Born and raised in Murrieta, California, Fowler attended Murrieta Valley High School. For years, he played only on a driving range and is almost entirely self-taught. In his senior year in high school, Fowler won the SW League Final with a total score of 64-69=133, and led his team to the state final in 2007.
In 2006, Fowler shot a 137 for two rounds at the U.S. Junior Amateur and was knocked out in the second round of match play. The championship was won by Philip Francis.
Fowler represented the United States in its victory at the 2007 Walker Cup. His record was 2–0 in foursomes and 1–1 in singles making his overall record 3–1. Billy Horschel was his partner for both of their foursome victories. That year Fowler won the Sunnehanna Amateur in June and the Players Amateur in July.
In 2008, Fowler repeated as Sunnehanna Amateur champion. In the first round of the U.S. Open, Fowler shot a −1 (70) and was in a tie for 7th place. He was one of three amateurs to make the cut, along with Derek Fathauer and Michael Thompson. He ended the tournament tied for 60th. In October 2008 Fowler played on the Eisenhower Trophy team that finished second. He was the leading individual player.
In 2009, Fowler made his second and last appearance in the Walker Cup. He won all four matches in which he played as the U.S. won by a seven-point margin. His partner in both foursomes matches was Bud Cauley. He also finished third in the Sunnehanna Amateur in 2009.
In September, he signed a clothing deal with Puma. In the same month, he was also chosen as a captain's pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. At age 21 years and 9 months when the matches began, Fowler became the youngest U.S. Ryder Cup player of all time, and only European Sergio García was younger when he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999. Fowler forfeited a hole during foursomes competition on the first match day because of a rules violation, by taking a permissible free drop from muddy conditions in an improper location, a mistake U.S. captain Corey Pavin attributed to Fowler's inexperience. On the final day of the competition in his singles match against Edoardo Molinari, Fowler birdied the last 4 holes to halve the match after having been 4 down after 12 holes.
At the PGA Championship, Fowler carded 74-69-75-68 to finish with a six-over par total of 286, in a tie for 51st place. Early on the third day Fowler rocketed up the leaderboard with three birdies in the first five holes only to falter later in the round with two triple bogeys, effectively ending his hopes of a first major championship and PGA Tour win.
At the first FedEx Cup playoff event, Fowler finished T52 at The Barclays in the last week in August. The following week he again finished T52 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second FedEx Cup playoff event, after carding a disappointing six over par final round 77. At that point Fowler was positioned 37 in the FedEx Cup points standings and required a strong performance at the BMW Championship to qualify in the top thirty for The Tour Championship; a performance which eluded him, finishing in 48th place. In finishing 43rd in the FedEx Cup, Fowler earned a $132,000 bonus.
In May 2012, Fowler won the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte on the first extra hole of a sudden-death playoff. Replaying the 18th hole, he defeated Rory McIlroy and D. A. Points with a birdie to gain his first PGA Tour win. Fowler shot a 69 (−3) in the final round to finish in a three-way tie after 72 holes at Quail Hollow Club. This win enabled Fowler to break the top-25 in the world, placing him at number 24. The following week at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Fowler played the final hole at −11 under par and had a birdie opportunity to bring him within one of leader and eventual winner Matt Kuchar. Fowler, however, pushed his putt to the right and finished in a tie for second, his fifth second-place finish of his career.
After a T-12 finish at the Masters, Fowler earned his first win in over three years with a playoff victory at The Players Championship in May. Trailing Sergio García midway through the final round by five shots, Fowler played the final six holes in 6-under par, including an eagle at the par-5 16th. After a birdie at the famous 17th hole, Fowler's final birdie of the round on 18 left him at 12-under par. Both García and Kevin Kisner had birdie attempts to win at the 18th in regulation, but both missed and the three men went to a three-hole aggregate playoff to decide a winner on holes 16–18. Fowler and Kisner went par-birdie-par to tie at −1 while García's three pars left him at even and he was eliminated. Thus Fowler and Kisner went to sudden death starting at the 17th, where Kisner's tee shot landed within about 12 feet (3.7 m) of the cup. Fowler answered with a shot inside of five feet, and when Kisner's birdie attempt slid by, Fowler responded by making his short birdie to claim the championship. Fowler played his final 10 holes in 8-under par. On July 12, he won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on the European Tour, shooting a 12-under-par 268. On September 7, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second FedEx Cup Playoffs event, by one stroke over Henrik Stenson, for his third victory on the PGA Tour.
Fowler is one of four golfers in the "Golf Boys" group along with fellow PGA Tour players Ben Crane, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan. The Golf Boys released a YouTube video of the song "Oh Oh Oh" on the eve of the 2011 U.S. Open. Farmers Insurance is donating $1,000 for every 100,000 views of the video. The charitable proceeds will support both Farmers and Ben Crane charitable initiatives.
Fowler has two tattoos. One is a block "G" near his left elbow in honor of Georgia Veach, the daughter of a Seattle pastor and friend. Georgia was diagnosed with lissencephaly. Fowler got the tattoo just before the 2015 Presidents Cup. The second is from January 2016 and contains the name Yutaka Tanaka (Rickie's grandfather) in Japanese script on his left bicep.