Rickie Fowler believes he still has room for improvement as he targets a first major title and becoming world number one following his success in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday.
After completing a flawless 65 in the delayed third round on Sunday morning, Fowler carded a closing 69 to finish a shot ahead of Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, with Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson a stroke further back in third.
The victory lifted Fowler to a career-high fourth in the rankings but the 27-year-old does not intend to rest on his laurels after winning in the first four months of the year for the first time in his career.
“The ultimate goal this year is to go win a major and this is a step in the right direction for sure,” said Fowler, who crucially holed a bunker shot for an eagle on the eighth after a double bogey on the previous hole.
“It’s nice to have the game where it’s at right now going into the season, instead of trying to work on things and trying to find stuff.
“Right now I can go and fine tune and really build ultimately for Augusta. This is really the first time in my career I’ve had this feeling about my game and where it’s at.”
The so-called “Big Three” of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and McIlroy have won five of the last six majors between them and Fowler reiterated that he needs one of his own to make it a “Big Four.”
“I’d like to jump in and be a part of that crew,” added Fowler, who has now won four times in eight months, starting with the Players Championship at Sawgrass last May in the same week he and Ian Poulter were voted the most overrated players by their peers in an anonymous survey conducted by Sports Illustrated.
“They are the three highest-ranked players in the world. There’s no way around that and the three of them have played amazing. I want to be a part of the crew. We’ve got to take care of a major and then maybe I can join.
“I’ve got my sights set on being number one. That would be the ultimate goal, but I’m up against some pretty tough competition.”
McIlroy, who has now finished runner-up four times and third once in the last six years in Abu Dhabi, was left to rue a poor finish to his third round and the start of the fourth.
“It seems like this could be the tournament that I just can’t quite master,” said McIlroy, who would have moved up to world number two if Pieters had not birdied the 18th. “There was an 18-hole stretch I played in one over and in a tournament like this, you just can’t do that.”
World number one Spieth finished three shots behind McIlroy in a tie for fifth and admitted his recent globetrotting schedule had taken its toll, even at the age of 22.
“It won’t be something I’ll do in the future, to bounce back and forth from Asia or Australia as much as we did,” said Spieth, who since the Presidents Cup in South Korea in October has competed in Shanghai, Australia, the Bahamas and Abu Dhabi.