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March 22, 2005

Graeme McDowell


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Graeme McDowell into the interview area. His first trip to THE PLAYERS Championship, ranked No. 38th in the world, and after a tie for 2nd last week at Bay Hill, I know that got a lot of things off your shoulders and allowed you to play a little bit of golf. Maybe talk about some of the pressure that's been alleviated now, and your first trip around THE PLAYERS Championship course this afternoon.

GRAEME McDOWELL: It's been a long three or four months from a World Ranking point of view. My schedule was pretty set this year, apart from this sort of stretch for four or five weeks from sort of Bay Hill through MCI. So I've obviously been trying to make the top 50. From here to The Masters to obviously have that off my plate now is a pretty big deal here; it means I can concentrate on my schedule the rest of the year and get involved in trying to win golf tournaments again and just forgetting about World Rankings.

JOE CHEMYCZ: You got to play almost all 18 this morning. Talk about your first impressions of the golf course.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Talking to a lot of the guys, trying to glean as much information from the experienced guys out here as possible. It seems like the course is a lot softer than normal. To be fair, I didn't find it as tricky this morning in practice that I really expected it would have been. I think that's due to the softness and maybe the smallness of the greens. They're expecting a lot of rain, and they're keeping them slow today.

It's a spectacular setup, it really plays into my hands, really. I think it's my kind of golf course in that it's a fairways and greens kind of golf course, obviously hole some putts and keep the ball in the correct place, not dissimilar to the setup at Bay Hill. To say I'm excited about the week, it's an understatement. I like the looks of the golf course.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Your impressions of 17.

GRAEME McDOWELL: It's kind of cool, just heading up to 17. The green's amazingly small; when you get up and stand on it and look at the very small portions, I'm excited about hitting that shot on Sunday, that's for sure. It's going to be a cool atmosphere.

Q. What did you hit at 17?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Today we were hitting like a little 135 yard 9 iron. It was downwind, playing quite easy. We knew where the wind was coming from. The shot gets more difficult as the week goes on, no doubt about it.

Q. You mentioned your schedule. I imagine you had a schedule mapped out, but now conceivably it could all be changed because you got unlimited sponsor exceptions over here if you want them.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Things are going to change a bit maybe towards the end of the year. To be fair, we really were factoring in a lot of invitations anyway, around the majors especially, The Open and the PGA. We've been lucky enough that we've had we have like an A, B and C schedule. A schedule being the dream schedule, if things went according to plan, Masters, Sawgrass, and the events I qualified for. Basically I've put myself firmly in my A schedule now.

The rest of the year looks it's pretty much going to go according to plan. Hopefully, as I say, I'll get some start from the U.S. Open, The Memorial, and the Barclays, and run the PGA, the International. I guess my schedule isn't going to change as much as I maybe thought it was going to.

I talked to Chubby last night, and he's happy that the things we had in place are going to stay in place. I'm going to support the European with the Irish, and depending next year is going to be the big one, really, what am I going to do? I've got my card over here, now, and so I'm faced with options, but really good problems to have, to be fair, so I'm pretty happy.

Q. Had you been studying the World Rankings so closely that you knew the implications of Vijay's double bogey?

GRAEME McDOWELL: No, a lot of people looking at them very closely, my caddie enjoys studying the World Rankings, I think he has got it down to a fine art. And Chubby has a few guys on the case. But I've been trying to keep out of the numbers department, just trying to play some golf. I was I felt pretty comfortable on Sunday. I didn't look at the leaderboard until 13 or 14 on Sunday. I caught a glimpse and saw Kenny Perry was 12 under, and I was about 8 at the time. I let myself look at the leaderboards all the way in, I was four or five shots clear at 4th.

At that point I felt comfortable that I was going to have done enough to get myself in for this one, mathematically speaking, and for The Masters, as well. Vijay's double on 18 wasn't going to make a difference to me.

Q. Did somebody tell you that you were in The Masters at some point, Sunday night or Monday morning?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I guess I realized it mathematically speaking the way the World Rankings work that I was never going to be able to play myself out this week. Chubby said to me Sunday morning, the more you do today, the less you have to do at Sawgrass to get in The Masters. It was fantastic to take care of it all in one gulp.

