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September 2, 2014

Graeme McDowell


MARK STEVENS: Okay. Like to welcome Graeme McDowell. I guess welcome to the BMW Championship, but first things first. Let's talk about last week, and you had a new addition to the family. Your first daughter. If you want to kind of talk about what you've been up to the last week, and then we'll have some questions.

GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think most of the parents in the room can imagine what I've been up to. Not sleeping much, changing a lot of nappies. No, special stuff. Very fortunate and very blessed that both mommy and Vale our new daughter were very healthy and everything went really well. The week couldn't have been more perfect from a physical and health point of view. Certainly, emotionally, it was a pretty amazing week, and it is still kind of all sinking in and it's very, very special times. I didn't play a lot of golf, I have to be honest. I flew in here yesterday to get some work done and shake the rust off and get ready to try and give this a run this week to get to Atlanta next week. But, it was a very, very special sort of milestone in my life. I enjoyed every second of it. A few sleepless nights, but all good stuff, as all the parents know.

MARK STEVENS: Okay. Thank you. Questions?

Q. Congratulations. Given the sleepless nights, will golf feel like a little bit of a delightful break for you, or is it going to be hard to really get focused?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I have to say, I was feeling fairly refreshed kind of coming here, I suppose. I was excited to play because I really didn't play much last week, at all. I would love to get to Atlanta next week. I haven't played a TOUR Championship yet. I guess my goals this week are very easily defined for me. I've got to finish Top-5 and I've got to come out and be aggressive and play this golf course as hard as I can this week. I like the way it sets up. I think that it's a decent sort of golf course for my type of game. Like I say, of course, it was hard to kind of leave, but like I say, excited to play golf, the Ryder Cup, seeing that my place was solidified on Sunday. That gave me a little boost. I've got three weeks now to get ready for Gleneagles. And whatever happens, happens regarding this week, next week and beyond. So, I will do the best I can to prepare myself for Scotland. No doubt, priorities have changed. Life's changed. I know I've changed inside, for sure. It's tough to quantify how much I've changed. Time will tell. But, I can feel it inside me, and I'm certainly excited to embark on the next chapter of my life. So, it's pretty cool.

Q. You came sort of close to not being an automatic pick and having to sweat it out?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Very close, yeah.

Q. What are your thoughts on captain's picks in general? Is it something that the time has come and gone for having them, would you like to see 11, or even 12 automatic or where do you stand on it?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I don't know. You could pick holes in the selection system on both sides of the Atlantic. I think it's tough to get a perfect system, very much so for the European team because of the global nature of the way we play. Should there be more strength put on the last three or four months of the Race in regards to weighting of the points? You get guys who solidify their place nearly in the first three or four months at the end of last year, and guys maybe don't have a chance to make a run the last three or four months. So, there's so many -- there's so many holes you can pick in the selection systems. I think the wild cards -- I love that little bit of extra breathing room. Because it is impossible to get a system that is perfect. So, I like the wild cards. I think they're kind of exciting. And let's be honest inevitably they end up going to the guys, most -- certainly two of the three go to the guys nearly next in line, if you like. I know Steven and Ian were pretty much two of the next three guys in. I didn't look at the final rankings, I thought Steven Gallacher, I mean David Howell's round on Sunday was the only thing that stopped him from passing me. I watched the last four or five holes. I really believed he was going to do it, and I was okay with that. I had sort of made peace with myself that I had done everything I could and that I was happy to, I was happy for anything to happen. I felt quietly confident that I might get a captain's nod if I needed it. But nothing, nothing's guaranteed in this life, and I wish Steven, certainly, all the best that week and I was very -- I was happy to see him get a pick. Because I thought he deserved one. When the chips were down, he was asked the questions. I thought the round he played on Sunday especially, was -- showed a lot about him and his character and his personality and the type of player that he can be at Ryder Cup. I think we all knew at the outset of this last 12 months that someone was going to end up disappointed, and I'm sure Luke Donald is very disappointed. His Ryder Cup record's immense, former world number one. We all know how good he is. I think that we knew someone was going to miss out these last few months, and I feel for him that it had to be him. I'm sure it was a very difficult decision for the captain to make. And Luke Donald would have been a massive asset, as well. So very, very difficult. The system's hard to perfect, especially for us. That was a long answer. Sorry. (Laughter.)

Q. Two questions: The overall thoughts of your team going to Scotland.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think our team's really solid. I think our team is playing very well. Certainly led out by Rory, Sergio, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, the way he's playing. Couple of really, three really strong rookies. I feel like Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson, who a lot of people won't know this side of the Atlantic who has turned into a very, very consistent and very good player. Stephen Gallacher, who hits, whose had a great few seasons in Scotland on a golf course that he knows well. I think he'll be a guy who might be underrated, but who will perform well, I believe. I'm missing someone. Obviously, myself, Poults, Poults is Poults, he'll get his Ryder Cup -- he'll get that Ryder Cup logo on and play out of his mind as usual, I'm sure. Myself and Westie, bringing a little bit of experience maybe. I think it's a great team. I'm very excited about it. I think that you -- there's no point getting upset by who is favored and who is underdog and all that stuff. All I know is it's going to be a real battle. The American team are 12 phenomenal players, whoever -- we'll find out here in about 45 minutes who the other three are. But, no, it's always a slugfest and it will come down to some putts here or there Sunday afternoon. And I'm just excited about it. I'm excited to have qualified automatically for my fourth Ryder Cup in a row. I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm very excited. Very excited to play another one on home soil. And it's always a special week, win, lose, or draw.

