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November 8, 2016

Graeme McDowell

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

CHRIS REIMER: It's my pleasure to welcome our 11-time international winner, Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, who's actually returning this week to defend his most recent PGA TOUR title, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Before we get to Graeme, who's going to be half of Team Ireland along with Shane Lowry at this year's World Cup of Golf, I'd like to turn it over to Robyn Cooper, our tournament director in Melbourne, to say a few words as we approach this year's tournament.

ROBYN COOPER: Thanks, Chris. Hi, everyone. Yeah, look, very excited about obviously the event coming up. We've got a lot of great activations and activities planned. The field is looking fantastic.

So Graeme, thank you so much for getting on the call today. Really appreciate you taking the time out to have a chat to us. And also thank you to the media, all on board, that are obviously both supporting us and on the call, also. So thanks to all of you.

Yeah, look, the tournament is coming along really well at the moment. The build has started. We're starting to get some warm weather, so the course is looking really great. Yeah, so that's all underway at the moment.

In terms of the event experience on-site, we've got a lot of new activities and initiatives planned. Being an event held in Melbourne, we're very much focused on food and really focusing on sort of an international food experience and event experience.

Obviously really trying to incorporate a lot of youth activities, as well. We've got a lot of plans here, a lot of things that will be done a little bit different to I think what we've seen down here before, and yeah, we're really looking forward to it.

One of the other aspects I just wanted to bring to your attention, is that for want of a better word, a welcome function that we're going to be holding at Federation Square so I guess being located some distance away from Melbourne, half an hour, it's great to sort of be able to bring the event into the city, which is something that hasn't really been done before. We're going to have a sort of welcome function for all the public to come along and obviously see all the players up on stage, do some interviews, and that'll take place on the Tuesday preceding the Wednesday pro-am of the event week.

Something else that's a little bit different that we can try and capture the imagination of a lot more people in and around the city of Melbourne.

Yeah, it's all coming along well, and please ask any questions that you need on the call.

CHRIS REIMER: There's a lot of work being done in Melbourne and in Australia to get ready for this great event. Without further ado, I'll start with the first question. Graeme, I know you and Shane are keen to bring home the third championship for this event for Ireland. Speak to your experiences at past World Cups. I know you and Rory finished runner-up in 2009, but what it means to represent your country and to get to play in a team competition with somebody you know very well in Shane.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, you know, I've been lucky enough to play, I think, four or five of the World Cups of Golf. It's obviously a fantastic experience any time you get to represent your country, especially standing alongside a friend this year in Shane Lowry. I've had the opportunity to play with some great friends over the years in Rory and Paul McGinley. The events in Sheshan, Mission Hills, a lot of fun there. Played a couple years ago at Royal Melbourne with Shane when they sampled the new format, which really, really happy to see the old format returning again this year. You know, the real true kind of partner format with the foursomes and the better ball. I see they've switched it around a little bit this year where it's going to be opening up with alternate-shot, better ball alternate-shot, then better ball on the Sunday, which is going to make for extremely volatile scoring with a fantastic field.

It's really, really going to be a special week. I love Kingston Heath, had a chance to play the Aussie Masters there a few years back. Loved the people there, loved the experience and the hospitality and the golf course. Really, really special.

Excited to get down there. It's going to be a great way to finish the year, and myself and Shane are really, really fired up. We've been talking about it for many months and looking forward to going down there and competing against some of the best players in the world, and love to win another one for Ireland, obviously.

Q. Graeme, just on your schedule recently, you've been playing a lot. Obviously you're going to Mexico this week to defend your title. Are you happy to keep playing as much as possible? You didn't seem to have much of a massive break in between the end of last season coming into this season.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. Listen, we're all in the same boat nowadays. There's a lot of golf to play around the world, a lot of world-class events to play, and it's very hard to sort of pass up opportunities like the World Cup. I mean, I had a couple weeks off there around -- unfortunately around the FedEx Championship and the Ryder Cup. I took three weeks off there and went back to the UK and played a couple times and played last week in Vegas, here in Mexico. Normally I probably would have played next week in Sea Island at the RSM Classic, but with my travel schedule down in Melbourne, I decided not to play next week. I want to be as fresh as I possibly can, get myself down there Monday morning into Melbourne and be ready to go for the weekend.

