Fowler in position to win first major

Rickie Fowler believes he’s done his homework at Augusta National Golf Club and is ready to win Sunday.

He’s in a prime position – alone in third place, one shot out of the lead held by Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

Fowler, who shot 1-under-par 71 Saturday, is playing in his seventh Masters, but he’s also learned about the course from practice rounds and visits.

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“Getting to play with guys that have played multiple times here,” he said, noting the tips he’s received from three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and winter rounds he had with Augusta National member and Augusta resident Jeff Knox, who is a wizard on the course’s greens.

“The more times you’re around here, the more comfortable you get,” Fowler said. “And even when you get into the tournament, you know what to expect. You know where to play. You know where you can miss it and how to get yourself out of certain situations.”

Fowler is one of eight players within five shots of the lead.

“I think it’s going to be a long, hard‑fought day,” he said.

Some of the challengers said after their rounds Saturday that they would have to put it all on the line and play aggressively today.

“You still have to be patient,” Fowler said. “You can’t really try and get too much out of this golf course. But with that being said, even when you’re playing conservative lines, you still have to execute. You know, you can put yourself in bad positions even trying to play to the safe spot.

“With it being fairly crowded, a handful of guys being within a few shots of the lead, I think it’s going to be tough for someone to really run and distance themselves too much, with the possibilities of what you can do on the back nine.”

A key to staying in touch with the leaders, Fowler said, is getting off to a strong start. He’s done that this week, playing the front nine in 6-under par.

“You have to make sure you’re not putting yourself too far behind, where you can’t make that run on the back nine if you need to, but being in the right position to go put a solid nine holes of golf in on that back nine here, taking advantage of 13 and 15, if you can.”

Fowler said after Friday’s round that he hoped to be in the final pairing in the closing round. As it turned out, he’s in the second-to-last group and he’s drawn good friend Jordan Spieth, who is two shots off the lead, as his playing partner.

“I think it’s a really good thing,” Fowler said. “He and I could potentially get off to a good start and we could really push each other. We’ll try and pull the best out of one another. It’s always fun when you’re playing with one of your good buddies.”

Fowler has four PGA Tour titles, including the Players Championship in 2015 and the Honda Classic in late February this year.

His best finish in majors came in 2014, when he finished tied for second in both the U.S. Open and the British Open.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. This is by far the best I’ve felt in a major.”