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July 15, 2014

Graeme McDowell


MIKE WOODCOCK: We're very please to welcome former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell into the interview room. Graeme, thank you for joining us. You're coming into this week on the back of a very good win at the French Open. How much momentum do you think that gives you going into The Open?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It's always nice to come into The Open Championship with a little bit of confidence and momentum. The French Open was a much needed win for me. It's been a light season from a schedule point of view. Kind of on purpose, trying to arrive at this stage in the season in better kind of form physically and mentally than maybe I've been the last few years. Looking towards August and September is very, very important stages of my season now, that perhaps in years gone by I've taken a little bit of time off kind of August and September. So now with the FedEx playoff commitments and hopefully the Ryder Cup the end of September, you kind of have to tailor your season to kind of pace yourself for these sort of different demands on your time. So obviously peeking for this period, U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the US PGA is a very, very important period, and leaving something in the tank for the FedEx playoffs afterwards, and hopefully into the Ryder Cup. That's kind of part of the plan, part of the scheduling this year. And maybe perhaps why I sort of left a little bit late from various points of view, including the Ryder Cup rankings. So the French Open win was much needed, shall we say.

Q. Rory hit some long shots in Scotland, do you think that's an advantage around here? And were you surprised by it? You're relatively short compared to some of these monsters hitters, do you think that's a disadvantage here? And what do you make of Rory's --
GRAEME McDOWELL: Relatively short is a nice way of putting it. I'm one of the short knockers these days. I accept that, no problems. I didn't see the replay of Rory's shot. I wasn't really watching much of the coverage, I have to say. I did switch it on for a few minutes. The golf course looked amazing at Royal Aberdeen last week. Part of me was disappointed I wasn't there. It was kind of family commitments. I'm playing the next four weeks, this one plus the next three. Last week was just a lot of golf for me. But is distance going to be an advantage around this golf course? I don't think so, no. I don't think there's a lot of opportunities to blow it past trouble here. I think this golf course forces you into certain areas. And certainly my game plan, doesn't matter what the wind direction is going to do, there's not going to really be a lot of opportunity to do anything else but place it in those kind of areas, where the golf course forces you. I guess there are opportunities actually on 1, where the big guys can whip it over the left side there. It's about 285-290 fly. 2, there's no advantage. 3, there's nowhere else to hit it. 4, there's an opportunity, it's such a tough green, I don't see many guys taking it on. 5, it's a tougher drive for those big hitters. I could go on and on but of course there's going to be areas where the guys will take it on. But I don't see this golf course, from my point of view, I don't walk on to this golf course and kind of sigh and say, here we go again, this is 330 paradise. It's not that type of golf course. It's a placement golf course, I think. Look at the way Tiger won here in 2006. He can dominate with length, but he didn't have to. This golf course doesn't ask that question. It asks you to play a game of chess more than anything.

Q. You've won the U.S. Open, what would it mean to you to add the British version to that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Well, it would mean huge amounts to me. I feel like I'm ready to kick on to the next sort of chapter in my career now, and compete and win more Major championships. I certainly don't want to be a one-hit wonder. And I've learned a lot over the last few years since my U.S. Open victory. Two years ago at Lytham was the closest I've come to an Open Championship. This is my kind of golf course this week. And I want to give myself as many opportunities as I can to win Majors. It's hard to win. Week in, week out, there's so many great players in the world. Winning regular tournaments is hard enough, winning the majors is something different, something special. I'd love a Claret Jug. Probably that and the Green Jacket are probably neck and neck. The Claret Jug is probably the one that I feel like I have the game to win as opposed to the Masters.

