Augusta - With an early season victory and plenty of birdies, eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler has renewed confidence he can capture a long-awaited first major title this week at the Masters.
The 28-year-old American, who managed top-five finishes at all four majors in 2014 without a victory, took his fourth PGA title five weeks ago in the Honda Classic at PGA National, his first tour win after holding the 54-hole lead following four prior failures.
"To win that early in the season on that golf course, and being out front and closing the deal, it has definitely helped," Fowler said on Monday.
"And I think it showed from how well I've been swinging the past few weeks and then heading the right direction coming into this week."
Fowler, who has never broken 70 more than once in any of his six Masters appearances, shared third at the Houston Open on Sunday with form that gives him faith his game is exactly where it needs to be.
"I'm making a lot of birdies right now and that bodes well around this golf course," Fowler said. "You're going to make mistakes. You're going to have to settle for bogeys here and there.
"So having a lot of offense these last two tournaments is something that I want to feed off and if I can continue to do that here this week - a lot of birdies, maybe a couple eagles in there - that's going to be something that's going to be very good around here."
In 2014, Fowler shared fifth at the Masters for his best showing yet at Augusta National. He also shared second at the US and British Opens and third in the PGA Championship.
That put Fowler among a select group to finish in the top five in each major in the same year alongside Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth - but as the only one not to win at least once in doing so.
"Yeah, I would have liked to have won more. I would have liked to have been there in some more majors. But, hey, it's tough out here, but I'm enjoying the ride."
That's part of why Fowler said he is underachieving compared to his expectations.
"So far, I would say under. But I would look back and I definitely wouldn't be disappointed about the career I've had," Fowler said. "And especially with where I'm at right now, and where I feel like my game is going and where it can go."
And while Fowler had won in South Korea and Abu Dhabi after 54-hole leads, to do so in a US event bolsters his confidence in his shotmaking as the Masters looms.
"To hit the shots I needed to at the right time and give myself a cushion to play the last couple holes, it was special," he said.
Fowler found competition the best warm-up for Augusta and nearly added Houston to his title list.
"It would have been nice to make a couple more putts and be a little closer at the end, but I got a lot out of last week, and that's really what we wanted to accomplish the week before coming in here," he said.
"The biggest thing for me is making sure I'm committed on every shot. Some bad shots are going to happen, but the more committed and more I can trust what I'm going to do and believe in it, the better off I'll be."