DUBAI (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler was golf’s nearly man in 2014 as Rory McIlroy re-established himself as the sport’s top player, but the American is confident last year’s consistency can help him challenge his friend and rival this season.
Fowler finished two shots adrift of McIlroy at the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman winning both to take his career majors tally to four, while the Californian was also joint-fifth at the U.S. Masters and joint-second at the U.S. Open.
Fowler had a combined score of 32 below par for 2014’s four majors – five shots better than McIlroy – yet he is still searching for a first tournament win since 2012’s Wells Fargo Championship, his solitary U.S. tour victory.
That record compares unfavorably with world number one McIlroy, who is five months his junior.
“I don’t feel like my game is any weaker than his,” Fowler, 26, told a news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which begins on Thursday.
”I feel I’ve putted better than he did through the summer last year. He has strengths that maybe outweigh mine: when he is on top of his driving game he is very tough to beat and he drove it well through the summer. I think it frees up the rest of his game to play some fairly effortless golf.
“I’m looking forward to 2015, having some great match‑ups with him.”
Fowler’s consistency led him to break into the world top 10 for the first time in September and he hopes to become a household name outside the United States.
“I want to play different parts of the world and become more of a global player,” said Fowler ahead of his Abu Dhabi debut.
Fowler was part of the U.S. team humbled at last year’s Ryder Cup, with Europe’s five-point victory – the continent’s eighth victory in 10 competitions - prompting the PGA to form a task force to see how the U.S. can improve.
“Their main goal is to have more players involved in the process and feeling like we field the team together as one,” added Fowler.
”In the final year leading up, I don’t think you can really over‑prepare as far as spending time as a team...because if you go into that week without any kind of preparation and just go ‘you’re going to play with this guy’, it’s hit‑or‑miss.”
Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Alan Baldwin