Q. Last week when you got tied for 2nd you talked about your card and it wasn't that important getting the card for 2006 because you're focused on playing in Europe next year because of the Ryder Cup. The comments you just made now makes it sound like you may, in fact, change that.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean it's something I haven't spoken to my manager about. The way the World Rankings are, if I can play well this year, I may be far enough up in the world next year where I can play more out here and be comfortable doing that. I love being out here this time of the year, it's fantastic; I miss all of the travel back in Europe; I don't have to do Australia and Asia.

The events are getting better no doubt back in Europe, but I think ultimately I'd like to be out here in the States this time of year. But we're starting back in Europe the season proper starts as I see on mainland Europe, really, and all our big events are starting back there, the Volvo, the BMW, and K Club and Loch Lomond, I'm always wanting to be back in Europe those times.

As far as my schedule goes the next couple of years, it's going to be a completely different deal for me. I have no idea what's going to happen, and I'm happy about the prospect of getting to play in the best events in the world, really.

Q. How do you feel about representing your country on the Tour? Is that special to you at all?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Absolutely. I think Irish golf in general at the moment is doing extremely well; Padraig winning the Honda and myself playing well last week, Paul McGinley doing well. We are at a really strong stage in Irish golf. We're due a major championship pretty soon. I think we have a chance to do something big in the near future, in World Golf. And it's exciting to be part of that, really. It's nice to represent a really good bunch of players coming from that part of the world.

Q. How did you end up at Lake Nona and someone had told me they thought you might be buying Trevor's house, and he might be moving to a bigger place?

GRAEME McDOWELL: That's what happened. Trevor moved into Emily Klein's house, and I have now bought Trevor's house. I've got my food in the door, and Trevor has moved on to bigger and better things. Lake Nona, my contact came through a friend back home who is one of the assistants, a guy called Ricky Elliott. When I was in college I'd come to Orlando on my couple of weeks off, and he put me in touch with Gregor. I played in practice there a lot. And I've been thinking long and hard about getting myself property for a couple of years. And when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it. It's pretty cool to be a resident now, and I'm looking forward to spending time there.

Q. (Inaudible).

GRAEME McDOWELL: Played with Luke Donald and Carl Petersson on the back nine. Luke's played here a few times and Carl played here last year. I was trying to wean as much information as I could from those guys. I played Duffy Waldorf on the front side. I guess he's played here a lot of times. I've read a lot of quotes from the players over the last years, about how do you go about playing this golf course, really, and it seems to be the same things over and over again; you've got to keep it in play, you've got to hit fairways and place the ball well on these greens.

I feel this golf course is pretty self explanatory, really; you hit it in the rough, you're going to have problems; you miss the greens, you're going to have problems; and you have to putt well. I didn't feel the course was as tricked up as I thought it might well be. Obviously if it gets firm and fast on the weekend it's going to start playing difficult. But I felt like my 15 holes I played today I've learned plenty from it, that's for sure.

Q. Talk a little bit more about Irish golf. And the weekend when Padraig won and Des won, I talked to Des about Irish golf. And he really didn't have an answer for what has changed about Irish golf. So could you give us an explanation of why the country is developing more players now?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think the Golfing Union have put a lot of money in coaching, and I think all the International Federation seem to realize now that the players, they're going to have to travel, worldwide, to gain the experience that they're going to require to tap into the next level. Like say the money is now becoming available for young amateur players for travel to Australia in the winter and do this and that, and travel all over the world and play in golf tournaments and gain that experience of traveling and playing different golf courses and competing against International Players.

And I think college here in the States is becoming a lot more available to young players, as well. I think for me it was an invaluable tool to get me to where I am right now. Any of the young kids I meet, I generally point them in the direction here to the States. I say, go to college in America, you can keep your academics going, you can play sport, and you can pretty much get your game up to turn pro if that's what you want to do.

Q. How did you end up in America?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I get asked that question quite often. There's an Irish player at the time and he was a pretty good player, and I guess he was trying to strengthen the team, put the coach in touch with me, and I think he gave my coach two names of two decent players in Ireland. And I think he called me first. And I was just about ready to go. It's something I had wanted to do. And when the situation arose, I mean, I was all over it. It was a good decision in hindsight.

