The Masters - Fowler aiming to make waves at Masters
First-timers have traditionally struggled at the US Masters but American Rickie Fowler likes his chances of contending for the title in his debut this week at the opening Major of the season.
The 22-year-old will fulfil a childhood dream when he tees off in Thursday's opening round and he has so far relished the whole experience of being at Augusta National, the spiritual home of American golf.
"If I go into the week with high expectations, I feel like there's a chance we could be walking up 18 (on Sunday) in contention," Fowler said.
"That's something I've dreamed about. I watched plenty of Masters growing up and the green jacket is obviously something that means quite a bit in the golf community."
Fellow American Fuzzy Zoeller was the last Masters debutant to triumph here, in 1979, with Gene Sarazen the only other player to achieve the feat, in 1935.
"I've been playing well the past couple of weeks," said Fowler, who made his Ryder Cup debut for the US in Wales last year. "My game feels really good.
"When you're driving the ball well and putting yourself in position to make birdies, you can make any course fit your game."
Rookie of the year on the 2010 PGA Tour, Fowler has recorded two top-10s in his last four starts, including eighth place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral two weeks ago.
He conceded, though, that experienced players were best equipped to handle the notorious greens at Augusta National with their lightning pace and severe slopes.
"For the first-time players, it's not an easy golf course to just go out and learn," Fowler said. "It takes some time.
"So you're going to see the seasoned veterans that usually do well. Hopefully we can get a couple of young guys on top this year. There's a lot of young guys are playing well right now and they are not afraid to go out and contend in a Major."
Asked how Augusta National suited his own game, Fowler replied with a huge grin: "It's Augusta National, so if it doesn't fit your eye, then you probably shouldn't be playing here.
"It's a great place. There's a lot of fun shots that you get to hit - whether it be using the slopes or trying to hit a high ball in to stop it on a certain part of the green."
Fowler plans to make the most of every moment on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National this week.
"Just to be a part of this week is pretty cool," he said. "I'm soaking it all in. And I'm really looking forward to playing the par-three contest."
Fowler, who enjoys wearing his golf cap backwards, even took in his stride a polite admonishment from a Masters club member before the start of his news conference.
When asked by Ron Townsend to turn his cap round, Fowler duly complied, shading his eyes with the brim before saying: "But then they (reporters) won't see my face."
The young American then turned the brim of his cap upwards, sparking chuckles around the room.
"It was all done just in jest," Townsend told Reuters later. "I would have done the same thing to one of my grandkids."