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February 22, 2005

Graeme McDowell


SCOTT CROCKETT: Graeme, thanks for coming in, as always. Everybody is looking forward to the first round of the Accenture Match Play. Of course you'll be looking forward to playing Darren in the final of the unofficial Ulster match play.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, we've been looking out for a week or so, and it's been looking that we're going to be paired against each other. It's pretty surreal, really, but there's 64 great players in this golf tournament, and I knew I was going to have to play one of them in the first round, it just happens that it's Darren. It's quite an interesting match up.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Is it hard for you to play somebody you know so well?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think it is. It's always difficult playing somebody that you're friendly with. It's difficult to put the friendship aside for 18 holes, and at the end of the day we're going to be trying to beat each other up tomorrow and someone is going to have to come out on top. Yeah, time to be friends after the match, no doubt about that. It's going to be a good game, and obviously I'm going to be wanting to come out on top at the end of the day.

Q. Do you remember when you first met Darren?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I played nine holes with him when I was about 14 years old, around the local course at Portrush. He came back quite a lot around the winter. And it happened that I managed to hook up with him for nine holes early one Sunday morning. It was intimidating for me. It was more memorable for me than it was for him.

But things have changed quite a bit since then. He's a great player, and always been pretty inspirational for me, a fellow Irishman, and his success over the last 10, 15 years. He's been the main influence when I turned pro. When I turned pro he's obviously he's been full of advice and full of support for me, especially when was with Chubby and when I won my first event in 2002, and text messages and phone calls. He's been a big influence in my career to date.

Q. Do you think you will put that aside?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm going to have to, that's for sure. I've had about a week to think about it. It's not as if the draw is a big shock to me. I think we pretty much knew it was going to happen. I've had a week to think about it, obviously. And getting over the initial kind of shock of it all, we have to put it aside and play it like it's another game, really. It doesn't matter who it is, really. You've got to approach it the same way, play the golf course.

He knows this golf course well, he's been successful around here. He's going to be dangerous. And he's going to make plenty of birdies. I'm sure I'm going to have to play pretty aggressively against him.

Q. Did you have any banter with him about it last week?

GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I think we all had a pretty quiet week last week, with the rain delays, and we were on the opposite side of the draws in LA. It was too early in the week to realize what the draw was going to be.

At the weekend I didn't really have a chance to see him. No, we haven't had much banter about it, and I can't imagine there will be much banter between now and then. We'll save the banter for after, really, and in the future.

Q. This is one of the rewards for the progress you made last year, isn't it?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean you play well, you get in these big events, and to me this is what it's all about, the majors, the WGC events and playing against these guys over in the States. It's where I want to be. It's where I want to be in the future. I'm starting to get a taste of the kind of schedule I want to play.

Q. When Adam Scott led Tiger here a couple of years ago, Adam was taken aback that Tiger gave him the stare and didn't say a word to him all day. Are you expecting that?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I heard that from a couple of years ago, but you've got to expect that; it's cutthroat out here. This is the best match play event in the world, bar the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup. Individually this is the first time I've ever played professionally professional match play. I've played enough match play experience in my life to know that you can expect anything from your opponent. We're all professionals out here at the end of the day.

I'm not expecting there to be much chatting in the group tomorrow. It's going to be pretty cutthroat. It's an 18 hole sprint getting off to the fastest start, and whoever shoots the lowest score will probably win. I don't have any expectations of there being much chat, really.

Q. The best match play event in your history?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I had a big season 2000, back in Ireland where I won two or three match play events in the space of a few months. I went on a winning streak, and I think I was 6 for 6 in the home match play. So I feel like I have a pretty good match play record, something I was thriving on.

I felt as an amateur, I needed to learn how to play stroke play pretty fast, because I wanted to go to college and turn pro. I felt I was a match player but not a good enough stroke player. But things have changed now. I'm a pretty good stroke player. I don't think it's going to be hard to revert back.

Q. Can you remember how long the streak was that you went?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Pretty tough, six games, six, seven, maybe. I'm sure it was probably in the region of like 25 to 27 matches, something like that. Maybe not quite that large a number, but something in that region. I won the Irish Close and the South of Ireland and the Nationals. I played a lot of matches that year, and a couple the following year. I lost both my singles in the Walker Cup, but pretty narrowly to their No. 1 player.

Q. When you were 14 and you had this nine holes did you actually have a match?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think Darren is the kind of guy that always plays a match, he's pretty competitive. I think I was maybe four or five handicap at the time, and I don't think I was receiving enough shots, probably. That's kind of the way he runs his matches, though.

Q. You lost that one?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I would say so, yeah. We've had a couple of friendly games actually in the last six months. I think that it's 1 1 in the overall tally at the moment. He got his revenge on me a couple of weeks ago at Spyglass.

Q. Your ambitions for the season, you set your goals quite high?

GRAEME McDOWELL: After last year I'm really wanting to try my schedule has changed quite a bit this year, I'm going to be playing quite a bit more worldwide. I'm still looking to have a really good finish in the European Order of Merit, and to obviously keep climbing the world rankings; in the top 30 would be a good goal at the end of the season. I'm willing to try to get a good finish in a major, to start being a contender in those tournaments, really. I've had a couple now to settle down and get the feel for them. I'm going to be starting to contend, and get myself in position for the weekend. That's the kind of stuff I'm looking forward to doing this year.

Q. Are you in The Masters?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Not in The Masters yet, no. I'm looking for a couple of good weeks.

End of FastScripts.

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