Rickie Fowler is one of the brightest young stars on the PGA Tour. Since 2009, when he joined the Tour as a 20-year-old, Fowler has gone on to win four PGA championship events, was part of the 2016 U.S. Olympic golf team, and finished second at the 2018 Masters in Augusta, Georgia, where we met with him to discuss his love of cars and his partnership with Mercedes-Benz.
Automobile Magazine: What came first, your love for golf or cars?
Rickie Fowler: Love for golf. I started playing golf when I was 2. My grandpa introduced me to the game, and it was really the first sport I started playing and fell in love with. I grew up riding and racing dirt bikes since I was 3. My dad was the one that got me into that; he rode quads and three-wheels professionally before I was born. I had to give up riding for golf. Due to the risk factor, I haven’t ridden very much at all since I was 15. I took my love for dirt bikes and transitioned that into cars.
AM: Do you do any competitive driving?
RF: I do some track events. Over the last eight or nine years I’ve had quite a bit of time behind the wheel on the track. I’ve had some fun with Mercedes on-track and have done some track days on my own. It’s definitely a fun way for me to get the adrenaline going with things being as safe as they can be.
AM: What’s in your garage these days?
RF: Obviously I’m pretty well set up on the Mercedes side. Gotta have a big SUV, so GLS 63—it’s great for airport running and hauling everything. My favorite SUV that I’ve had is the GLE 63 S. It’s fast, and being an SUV, it still handles in a way like a coupe. It’s very stable, doesn’t have that top-heavy feel or lots of roll. Then I’ve got an AMG GT S. I might switch the GT S for a GT R. The one I’ve had the longest is a Mitsubishi Evo X with a built and bored-out race motor. I’m actually currently breaking in a new engine, so it’s kind of boring lugging it around. Then, after I got my PGA Tour card, I got a Nissan GT-R. I’ve got an R35, and about three years ago I was able to pick up a right-hand-drive R34. I love that thing—it’s just unique. I like having stuff you don’t see a whole lot. The last car I have in the garage is a 2013 Ferrari 458.
AM: How would you compare your R34 to the R35?
RF: Very different. The R35—and mine’s old, a 2009—I didn’t want to go internal, so it’s got a stock turbo and all the bolt-ons you can do. It has 625 hp at the wheels. It’s enough to have fun with. It’s also got a Liberty Walk kit on it, so it’s got a little different look. Between those, the R34 is very much a raw, old-school turbo. I took the twin turbos out and just run a single big turbo. When it spools up, it whistles and makes all kinds of noises. The R35 is very much a more modern, twin-turbo supercar. It hangs with just about anything out there.
AM: I heard you also have a classic Mini?
RF: Ah, I forgot about that! I have a right-hand-drive 1966 Mini in California. Motor-wise, it’s pretty much all original. We just went through and redid it. We painted it matte black with orange wheels—which are the size of golf cart wheels! It’s super fun to rip around in. You can hold that thing wide open and just turn it where you want.
AM: Some of your cars are probably pretty tough to get a set of clubs in.
RF: [With] the GT S, I just have to take the woods out, but it does have a trunk, so that works fine. Other cars, it’s just me driving and the clubs in the passenger seat. We make it work.
AM: What about Formula 1 racing? Are you a fan?
RF: Yeah, I’ve got a partnership with Mercedes and Red Bull as well, so being able to go to races with the both of them has been fun. It’s very unique what they’re doing in F1 and how the cars are built, all the technology in them.
AM: You grew up in Southern California. Did you ever get out to the Long Beach Grand Prix?
RF: No, I never did, but one of my buddies is IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, who’s obviously been in motorsports forever with his dad. It’s been fun to hang out with him. He’s actually a decent golfer, so we play a little bit together. I’ve been trying to get to a race with him, but it just hasn’t matched up yet.
AM: Since you have some experience with competitive driving and competitive golf, can you draw any parallels?
RF: Yeah, for sure. Whether it’s golf or driving, there are some days when it feels super easy. In driving, you’re putting lots together, you’re not having to think too much about it. You’re hitting your braking points, the car’s not pushing on the way out, and everything is matching up. It can be very similar to golf as far as hitting a good shot and following it up, feeling the rhythm and the momentum beginning to build.