Q. Perhaps you answered the next question: Is The Open, all of the Majors obviously are massive, but is The Open the one, the most special?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah. I did a little thing with Rory and Darren last night, and myself and Rory were giving Darren a gentle ribbing, because The Open was the U.S. Open, because we had one each. But that said, no, The Open Championship, for British and Irish players to be here on home soil, in golf in its purest form, which is links golf. The history and tradition of these two islands from a golfing point of view, yeah, I think The Open Championship is a special one. There's no doubt. Augusta has that kind of same mystique and tradition, as well, because of the venue and what it creates and kind of walking in the footsteps of the greats. But The Open Championship seems to maintain that mystique as it goes around to various golf courses. It maintains that kind of pride, tradition and history, all of the above, and the Claret Jug is a bit special. I'd give my left arm for the Claret Jug. I would, actually. That would be the end of my career, but it would be a nice way to go.

Q. You described it as a chess game on the golf course here. Most of the players have been discussing with us how soft the golf course is, I guess compared to their expectations coming in. Could you talk about that. How much is the ball releasing? How much is the ball holding?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Certainly it's soft compared to 2006, there's no doubt about that. It's certainly not soft by relatively terms to what we see week in, week out, on the major tours around the world. I wouldn't call it soft, but it doesn't have that big bounce, either. It's got a kind of deadness to the ground, if you like. You're certainly not going to see balls spinning back. This is The Open Championship, that's not really going to happen much. But there is a deadness to the turf. The golf course is playing much longer than it was in 2006. There will be a lot more drivers off tees for guys. Does it mean you can attack pins? No. I think this golf course still has plenty of protection with the kind of rolls and humps and undulations on these greens. It's going to be placement off the tee to give you a chance to attack some of the pins. The greens are so shaped with a lot of very good bunkering in and around the greens. You see a lot of the greens with quite narrow entrances with bunkers right and left, with kind of downslopes over the top of those, a lot of greens where you have to be very careful with your approach shot. Yes, it's soft by Open Championship terms, but it's far from easy to get balls close to the hole. It's typical links. If it blows, it's going to be a real test. If it doesn't blow, like this afternoon, guys can make a score, depending on pin positions. But as we know links golf, The R&A will hide these pins away behind bunkers and stuff. So it will be hard to get it close to the hole. It's a great golf course. I think it's very balanced. I think it's very fair. It's one of my favorite Open venues from the point of view of fairness. I think good shots get rewarded here.

Q. In this chess game how important a piece is your 2-iron?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't have one.

Q. You don't?

Q. What do you use instead?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I've always been a guy who used to carry a 2-iron and switch that between a 2-hybrid and a 5-wood. It started probably four or five years ago, I used to carry a 3-iron and a 2-iron and sometimes kind of switched to 3-iron with a 3-hybrid. Then the 3-hybrid became such a staple diet. It's nine weeks out of ten the hybrid is in the bag, because nine weeks out of ten you're trying to fly things and stop it. It's probably more than that, 19 weeks out of 20. This is a very specialized test, playing golf in the wind, on firm and fast fairways. I've gotten to the point where I now carry a 5-wood and 3-hybrid as my 2- and 3-iron. I feel like I'm fairly good at knocking the ball down. My main problem as a player is hitting these shots that the very unique players in the world can hit, the Tigers, the Adam Scotts, the Rorys, the Paul Caseys, maybe 220, 230 long iron which comes in soft. I don't have that shot. Physically I'm not capable of that golf shot. So I need a little technology to help me. So the 5-wood and 3-hybrid are my answers to those shots. It's gotten to where they help me. 19 weeks out of 20 I feel like I can knock the ball down well enough to where it doesn't bother me even in crosswinds and firm fairways where I can flight the ball down with those clubs and have the advantage of being able to fly it up in the air when you go downwind. There's no equipment change in my bag this year, probably for one of the first Open championships ever for me. That's definitely a development in my bag.