You know, it is a challenge that we face year on year, trying to work out how to schedule ourselves as well as we possibly can, stay as fresh as we possibly can, especially for a guy like myself playing both the PGA TOUR and the European Tour. But it's a balancing act, but I feel like I've learned something new about my schedule every year, and to be honest with you, I'm feeling very fresh and very much looking forward to defending my title this week at the OHL and very much excite to get on the plane down to Melbourne, one of my favorite cities in the world, and playing in the World Cup, which is such a classy format.

Q. You have been here before, obviously; would you be prepared to do it a bit more regularly? With the Asian Swing now, the U.S. Tour is coming into China and Malaysia. Would you be prepared to come to Australia on a regular basis if there was a tournament here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, of course. I think as I become more of a PGA TOUR player, I'm bringing my family and my kids up on that side of the Atlantic, I was starting to think my trips to Asia might be becoming less and less. When I was a full-time European Tour player in my younger days, you're on a return trip to Asia probably three, four times a year, and you were getting used to that type of travel. I guess I've got used to the lighter travel schedule the last few years, but when you see the PGA TOUR announcing events like the one they just announced in Korea, you start to see yourself really starting to transition back out to playing some golf in Asia at the end of the year, and to be honest with you, I always enjoyed those trips. I always put a five-, six-week trip together at the end of the year where I would do the Middle East and Dubai and Asia, and of course I love coming down to Australia, maybe playing events like the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, and as my family has started to get a little bit older, I'd love to bring them around the world and see some of the most amazing cities in the world, so it's a great opportunity.

Q. As you say, as you get further into your career, you do look at golf a different way, but do you see a win for a guy like Rod Pampling in Vegas yesterday, do you see it as sort of a win for the older guys on TOUR as sort of the generations turn and the younger guys become more prominent on the TOUR and you see 47-year-old Queenslander Rod Pampling win, does it give you lots of encouragement to keep going, as well?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. There's no doubt, I think the way the game of golf is nowadays, in my mid to late 30s, I do feel old in this sport now. When you're mid to late 30s, used to be the prime of your career. You look around at your Rorys and your Dustins and your Jason Days and your Jordan Spieths, and you think, man, early to mid 20s these guys are just great athletes and are really just prepared to go and win the best tournaments in the world. Perhaps the mid 30s isn't the prime of your career anymore.

But then you look at guys like Rod Pampling, and you see guys playing well into their 40s and even into their 50s now. Golf is one of those timeless sports that if you can stay healthy, and probably more importantly, I think if you can stay mentally hungry and mentally fresh and motivated, you can play well for as long as you want in this game. Obviously health is an issue, but like I say, motivation is a big key, and great to see a guy like Rod winning in the style he did in Vegas yesterday. I watched the last few holes, and I'm pretty good friends with Brooks Koepka, and I tuned in just to see how it was going to finish, and that was a great putt for Rod on the last. He's a good lad and a guy I've known for many years. Good to see him winning.

Q. How would you assess your last 12 months in terms of your game? How have the last 12 months gone? Are you happy with your form?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, this time 12 months ago I was winning down there in Mexico. It was kind of putting the icing on a pretty rough year, really. I've been disappointed that I haven't kicked on better this year, to be honest. Finishing with the type of momentum I did last year, I really felt like I was going to kick on a little bit more. It's been less of an inconsistent year than I did this year. But taking the positives out of this year, when I have played well, I've maintained my weekends and continued to play well and posted several good rounds. The inconsistencies have been those missed cuts. When I look at the year, I kind of think perhaps the Ryder Cup and the kind of -- my second baby being born and a couple of other things off the golf course may have sort of affected me a little bit more than I expected, for example, maybe put a little bit of extra pressure on myself and subsequently maybe didn't perform as well as I wanted to.