Q. What is the biggest challenges of playing at elevation and on a golf course you haven't seen before?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I always like coming to courses we have never seen before. I think that guys get in grooves on these courses, we see year in, year out. I like the challenge of a new course. I kind of feel like it appeals to my sort of analytical strategic kind of mind. I like to come out here and see a challenge like this one where it's not a straightforward as some of the courses we do play. Elevation, of course, there's a lot of numbers flying around this week. Three, four, five percent in the morning, up to eight, nine, ten percent in the afternoon's. Downhills, wind, you know. You could start off with a number like 250 and end up like with a number like 200. By the time you take 10 percent, and the downhill, and the downwind, and a bit of release and that. So, the first number you have to kind of throw out and commit to your shots and realize that it's not a straightforward sort of equation either. Uphill, uphill the ball doesn't get the elevation the same way. Downhill it gets more elevation. It's a great conundrum. I never did play Castle Pines, but we do see this in Tucson at the start of the year. So, most guys are pretty familiar with it. Good golf course though, great shape. BMW always does a great job. Just the hospitality, and just everything, and I think I'm driving home in a Rolls Royce tonight, so that's not a bad deal. (Laughter.) So great week, obviously.

Q. Two part question: You mentioned fourth Ryder Cup appearance. Does that feeling ever change from Ryder Cup number one to Ryder Cup number four? And secondly, when you say the course lays out, I know you talked about challenges, you talked about things, but specifically when you look at the course, what do you think plays into your hand as you get ready to make this run towards East Lake?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I'll start with your second part. This golf course is pretty narrow in places. There's about enough rough to kind of keep it interesting. There's options off tees, chances to hit it past traps, chances to lay it up short of traps. Greens are small and undulating. Tricky. You got to stay below a lot of the pins. I know they have had a wet summer here, but the golf course is not reflecting that. It's actually rolling out pretty well. I just think there's a lot to this golf course. It's got some length in places, it's got some sort of drivable short Par-4s, it's got a real good balance to it. I just think it's -- I love what BMW will do with the golf courses that they take us to. They're real classic American courses. Cog Hill, the Crooked Stick, to here I'm missing one. Oh, I don't know. Conway Farms last year. Yeah, so old, mature, classical American style courses. As opposed to some of the bombers tracks that we go to now days. Your Ryder Cup question, all three of my Ryder Cups so far have been very different experiences. Bizarrely, maybe my favorite one was 2008. My rookie year. We lost at Valhalla. I loved that week. It was a special week to me. For many reasons. The way I kind of felt like I matured a lot as a player that week. I gained a lot of belief in myself to be able to do it on the world stage. I grew a lot that week as a player. And it's a very special week in my life. Obviously, Celtic Manor, that was tough for a lot of reasons. Nice to be in the last game there and win the last point. That was something that I'll remember all my life. Medinah, to be part of that comeback. It was just a very, very special and different week. So all three of them have been very special in their own way. Win, lose, or draw, honestly, I know Gleneagles will be a hell of a lot of fun and it's just a different vibe of golf. It's just a different style, emotionally and physically, for that week. And you just have to embrace it and have some good times.

Q. I want to ask you about this old, classic, mature course just for a second. How much fight does Cherry Hills have in it and maybe, conversely, how many scoring opportunities and how low can these fellows go this week?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think the scoring will purely be based on how firm this golf course becomes. There's holes like 10 and 11 and 12 into that back corner where the greens are really sitting on quite a tilt. If those are firm, you've really got to play the slopes. 10th fairway, if it was firm, is a very difficult fairway to hit. If it's soft, obviously, I mean, the fairway plays effectively twice as wide. So I'm hoping that we get, continue to get these dry conditions and the golf course sort of continues to firm up. Because I think that if it was soft, talking 20-under par. If it's firm, you're probably talking between 10- and 15-under par. So, I think it will make that big a difference and by the looks of things, it's going to be firmer. So, I think it's a really good test. It's got the first -- the first guys will be hitting 3 wood on to it, and then you've got some really, there's two, 250 yard par-3s out there. So, it's got a real great balance of styles, and shot making, and fades, and draws, and it's a good golf course.