I had a good time in Birmingham; it took some adjustment. It took me a year to adjust, to be fair. But I had a good time. It took my game to the next level. I think I put on about two stone the first year. It took me to where I wanted to be.

Q. How did you adjust to the Alabama version of football, and what would be your version of football?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I quickly realized that football is not a sport down there, it's a religion. And I've been to a few Alabama I think I went to Alabama LSU game, was one of the first big football games I went to. That was something unbelievable. Football in the South, it's something different, you know. The stadiums of a hundred thousand excess people watching college sports was a bit surreal to me, I couldn't quite get my head around it, but certainly enjoyable to be part of it.

Q. Did you get a chance to get to Augusta?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yes, I've been there twice. We played Augusta State's university golf and they gave us passes to watch the Monday practice round. I think I went there last year, I can't remember, I was out here practicing in the States.

Q. But you've never played it?

GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I've walked around it and soaked up the atmosphere a little bit.

Q. Aside from football, what were the other adjustments that you had to make going to Alabama?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Just from a golf point of view, really. I hadn't I wasn't really that much of a travel person at that stage. I was just starting to get a feel for traveling. And I think I'm pretty sure the first time I came to the States was coming on a recruiting visit to UAB, that was my first time on American soil. The setups like the one here, heavy rough, fast greens, and just the heat and the weather, the way of life here in the States was just completely different for me, big cities. I grew up in a town of 15,000 people. I came from a pretty small town.

There's a lot of adjustments to make. It's just part of the American life. I don't think it was maybe typical in Birmingham, just obviously it's a different city from a racial, cultural kind of the epicenter of everything that went on back then. It was an interesting place to go to school, that's for sure. People ask me, I just tell them I had a great time down there, mainly due to the kind of golf courses we got to play, it was a great part of the world from that point of view.

Q. What are you, about 25 years old?


Q. Are you ahead of the schedule that you thought you'd be on in terms of your career or are you right where you expected to be?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I feel very comfortable where I'm at. I never really sort of plotted out a timeline where I wanted to be certain times in my career, I just wanted to keep on an upward path. When I turned pro I obviously won quickly in Europe, and quickly was the only word to describe it. It was maybe a little too quick, and it took me about 12 months to get my head around where I was and the new level that I was at.

But I learned a lot from that year. It was frustrating, it was tough for me. But I felt like I learned more in that sort of six, seven months playing badly on the European Tour than I learned in the first three or four months when I was playing well and getting invited go to the NEC and all the big events and being recognized as a rookie winner and that kind of stuff. I learned a lot in 2003 and came out and felt like in '04 that I kind of matured as a player and professional.

Q. Over here I guess you've kind of gotten a little less publicity than a lot of your peers from Europe have. Do you feel like you're right there in the mix with all the young guys?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's a tough school. There's so many great players out here. Like I played Aaron at Bay Hill, he seems like he's been around forever, but he's only 24 years old. I meet these guys and I realize that everyone slips and slides around the World Rankings, guys like Aaron who have done amazing things early in his career, and have slipped back in the World Rankings. They've still done things that I want to do, win out here on the PGA TOUR, and it's great to be part of golf.

It's an exciting time in golf, young kids coming through, strong, great hitters of the ball. And guys who are fearless and can win at any given moment, really. So it's exciting to be included in that kind of league of players, really.

Q. Do you feel an obligation or responsibility that you're representing all of Ireland and you need to succeed to prove any points here in America?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Not really. I think the only thing I was trying to prove, I guess I wanted wanted to prove to myself that I could come over to the PGA TOUR and compete, really. I played here a couple of years ago and maybe didn't feel as comfortable playing as I do now. I think this year playing events out here, I can't believe how comfortable I felt. I'm not sure if it's due to the number of International Players that are out here right now or that my game has progressed that I can compete, two top 10s in the space of five or six starts.

I feel like I'm playing well enough to compete at any level with the best players in the world. I feel very, very comfortable in this environment now.

