Rickie Fowler didn’t qualify for this year’s Masters, but he might have found the next-best option.
He watched the broadcast with Tiger Woods.
Fowler fired an opening round of one-under 70 on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship, his first start in a month. After the round he told reporters about his Masters Week, which included a visit to Woods’ home, just minutes away from Fowler’s on Jupiter Island.
The visit marked the first time Fowler had seen Woods since Woods’ February car crash, which left him in a hospital bed for weeks before he was able to return home.
“Between that and the British Open, those are two tournaments that I love to watch,” Fowler said of the Masters. “Typically I’m in them and I’m watching either the morning or afternoon wave when I’m not playing, so it was a little difference in that sense, being at home.”
Fowler acknowledged that both he and Woods were disappointed not to be playing the event, but he still got plenty out of the experience. Woods, after all, has won five times at Augusta National, most recently in 2019. Fowler has five top-12 finishes in 10 Masters starts, including a runner-up in 2018.
“It was fun to be able to do that, talk about the course. And one of the days, Thursday, we were watching just how firm and fast and such a fine line how Augusta can be. We were both definitely disappointed that we couldn’t be out there to experience it because it’s very few times where you do get to see Augusta that firm and fast.”
Fowler wasn’t the first Tour pro to visit Woods at home. Justin Thomas had gone by several times, and Rory McIlroy had stopped in to see him, too. Both were encouraged by his condition.
“One thing JT told me, he went over pretty much after [Woods] got back from L.A. and JT told me, ‘Honestly, he was a lot better than I expected.’ So that was good to hear.”
When Thomas first went to visit, Woods had to keep his leg elevated to keep the inflammation down. But Woods has since posted a photo on crutches with his dog and other photos have emerged where he’s riding in a golf cart, following his son Charlie on the course.
“It was good to see him,” Fowler said. “Hung out and spent some time with Charlie and [Woods’ daughter] Sam was there for a little bit before she had to go to soccer practice.”
Fowler made it clear that Woods is focused on the big things.
“I think his main focus and concern is getting back to being a dad, go play golf with Charlie, push him around and be able to run around with Sam.”
The photos — and reports from Woods’ friends — are encouraging developments given the severity of his accident. It was just a couple months ago that players were wearing red and black on Sunday at the WGC-Concession to let Woods know they were thinking of him as he recovered post-surgery. Subsequent reports have only made it that much more clear that Woods was fortunate to escape the crash.
“Getting to be around him on a bit more of a personal level and getting to know him, especially over the last really five, six years, you know, we try and push him as hard as we can, but at the same time it’s still pretty cool to get to go hang out and spend time with Tiger,” Fowler said.
Fowler wasn’t in the Masters for an entirely different reason: He has slipped to World No. 116 and failed to qualify for the first time in a decade.
“We were both in the same position,” Fowler said. “Well, I guess not the same. Mine from not playing as well and him being laid up, but same position being that we weren’t there. So yeah, both disappointed that we’re not out there playing. But he’s not lacking any fire in there right now. He never has.”
Fowler, like McIlroy, didn’t rule out some golf in Woods’ future either.
“His golf clubs are right there in the living room,” he said. “And he can stare at them all he wants.”