JUPITER, Fla. – Tuesday morning, 9 a.m. Rickie Fowler zoomed into his driveway in his all-black Nissan GT-R, from a morning workout. Five slightly less flashy cars were waiting in front of his waterfront home. His agent, the PR team for EA Sports, an ad agency from California, two camera crews, producers, and an EA Sports gaming specialist were on hand joining me for a friendly mano-a-mano with Rickie on the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. The game is scheduled to be released March 29.
Fowler, 22, moved into his home on the Loxahatchee River in November. From his backyard he pointed out the homes of fellow Tour pros Steve Marino and Will Mackenzie and where Mark Calcaveccia and Olin Browne’s homes are as well. As you would expect from a young guy on the go there was not a lot of extensive décor, just the essentials – some picture frames on the walls, a comfy couch, coffee table and a nice, large flat-screen hung on his living room wall. Your “basic” bachelor pad included a turf mat for hitting balls from his living room floor out of the retractable glass living room walls and into the water.
Rickie, in a bright green Puma logoed t-shirt, gym shorts, flip flops, backwards Puma hat and his new Clark Kent-style eyeglasses made by a company named Salt owned by a friend of his, welcomed the whole gang for what he told me was the first time a camera crew had filmed in his new home. We set-up outside by his pool with his dock and dual black and orange jet skis in the background.
Once everything was ready Rickie and I chatted about him being in a video game for the first time, a video game that features Augusta National, which he will play for the first time in the coming weeks before making his first start in the Masters. He’s been playing himself in the new game as a prep for the year’s first major.
We also spoke about his aspirations for his first start at Augusta, the pressure of being hyped as a new star in the PGA Tour’s changing-of-the-guard marketing campaign, his career goals, and the next big “first” we can expect from the first freshman to be named NCAA Player of the Year and first rookie to play in the Ryder Cup.
After our Q & A session, which will air on Golf Central in our countdown to the Masters, we took a seat in front of his TV for me to try my game against his on PlayStation. His avatar is spookily true-to-life. He told me he was able to pick out four favorite outfits for his virtual representation, which, of course, includes his anything-but-traditional all-orange Sunday attire.
Unlike Rickie, I couldn’t play as myself, so I was Paula Creamer. We squared off on Amen Corner. The game looked incredibly true to life. The azaleas I was told were tweaked by Augusta National to be the exact shade and color as they are in tournament conditions. In fact, it looked like we were watching a broadcast of the Masters. Jim Nantz commentated. The Masters music hummed in the background. The graphic packages were spot-on. We had caddies wearing our names on their caddie bibs. The game also takes into account wind conditions and the accurate undulation and speed of the greens and our scores were recorded in a replica of the authentic Augusta National scorecard. After playing the three iconic holes Rickie beat me by a mere shot. I wish that too were true to life!
Other features of the new game included a Masters Classics option where you could try your game against great classic shots in Masters history. Rickie tried unsuccessfully the challenge to make Tiger’s chip-in for birdie on 16 from 2005. Phil’s shot from the pine straw is included as well, but we were told by the gaming specialist not to even try that one, because it was impossible.
Impossible maybe in the game, but obviously not impossible in reality Rickie reminded us, saying that’s one shot he is excited to try when he finally gets to Augusta for the first time. And maybe then, he’ll create his own instant Masters Classic.