Now my life starts to stabilize. We're done having kids, and we can start to kind of count things down on that front. I can at least start to -- I guess the changeableness off the golf course starts to kind of settle down, and I can really start to focus on what's the next chapter of my career. I feel like I'm as motivated and as healthy and as mentally fresh as I have been in a long time, and just a case of being really patient with it now. My practice levels are really cranking up, and I'm feeling good with where I'm at with my game.

It hasn't been the year I wanted, but it was certainly a better year than last year. Obviously two weeks left in my schedule, here in Mexico and obviously with you guys down in Melbourne, and if I can play well one or two of those weeks, finish the year strongly and take some good mojo into the off-season, I really feel like '17 could actually be a big season for me.

Q. How far could you and Shane go at the World Cup? What's your aims and your hopes?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Oh, man, I think we're going down there with a -- I think we can win. We know a lot about each other's game. I'm a really big fan of Shane's game, always have been, since I first saw him. He drives the ball fantastically. He's probably got one of the best short games in the world, if not the best short game in the world, and he's a really confident player down the stretch. On a Sunday afternoon, intestinal fortitude or whatever you want to call it, I've always been impressed by him, and I think he's good enough for us to have a chance to win come the weekend.

Listen, it's a great -- the field is phenomenal. I can't believe how strong the field is, and I think that's a testament to the format being back to the original format. Obviously the venue being Kingston Heath, and obviously the legendary Sand Belt of Melbourne, and obviously the person and the impetus behind the event. We're excited to go down there, and Shane and I are certainly going down there with the intentions to be competing if not winning the golf tournament.

Q. Looking at you just mentioned about Rod Pampling and other things, have we seen the best of Graeme McDowell yet, or do you feel that your best golf is ahead of you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, I certainly hope we haven't seen the best. I feel like I continue to get smarter and get better and learn more about the sport. You know, I certainly feel like I've got more in me, and I want more, and I feel like I continue to get better.

No, I don't think you've seen the best. I think I certainly feel fresher, and like I mentioned, more motivated than I have been in a long time, and I certainly would like to play really hard for the next six or seven years, and I have that vision and that dream of winning a tournament and having my kids come running onto the 72nd green. That's kind of one of the visions and one of the kind of visuals that are motivating me right now, and of course a major championship, I'd love to try and put one more of those on the board if possible.

As the standard of the game just continues to get better year after year, I know I've got to play hard and I've got to play well, and like I say, I'm just very motivated and looking forward to the next few years.

Q. Given your success and your commitment to team golf over the years, how disappointing was it to miss the Ryder Cup this year, and can you use that as motivation coming into the World Cup?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, my four Ryder Cups have -- I always say, they're the best experiences of my golfing career. I put them in a very different kind of emotional box from anything else that I've ever achieved in the game. They're so special. Sharing it with 11 teammates and the caddies and everyone involved with the European Tour and the crowds and just everything, it's just different golf. It's something that we look at other athletes, footballers, team sports where they get to celebrate and engage with the crowd on a completely different level, and the Ryder Cup is our only really avenue to experience that.

There's no doubt, I didn't play the golf the last year to be on the Ryder Cup team, and I certainly have no sour grapes from not being picked. I mean, I didn't deserve to be picked. But the three or four months leading up to the picks, I certainly was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I wanted to be there. I was on the phone quite often with the captain, and I was certainly motivated and wanted to be there.

You know what, I didn't make the team. I wasn't shocked, but I watched a lot of it that weekend on a couple of levels because I love the Ryder Cup and I love it as a spectacle, and I think it's the greatest golf event in the world. So you know, I watched it as a lover of the game and obviously supporting Europe, but I also watched it for motivation. I wanted it to hurt me. I wanted to remember it next time I went to the practice ground and when I'm grinding and working on my game, I wanted to remember what it felt like not to be there.