Q. I'm sure you know Padraig finished 2nd here the last two years. Are you trying to seek him out?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, actually I asked him this morning, did he want to play a few holes, but it turns out he was doing some work on the range, and that was cool. But I feel I've got to know Padraig a lot more this year. He's a tough guy to get to know, because he likes to do his own thing and he does his own practice and likes to keep to himself.

But I've made it a point this year to try to play some practice rounds with him and obviously Darren and just play practice rounds with as many good players as I can and try to gain their knowledge and experience as much as I can from them. But I didn't actually realize he finished 2nd here the last couple of years. So I will have to have a chat with him. I'm playing with Darren tomorrow morning.

Q. What are you looking forward to most about getting to Augusta, and have you set up any practice rounds with some guys there?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I have not set up any practice rounds yet, no. I don't know, I'm just it's going to be exciting just to play that golf course, just to get a feel and hit some iron shots in there and putt on those greens and stuff. It's going to be cool; my mom and dad are going to come over for the tournament. That's going to be cool, as well. They're going to go crazy when they see the golf course and stuff. It's going to be cool to bring them over; that's one of the cool things about the week.

But just to tee it up competitively on these golf courses it's pretty relaxing walking around the course this morning. But it's going to be a different story come Thursday, when you tee it up and try to score and obviously on the weekend when things heat up. That's when you see a golf course at its true light, when you're playing competitively, and hopefully I'll be in contention, as well. I'm excited about being around here and Augusta in those kind of circumstances.

Q. Have your parents come over for any of your matches here before?

GRAEME McDOWELL: They've traveled a bit over here to the States. They came out a bit when I was in college, and my dad came to the Walker Cup and stuff. They've traveled a little bit in Europe. But I think this is maybe the first pro event they'll have traveled to in the States.

Q. What do they do?

GRAEME McDOWELL: My mom, she manages a fashion department store, and my dad is a computer technician.

Q. Do you have pants to match Darren?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I'll have to confess that we use the same tailor. Thankfully his materials, I think he likes to keep them quite unique to himself, I don't have any access to his orange and red check, which is probably a good thing. The tailor we use, there's a few other guys using him, as well, Paul McGinley and Lee Westwood and Richie Green, a few of us are using him.

Q. You guys have the same tailor?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think we do.

Q. One guy?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, one guy.

Q. Who is this guy?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Tony Q, the letter Q. He's based on these he's based in London and he makes some cool stuff, he really does. You can have it as outrageous as you want to.

Q. Anything new he's come up with, what did it look like?

GRAEME McDOWELL: He's never made anything I haven't liked, but he suggested a few things I decided not to go with. He's got some funky ideas, and you watch the space.

Q. Is he working out a special wardrobe for Augusta?

GRAEME McDOWELL: That's all been done, I'm not going to go with that. I'll leave that to the Poulters and the Clarkes of the world.

Q. Because of the Ryder Cup next year, there is an increased interest in golf in Ireland; do you find people are more interested in what you're doing here now than the past?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It's going to be special to have the Ryder Cup in Ireland. I really I haven't spent enough time, I guess I'll get to see a bit this year when we play the Irish events. But I haven't had a chance to soak up the Irish reaction to what's going on in the golf world. Obviously Padraig is winning, and the way I'm playing and me and Darren. It will be interesting to go back and soak up the Irish reaction. I'm sure they'll be excited about getting three or four players on their side next year; that would be something else.

Q. Do you think you'll get a sense then of how important the Ryder Cup is next year, and terms of fixing your schedule, that it could be No. 1 priority?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Indeed. I've got to think long and hard about how much a priority it's going to be for me. I talked to it's a dream, obviously, in my career to play a Ryder Cup. I feel like I've got to the point now, and playing the kind of schedule, that if I play good anywhere in the world, I'm going to make the team. I'm working my way up the World Rankings, and I feel if I play well enough, I'll be on the side. So obviously how much a priority is it going to be? I have no idea. I trust my manager enough to point me in the right direction, from that point of view.

So it's not something I'm worried about right now. Obviously until the points kick in in September in Europe, that will be when I start thinking about what I'm going to do and whether I'm going to play out in the States a little bit, I have no idea. If I play in Europe, I haven't thought that far ahead yet.

End of FastScripts.

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