jon Rahm, winner of three tournaments this season, No. 22 Billy Horschel, who won this event in Austin in 2021, and No. 39 Keith Mitchell, who has been showing good form with two top-5 finishes in his last five starts. The player with the most points in each group advances to the Round of 16 (ties broken by sudden-death playoff) and a single-elimination tournament on Saturday and Sunday determines the match-play champion. Fowler certainly will have to survive group play and then win at least his next match.
Top 50 #OWGR projection for #TheMasters qualification. As you can see, all the hopefuls (in white, not yet qualified for the Masters) who are at the @DellMatchPlay, will need to get out of the group stage and all but one will need to make the QF stage at least! pic.twitter.com/EBTZkv7i72
— Nosferatu (@VC606) March 20, 2023
Fowler confirmed that if he didn’t sneak into the top 50 this week that he would head to San Antonio and the last-chance saloon that is the Valero Texas Open. The winner of next week’s Tour stop, if not already exempt, receives the last spot in the Masters field.
“I’m committed and planning on playing there,” Fowler said. “If I do play well enough, we’ll kind of maybe reconsider and see where we’re at. But, yeah, kind of doing whatever I need to do to give myself the best chance to be in Augusta.”