Rickie Fowler trying to find some magic in Orlando after rankings fall

The American has slipped down the world rankings but there are some signs of encouragement as he prepares to tee it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida

With The Masters just over a month away, Rickie Fowler is in danger of missing the Augusta National showpiece for the first time since in his career.

The American first made the drive up Magnolia Lane in 2011 and finished in a tie for 38th. Since then, he's reeled off five top 12 finishes. That includes being runner-up to Patrick Reed in 2018, his closest brush with a Major victory.

Augusta is a course he's always played well and Fowler added to that belief with tied ninth in 2019 and tied 29th in 2020.

But to qualify for this year's renewal, Fowler needs a win or to be in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings. As it stands, he's coming up short on both fronts.

Ahead of Arnie's event at Bay Hill, the 32-year-old is only 65th having fallen out of the top 50 shortly after November's Masters.

That's some drop for a player who was once ranked in the top four.

The reason for the slide is a miserable 2020 when Fowler tried to implement swing changes. He'd ended 2019 ranked 23rd but 2020 was miserable with four times as many missed cuts (eight) as top 10s (two).

Although the Californian missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, there have been some more positive signs.

He was tied 21st at The American Express Championship in January and, on his latest start, tied 20th in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera where he finished with a best-of-the-week 67.

Now he gets a home game as Bay Hill is a short hop from his Florida base in Jupiter Island.

He's performed strongly there down the years. Fowler was third in 2013 while he's cracked the top 20 in three of his last four visits. That includes tied 18th in his troubled 2020.

For this week's event, Fowler is 66/1 with Paddy Power to win the tournament and also 66s to hit the ground running by leading after round one. Both look interesting bets.

And while he's not yet in the field for The Masters, the bookies expect him to be there. He's quoted by all the major firms, with bet365 offering Fowler as big as 90/1 to win The Green Jacket.

So, as Fowler prepares to tee it up again at Bay Hill, here's what he had to say to the press ahead of the tournament. It seems things are going in the right direction again.

On how he would describe the 'grind' of finding his way out of a slump

"It's golf. Everyone that's played really at all, especially at some sort of a high level completely understands that golf is up and down. You take advantage of the times where you're playing well and ride those out, because you know that it's not always going to be that way, there are times where it's going to go down and you're going to have to fight through it.

"Unfortunately, this one's been a little longer than I would like it to have been, but, yeah, we're grinding through it. A lot of it I would say is more just on the mental side now, just getting back and playing as much as possible to just get the reps in. It's a matter of time. We'll just keep kicking the darn door and she'll fall."

On getting back into the world's top 50

"Yeah, I mean that's the short-term goal. Honestly, I hadn't really looked at rankings this year, really. I mean, I knew I wasn't inside the top 50, I didn't know exactly where I was, it wasn't necessarily something where I was calculating or saying, I need to do this to get back to here. It's play golf.

Fowler is showing signs of a return to form
Fowler is showing signs of a return to form

"Finished off with a nice round on Sunday in L.A. (Riviera), which could have been a lot better, but things are starting to head the right way. Like I said, it's just been a bit slower than I would have liked it to be but, yeah, short-term goal, get back inside the top 50 and get this car started back up and get running."

On the frustration of not returning to form quicker

"It's very frustrating. It's made it at times tough between (caddie) Joe (Skovron) and I on the course. We have a great relationship, we have known each other for a long time, but when I'm out there and I'm not hitting shots that I'm visualizing and seeing, it's hard.

"It's tough for all of us that are involved, from my caddie, to my wife, she's having to deal with me at home. I'm trying to be the best husband that I can, not bringing golf back home. But when you're out on the road that long and on the grind, putting in the work at home - it's pretty much been all golf. A lot of people have asked, have you been able to fish much at home? Not really, the days that I have off I just take completely off and it's been workout, therapy and golf.

"So, yeah, everyone that's part of my team from (swing) coach (John) Tillery - I haven't really seen my agent a whole lot with the restrictions and them not being able to travel - but my trainer, we're all in this together and we're going to keep battling it out, but, yeah, it's been frustrating, I'm ready to be past that."

On what this week's tournament means to him

"I mean, the API or the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it's just a special week. I mean, obviously it was even more special, I think, having Arnie around and people getting to see him and be around and spend time with him.

"I was fortunate enough to get a lot of time with him over the years. But now to be able to kind of, not that he needed any help to carry on the legacy, but to help raise money for the foundation through with Puma and creating some cool collections for the event, to be here to play at a course that I've had success at, great memories. Won a junior tournament here back in the day.

"Yeah, just put it all together, it's just a good, fun week. From playing junior amateur golf with Sam Saunders (Arnie's grandson) and being involved with the family, like I said, and now, like really doing stuff with the foundation to make a difference, it's, I mean, the least we could do."

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