Golf

Rickie Fowler undecided about LIV Golf, working with mental coach to get him back on track


TULSA, Okla. — Rickie Fowler has been approached by the LIV Golf Invitational Series and remains undecided if he will play on the start-up circuit that is set to debut in June and funded by the Saudi Arabian-financed Public Investment Fund.

“To be straightforward with you guys, I haven’t necessarily made a decision one way or the other,” he said during a press conference ahead of the 104th PGA Championship. “I’ve mentioned in the past, do I currently think that the PGA Tour is the best place to play? I do. Do I think it can be better? Yes.

“So I think it’s an interesting position. Obviously, there’s the LIV and Premier (Golf League), as well. These tours or leagues or whatever – however you want to classify or call them – they wouldn’t really be coming up if they didn’t see that there was more opportunity out there. I’ve always looked at competition being a good thing. It’s the driving force of our game. You know, being able to have games with guys at home, that’s how I always grew up is competing. I think competition ultimately makes people better, whether it’s business, sport.”

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Last week, the PGA Tour denied releases to its members to compete in the debut LIV event at Centurion Golf Club outside of London, June 9-11. Fowler said he thought players would like to know what the consequences would be if they defied the Tour.

“Because if you’re trying to make a decision one way or the other, I know there’s some guys that are probably in a position where the consequence may not matter. They may just be ready to go play and not look back type of thing and see how things come full circle,” he said. “Like I said, it’s an interesting time.”

Fowler, who has slipped to No. 146 in the world and missed the Masters last month for the second straight year, qualified for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills thanks to finishing T-8 at Kiawah a year ago. Fowler, who played his college golf at Oklahoma State, considers this week a homecoming of sorts despite only playing here he figured 15 times.

“This is a special place. We used to come over and play every once in a while, and the membership has always been great to us here. I played the 2009 U.S. Am, but first time back since then,” he said. “Anytime I get to be in Oklahoma, I feel at home.”

Fowler, 33, is making his 13th appearance at the PGA with a career-best of T-3 in 2014. This week marks his 70th career start in a major. Fowler has nine top-10 finishes and for a long time wore the badge of Best Player Never to Win a Major. But he has just one top 10 since Kiawah a year ago (T-3 at the CJ Cup in October). Of being mired in a slump, Fowler said, “it’s been a lot longer road than we’ve wanted it to be.”

“Going through it, it’s never fun,” he added. “ I’ve actually enjoyed it as much as it sucked. I’ve definitely found myself, not that I ever fell out of love with the game or anything like that, but I’ve embraced the grind and the aspect of just taking every day and going out and enjoying it, even though we have been in tough spots.”

The grind he conceded has been taxing mentally, noting it’s been a challenge to build momentum.

“Momentum is really what builds confidence and you can kind of start riding that wave,” he said. “There’s been no swell. I haven’t been able to ride anything.”

Fowler recently started working on the mental side of the game with a third-party expert.

“Instead of it being myself or talking to people on my team or friends, kind of to have a point person and to be able to talk through some things and ultimately simplify the process,” he explained.

But Fowler stopped short of saying who had joined “the team” as his head doctor.

“I don’t know if I should throw names out there or not,” he said. “I won’t mention names yet.”

Was he working with multiple mental coaches?

“I mean, I’m not that messed up,” he said with a smile.



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