There was a lot of motivation for me, and obviously was a little bit of a disappointment, but I certainly, looking towards France in two years' time, a golf course which I know well and play well on, and I certainly want to be part of Team Europe come 2018.

Q. I'm not sure if I can test your memory a little bit here, but when you walked off the -- I think it might have been the third round at Royal Melbourne three years ago when you came down to play, you were fascinated by Royal Melbourne and the Sand Belt, but you said it had given you a couple of black eyes. The mystery of the Sand Belt is pretty strong for you, isn't it, and I just wanted to let you know that Kingston Heath is looking pretty bulletproof. Does that put a shiver up your spine?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, very much so. I think obviously the Sand Belt reminds me a lot of home, reminds me a lot of the sort of classic links courses that I grew up on, but it's one of the most amazing pieces of golfing terrain on the planet. It's special. I mean, I assume the event you're talking about was the World Cup at Royal Melbourne?

Q. Yes, mate.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, I just remember how firm it was that year. I don't think I'd ever played a golf course quite that firm. Perhaps Hoylake in 2006 when Tiger won, Muirfield there a few years ago at the Open, and Melbourne a few years ago at the World Cup, those are probably the three firmest golf courses I've ever played.

I think it was something pretty spectacular and something very, very difficult to play and something very unique.

Obviously Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne being neighbors, I enjoyed my experience at the Aussie Masters. I maybe played a little bitter and perhaps enjoyed the golf course a little bit more. They're two absolutely legendary golf courses, and I'm sure if you asked a thousand people, you'd probably get some mixed views on what they prefer as their favorite. But a special part of the world. Looking forward to getting back there. Met some good people at Kingston Heath, and looking forward to being back and being part of that golf course.

Q. With your memories of Kingston Heath and your knowledge of Shane's game, have you had a chat about how you're going to play the foursomes?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the old trees and bushes down there, just some great holes. I remember it being fairly tight off the tee. You really had to drive the ball well, which I think plays into Shane and I's games. Just the rolling fairways and the big greens, just the classic bunkering, and just the hospitality and the friendliness of the people around the clubhouse. I mean, I think Australia feels a lot like Britain and Ireland on a lot of levels, just with better weather, and I always feel very comfortable and very much at home when I go down there, and it is the type of golf course that I grew up on, links and bouncy and windy, and like I say, Royal Melbourne a few years ago at the World Cup was super extreme. I'm hoping it's not going to be quite that firm this year as Kingston Heath, but very much looking forward to getting back there and feeling the golf course again.

Q. You touched on it briefly, just about the crowds in these type of events. I guess it must be a very different feel from a normal stroke-play event. I'm just wondering if you could expand on that a little bit, and also, does it have much of an influence? Can it be a factor for Adam Scott and Marc Leishman in terms of how much of an advantage can it be in terms of if you've got the big home crowd behind you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. I remember the old Aussie Fanatics being there the last time I was in Melbourne. I'd imagine they'll be out in force again. Always good fun with those lads.

I mean, I think if we get a chance to play with the Aussie boys, it'll obviously be great fun, great bit of banter. You know, and probably get a pretty good turnout with the Irish down there, as well. Certainly the few times I've been down, plenty of Irish in Melbourne. I think Shane and I will probably get quite a lot of support, but again, nothing compared to what Scottie and Leishman will get. Obviously that would have been fantastic if Jason could have made it. I understand that his ongoing injury problems, but Leish is a good mate and a good player and a great lad, and he'll obviously embrace it, and him and Scottie will be really difficult to beat down there.

But there's no doubt, the home support and the home crowds can obviously give you the energy and buoy you a little bit, but it can also bring the expectation levels, as well. It's always a tough balancing act when you're playing at home. Scottie is obviously well used to it, plays a lot of golf down there, and one of the best players in the world. One of my favorite golf swings in the world. Like I say, hopefully we can get a chance to play with the boys late on Sunday and have some fun out there with the crowds, but always great atmosphere, and looking forward to being part of it.

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