Q. You referenced Tiger a few minutes ago, about the strategy. If somebody were to try that again or predominantly use irons off the tee, what kind of challenge does that present going from there? Tiger was obviously very good with his long iron approaches, but it does make it harder I would think if you're not closer?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. I mean you're talking about one of the better long iron players, maybe the game has ever seen. Not many guys can be as patient and as disciplined as he's shown us over the years. He has a special type of focus and zone that he can get into. And he certainly got in there in 2006 and played the golf course - you call it defensive; call it conservative, very safe - and just relied on the great approach play and great patience to take the golf course apart. Like I say, I think you'll see more clubs off tees this week. Even from him, I would imagine. Because, like I say, I don't think there's a lot of options. There are areas that the golf course dictates that you drive it into in each hole. I really don't see a lot of room for the bombers to take anything more on, I really don't. There's maybe only a handful of holes where there's options. To me there's 8, 9, 10 of the holes where you're going to see guys hitting it from the same area. So some of the greens on the back nine especially, 12, 13, 14, are very good iron play holes. You've really got to be very precise with your iron play, with those huge fall-offs to the right of 12 and 14. 13 is a hell of a par-3. It's a great finish to this golf course, I really like the back nine here. Like I say, 12, 13, 14, 15 is a great little 3, and 17 and 18 are very dramatic holes. It's a very balanced golf course. Placement off the tee and great iron play are keys here this week.

Q. When you made the mention of a one-hit wonder, is that how you actually feel about yourself if you wouldn't win another Major?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not really sure where I pulled that one from. No, I'm not really sure. I'm going to sit back and view myself in 10, 15 years, whatever it is, when I decide that I don't want to hole six-footers for a living anymore. I don't know, as long as I can give my career a hundred percent the next ten years, I'm not going to view my career as anything but a success, really. But I guess what I'm saying is I'm more motivated than ever to win Major championships. And I think I've got the experience and belief and knowledge to -- on any given week, where if I can play my game, when I put myself in contention, that I have the tools to then hang around for 72 holes and perhaps get the job done. I feel like I'm more ready than I've ever been to win another Major.

Q. Just to confirm, this venue as it's set up and assuming that the weather stays relatively normal, not anything crazy, would this be what you think is one of the best venues for you in The Open rota?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think this and kind of Lytham. I like it because you can't take trouble out of play. Perhaps at St. Andrews, as an example of a golf course where the big boys can just aim as far left as they want and hammer it, and you can really take trouble out of play and hit it past trouble. I think Lytham kind of forces you into necks. This golf course kind of forces you into little areas. It's well bunkered, there's bunkers on the 260 and 290. Where you have to be disciplined off the tee and find fairways, and rely on good iron play. And I'm as good a sort of medium iron player as most. And this golf course demands a lot of that. And so, like you say, weather depending. This is definitely an Open venue which I look at and kind of think, yeah, I could compete around here as opposed to, like I say, a St. Andrews, if the wind doesn't blow, it's not really my type of Open venue.

Q. We saw you two years ago nearly do it, we saw how disappointed you were, is that a feeling you've relived a bit since then? And considering what you've just said about the similarities, is it something you're determined to make right this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think you can't really force anything this week. Same as any other tournament, really. You just have to play your way into it, try and execute your game plan as well as you possibly can and be as patient as you can. I think I've certainly learned a lot from my Major championship experiences over the years. And even back to '06 after I led after the round, and maybe sat in this chair and got a bit excited and ahead of myself and thought, wow, this is kind of cool. Engage reverse gear very quickly as the weekend went on. Like you say, a couple of years ago at Lytham maybe didn't focus on my own as well as I should have. The back nine on Sunday, I was a couple ahead of Ernie Els starting on the 10th tee. Ended up playing the last nine holes trying to get out of Adam Scott's way as opposed to focusing on my own game. So you learn things all the time, and that never-kind-of-give-up attitude, that you never know what's going to happen. Perhaps stood me in good stead a couple of weeks ago at the French Open. You learn things all the time. But I certainly learned that these things are marathons, not sprints. There's a long, tough week ahead of us, and you really have to pace yourself and be patient.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Graeme, thank you for your time and best of luck this week.

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