World ranking allure for Fowler at Byron Nelson

IRVING, Texas (Reuters) - PGA Tour rookie Rickie Fowler will have one eye firmly fixed on world ranking points when he competes in this week's Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas.

A top-five finish here would lift the Californian into the world's top 50, thereby earning him automatic exemption for next month's U.S. Open and the July 15-18 British Open.

"I knew I was going to have to play well coming into this week ... to try and get in the top 50 in the world," the 21-year-old Fowler told reporters at the TPC Four Seasons on Tuesday.

"That would take two qualifiers out of my near future, for the (U.S.) Open and the British Open, so that's kind of the main thing on the agenda: to play well and get that out of the way."

Fowler lies 54th in the world rankings and he decided to skip last week's Texas Open in San Antonio in order to be well-rested for the Byron Nelson Championship.

"I wanted to have a fresh week coming to these three tournaments -- the Colonial and Memorial but focusing on this week to play well," he said.

"Now I know I need to finish top-five. We'll try and block it out but it will certainly be in the back of my mind."


Fowler, who turned professional last year and earned his PGA Tour card by tying for 15th at the qualifying tournament, has performed well this season after taking a week's break.

"I had a week off before (the) Phoenix (Open), I got second there; I had a week off before Hilton Head, and I tied for eighth," he said.

"Those were some of my better finishes so I feel good coming in after a week off. I'm rested, didn't touch a club a whole bunch, slapped it around a little bit and didn't focus or grind too hard."

Fowler, who has recorded four top-10s and five missed cuts in 13 PGA Tour starts this year, faces a comparatively weak field at the TPC Four Seasons.

None of the world's top 10 will be competing, with American Hunter Mahan (17th) and U.S. PGA champion Yang Yong-eun of South Korea (19th) the highest-ranked players set to tee off in Thursday's opening round.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Rex Gowar)