AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler’s idea to seek out decorated coach Butch Harmon in December was made specifically to improve his record at the majors and the move has paid instant dividends at the Masters.
The American, one of the poster boys of the PGA Tour with a penchant for flamboyant outfits, produced one of the best rounds of the week on Saturday as he fired a five-under-par 67 for a three-under tally of 213.
Fowler wondered at the end of last year how he could boost his performances in the big four championships and decided to ask Harmon, the former coach of Tiger Woods and the current mentor of Phil Mickelson, to rebuild his swing.
“When I started working with Butch our main goal was to be here right now ready to contend and have a chance to win the Masters,” the 25-year-old told reporters after cramming six birdies into his third round at Augusta National.
“So far, so good. I haven’t had the greatest finishes in majors...and I need to kind of step up and start playing well on the weekends.
“I want to be in contention. I want to be up there to have chances to win and we put ourselves in a great position today so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
However, Fowler said it had not been all plain sailing under Harmon’s tutelage.
“It was really frustrating because I started working with Butch in December and I came out and missed some cuts and people were pointing fingers,” he explained.
“Tee to green I was hitting it as good as I ever have and I was missing putts on Thursdays and Fridays and when you do that you don’t stick around for the weekend, but then the putting turned around.”
Fowler, whose best finish in a major was a tie for fifth at the 2011 British Open, said he was given an added lift when he played alongside triple Masters champion Mickelson in a practice match against Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson at Augusta on Tuesday.
“I think the person I’ve learned the most from here is Phil in terms of where he hits shots from and how he prepares. No one knows the course better than him,” Fowler added.
“It was unfortunate to see him not play well on the first two days,” said Fowler of Mickelson’s failure to make the cut.
“I was swinging well on Tuesday and it definitely freed me up and gave me some confidence going into the week.”
Editing by Gene Cherry