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March 20, 2005

Graeme McDowell


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Graeme McDowell into the interview area.

A 6-under par 66 today, that pushed you way up the leaderboard, and I know there's been a lot of talk about Top-50 and World Rankings and PLAYERS Championship and the Masters and everything. Were you aware of what was at stake for you this afternoon?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think I've been aware for probably a few months now, what's been going on with the World Rankings. You know, when the cutoff comes for the Masters here, what, Monday, tomorrow week, it's going to be a big weight off my mind, whether I met it or not, because I can go back to concentrating on my schedule and go back to thinking about winning golf tournaments, instead of trying to get up in the World Rankings which has been my main focus for a few months.

I'm looking forward to it. Obviously I'm excited to get into THE PLAYERS next week. It's going to be something I've looked forward to all my life to play at Sawgrass, obviously, and the Masters is going to be a special tournament to try and work hard next week and get into.

JOE CHEMYCZ: A difficult scoring day today for most people, but you had the round of the day, 6-under 66.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I just controlled my golf ball really well today. To be fair I played some great golf all week. I put a sloppy finish to the end of round two. Didn't play great in round three, but I felt for about 60 holes in this golf tournament, I've controlled my golf ball as well as I possibly can, putted well.

I was really happy with 66 today. I really couldn't have imagined that kind of a score going out. I knew how difficult the course was becoming. The greens are firming up and the rough is thick. My second year at Bay Hill, I'm extremely excited about that number.

Q. Can you just talk about the setup of the course this week, how did it progress throughout the week, talk about the rough and the greens and the difficulty?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, the rough here is pretty brutal. You don't have to miss the first cut by a few inches to be absolutely underground and just chopping it back in the fairway.

Earlier in the week the greens were soft. The golf course was fairly playable, and even the rough around the greens was thick yet soft, and you could kind of get the ball down.

As the weekend got closer, as the course dried out and the greens got firmer and firmer, iron shots became more much difficult to show. The rough around the greens became dry and thick and tough, and it became much more difficult to get the ball up-and-down. As the weekend has gone on, I feel this golf course has got nothing but trickier.

It's fun for me to come and play golf courses which I feel are close to major setups, U.S. Open-style golf courses, and I feel that back in Europe we don't get enough exposure to this kind of setup, and this is why I feel very satisfied to have played well around a setup like this.

Q. When were you first aware that you really had a chance to get in the Masters field, and how much of a distraction, is it a good or a bad distraction?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Towards the end of last year, my World Ranking -- when I broke the Top-100 and I accelerated very quickly toward the Top-50, you know, we made big decisions at the end of last year to maybe try to squeeze in a couple of events at the end of my season to chase that cutoff for the Masters. We decided not to bother. We decided just to take some time off and obviously come out firing early consider this year. I feel I've played some good golf early this year, but haven't quite got the job done.

I think it's been very distracting, yeah. It's probably been a little too distracting, as I say, I just like to concentrate on playing golf tournaments and trying to win that week instead of thinking in the future, which I feel I've been doing for a long time. I've been thinking towards the Masters and Sawgrass and stuff.

You know, at the end of the day, my schedule is going to be good regardless. I already have three of the majors pretty much guaranteed and plenty of starts out here in the States. As I say, it's going to be a big weight off my mind when I can stop thinking about the cutoff points for these major championships and so forth. I'm looking forward to that.

Q. What would it mean to get into that tournament for you?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It would just be a dream come true, really. The Masters, I've watched that tournament since I was a boy. For me it's the pinnacle of the golf world, really. It's the golf tournament. You know, I've got the experience of a couple of majors last year, the Open and the PGA. I'll obviously have the U.S. Open this look forward to this year at Pinehurst. To get into the Masters would be extremely special.

Getting into next week is also very special. I'm excited about Sawgrass and I'm just excited the way the year is panning out in front of me. I feel like I'm playing great golf and I'm a much better player than last year. I feel like my game is strong and I feel that I can win in any given week. It's great to play good against a field of this strength this week.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Graeme, we appreciate it. Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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