Q. You mentioned trying to get to Atlanta the first time. Could you elaborate on how important that is to you and just what the challenges have been.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: My previous three FedExCup playoffs have been fairly disappointing, shall we say. I felt like mentally and physically I wasn't up for them. I still struggle with this sort of switch off that I have after the last Major Championship of the year. I feel like that run from the U.S. Open through to the PGA Championship takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally from a schedule point of view, from a building up point of view. It's the real core of the season. When I come out the other end of it, I have a tough time packing my bag to go to New Jersey. I have had the last four years running now. Obviously, this is a unique setup for me this year, not playing Boston for the right reasons, being at home last week. I've taken that sort of other opportunity to put some points on the board. Should have played better at Ridgewood. I had the opportunities. I actually had some physical issues on the weekend there. My neck went out and I didn't play well. I didn't put as many points on the board as I would like to. So this week, like I say, it's nice to have that defined kind of challenge of a Top-5 to get me to Atlanta. Obviously, a Top-5, depending upon who does what and we all know what kind of how volatile this system can be. The playoffs achieve what it's supposed to achieve. It's a sprint finish. If you don't play well, you go home. It doesn't reward consistency during the season because it's not really supposed to. It's supposed to give guys a shot to come from the back of the field to the front of the podium. It's left kind of a sour taste the last few years for me, simply because I haven't played well. I would love to get to the TOUR Championship and give myself a chance to win what is the biggest prize in golf. You know, it's a very, very kind of special event, from my point of view, and like I say, just haven't managed to get my head around it all. But I will. I will. Eventually. Hopefully, it's this week.

Q. Just describe what it feels like being the home team at the Ryder Cup. Does it help having the crowd on your side or add more pressure, more adrenaline, how is it different?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: It's fun. It's fun. There's no doubt the crowd have a massive impact on what happens at Ryder Cups. I feel like that you can feel Sunday afternoon at Medinah, you could feel the European momentum by the lack of noise. I think that the alternative happens on the Friday and Saturday at Medinah. You could feel what was happening. You could feel the U.S. steam roller kind of rolling those two days. And it's electric. Kind of gives me goose bumps just thinking about what it's like to hole a putt at the Ryder Cup in front of your home fans. I remember making a putt at Valhalla in 2008 from off the back of the 8th green and it was about a 20-footer and I was going crazy and fist pumping and I realized, bizarrely, that no one had reacted at all in the crowd. And it was a very eery kind of, I felt quite nearly a little embarrassed to be celebrating at all, because no one was really pulling for that putt to go. So it's really bizarre. It's weird. There's a different vibe when you play in front of your home fans. I think playing in Scotland will be very special. Any of the British opens we play in Scotland you get the sense that the fans understand golf and they're very educated and they get it and they understand the tradition and history of the game. I think that Gleneagles, I was going to say, rain, hail, or snow, you know, it's going to be a special Ryder Cup. I think it opens the debate as to whether the Ryder Cup should be a four day event or I feel like maybe it should be. Should start on Thursday and just kind of give guys, maybe go to play a better ball Thursday, two foursomes Friday, and a better ball Saturday, just to give that leeway for potential storms and bad weather and stuff that can happen. But it will be fun and looking forward to feeling the hometown buzz again from the home crowd.

Q. You talked about the mature nature of the course and we kind of know the history here with Arnold Palmer and what he did. Is there any part -- first of all, can you describe what that shot would be like to actually drive the green at No. 1 and also have you taken a run at it yet?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I hit driver today off the first and hit it in the front left trap. It's an easier green to hit than the, is it the 4th? 3rd? Yeah. You'll see more balls on the first green than you will on the third green. The third green's very difficult one to hit. It's kind of an up turned saucer. But, no, it's very doable. I think that Arnie will be upset to see guys hitting three wood on there this week, let's put it that way. Maybe less than three wood, honestly. With the elevation here, I mean, it's not a driver for Rory. I know that for a fact. It's a three wood, maybe even a five wood to the front. So, I hope Arnie doesn't take that too personally. But, no, like I said, good golf course, good test. If it remains firm, I think it will be a lot of fun. I love coming to these parts of the world where the fans haven't seen any golf for a long time and I feel like they get the buzz, they get up for it. Good crowds already today. It should be a pretty exciting week.

Q. You talked about the rough being just high, thick enough or whatever to be interesting. How is it playing? How thick is it? We have had so much rain here.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, it's just enough to make fairways a premium. You can pull some lie, but it takes the control out of your hands. It is that really kind of nice kind of lush kind of blue grass kind of feel to it. Not dissimilar around the greens to what Ridgewood was. The way these greens are pitched, you're really having to stay on the correct side of the flags to give yourself an opportunity to get the ball up-and-down. The greens are very fast. So you have to be very aware of where you're going to leave your ball coming in. So, fairways are key and keeping it in the right side of the greens and there's going to be some excitement, some risk/reward par-5s and drivable Par-4s, some long 3s and, like I say, real good balanced golf course.

MARK STEVENS: All right. Well, thanks for your time, Graeme. Best of luck this week.

GRAEME MCDOWELL: Thanks, Mark. Thanks, guys.
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