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August 6, 2015

Graeme McDowell


STEVE TODD: Thank you very much for joining us. It's nice to be back on the leaderboard. Just give us your verdict on the round of 66 there today.

GRAEME McDOWELL: I've just been working hard the last ten days or so on some of the things I haven't been doing well, principally driving the ball and putting the ball, which are two things that I've always been pretty strong at that have been eluding me lately. I drove it well today, especially on the front nine. Struggled a little bit on the back nine. The golf course is a pretty tricky setup this year. The rough's pretty gnarly, and the greens are pretty firm, so a real premium on accuracy off the tee and coming into these greens. I really hung in there well with some short game coming in. I felt like the game got a good workout today, some good shots and some good hanging in and some good putts. It was a good workout, a nice score, and look forward to getting back at it tomorrow.

Q. Who are you, and what did you do with Graeme?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I like this version of me today. It's been a rough year, no doubt about it. Definitely been some time for reflection and some questions being asked of myself. But I think we all experience these things in everything we do. It's how you answer the questions and how you come out the other side really. I've just been working hard on the game and trying to find a direction forward. I feel like I'm starting to do that now, and it's just a case of shooting some numbers and getting the confidence back a little bit and getting the juices flowing. I feel like I'll know what to do when I get back there, but it's all about the process of getting there now. So days like today will certainly help in that direction. I've got to keep doing it.

Q. Has it been one thing -- I think at Hilton Head you said you'd lost your fade, and you were trying to rediscover that. Has it been that or more than one thing?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's certainly been a technical issue this year. I haven't been flighting the ball well at all. I've had the club face pretty short in the backswing. It's difficult to do a lot when you don't have a lot of loft on the club coming in. I've been certainly struggling with some of the old bad habits that can creep into my game, things that I worked on trying to get rid of it sort of 2008, 2009, into that sort of nice purple patch I had for a few years. I feel like I've got away from doing some of the things that I was doing well in that patch. So certainly pull out some old swings and just had a little look at what I was doing differently back then. It's -- you know, just everything's just added up in the sort of gnawing away at that confidence and belief, and we all know that this game is about confidence and belief. You look at a run of play like Jordan's got himself on, momentum and belief is everything in this game. I've had none of the above this year, so it's been hard. The type of schedule I play, it's cherry picking the best events, and typically the toughest events against the best fields. So if you're a little bit off, it's going to chew you up and spit you out, this schedule that I'm playing. I certainly need a few events just to get back on leaderboards and to get my confidence back a little bit. So that's all a process. I'm happy enough to be patient with it, and certainly I've been trying my best not to panic. I've obviously fallen outside of the world's top 50, and that means some things next year, but that's not till next year. So I've got some time. I've got some opportunities. I've got a decent schedule kind of mapped out ahead of me. The playoffs are in question right now. If I get into those final, I'll do option A schedule. And if I don't get into those, I'll play option B schedule. So I've got plenty of golf to play, and I have enough confidence in myself to know that, if I can get back on track, I can get myself back to where I need to be.

Q. You said you're asking questions of yourself. What was maybe the hardest question you asked of yourself? And did you have an answer for it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think probably the hardest question was do I still kind of want to grind and be out here? Do I still want this? I mean, yes. It was an easy question. Answer, yeah, I do want it. If this all went away, I'd miss it very badly. So when you answer that question positively, then you've got to start kind of answering all the other questions. How do I get myself back to where I need to be? And it starts with technique, and it starts with hard work and motivation and kind of all the things that I've done in the past. So I think the biggest question was kind of the whole do I still want to be out here?

Q. Why were you asking yourself that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Because it's hard. When you're not playing well, it's hard. When you're packing your bag on a Friday afternoon, it's hard. It's not cool. You get frustrated with the people closest to you and around you, and caddies and agents and coaches. It's hard.

Q. Reporters?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, no, I always love you. When you're not enjoying what you're doing, you ask yourself, do you want to continue doing it? It was an easy question to answer. I love what I do, and I want to be back. I want to be back to the business end of things where it gives you the happy feelings, you know. When I have my little kid run out onto the 72nd green, that's what I want. That's what the new me wants.

Q. Just curious about your thoughts on next year's schedule that's going to look a lot different. This event's going to come after the U.S. Open, typically around the time of the French --
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's going to be the opposite of the French Open next year, which is going to cause a bit of a problem for me, especially being very close to that event, having won it twice in the last three years. So it's going to be a really tough question for me to have to answer. Very difficult to answer it right now. I mean, I could probably see myself being in France, to be honest with you. It's a golf course I prefer. It's a tournament which I want to be loyal to because of how good they've been to me and how much success has been there. The Ryder Cup race is going to be heating up. There's going to be a lot of things going on this time next year. Like I say, I can only allude to what I might do this time next year, but we'll just have to wait and see. Obviously, that's a long way off, and I hope I have schedule problems. I hope I'll be back in the top 20 in the world and having all these opportunities to play great golf around the world. It's an interesting looking summer, and it's going to be very interesting to see what guys choose to do.

Q. I don't know if you can speak to this or not, but was there any discussion or any surprise among players, especially those on the European Tour, with the way that went down? Obviously, this is a European Tour event also, but it's going to come at a time when it's a big stretch in Europe leading up to The Open.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, there was a little bit of surprise among sort of European Tour players. I'm a member of -- I don't see myself as necessarily a European Tour player. I'm a PGA Tour player also. The European Tour is my home, and that's kind of where I learned this great game of golf, and I feel always loyal, and I feel like I owe them something at all times. But we are in the -- we're businessmen, and we're trying to be the best we can be, and you've got to make tough decisions sometimes as well. But the schedule is such a difficult -- it's a mess next summer, let's be honest. There's no other way to put it. The PGA Tour has had to make some tough decisions. I don't blame them. It's just business. It's just one of those things. Hopefully, we'll be back to normal the following year. So it's only a one-year deal. Where will I be? I'll probably be in France, and I'm okay to sort of admit that. I'd like to have the option, like I say, but France has been very good to me, and that's probably where I'll have to be.

Q. How different will it be, do you think, next year as you try and earn your spot on the Olympic team for Ireland?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's going to be difficult because Shane is obviously a fantastic player. Padraig has obviously shown some big signs as well. The race is going to be tough. I mean, I'm certainly not going to -- I'll be more interested in making the Ryder Cup team, to be honest with you, come that point in the season. That's always my focus. I think the Olympics are so hard to quantify. I'm not going to get myself into a race with Shane or Padraig. I'm just not going to get into a race with them. I'm going to be trying to take care of my own business and get myself on a Ryder Cup team and have a big 2016. If the Olympics gets in the way, great. I'm not going to get myself in a head-to-head battle with these guys. There's no point. I can only control my golf ball. Of course I'd love to be there, let's be honest.

Q. Just to follow up. If you needed to, you would adjust your schedule to try and get more points making the Ryder Cup team? You wouldn't do that for an Olympic spot?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, they're kind of different qualifying scenarios, aren't they? One's a point system, and the other is just a straight World Ranking system. The other one is obviously the more points accrued, the better. So it's a quantity game. Obviously, the World Rankings is a quality game. So they're kind of different, I think. I don't know. That was a hard question to answer. I'm glad I had a way to answer it.

Q. Why you were able to -- you've got rounds like this in you, but I would never suspect it would come out on a course like this. Is there anything about the course this year that allows you or just a matter of holing a few putts?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think it's a bit tricky this year. In years gone past, the fairways have not really been a must because the greens have been extremely receptive, and the guys can still hit the greens out of the rough. I think this year, when it's firm and fiery, even the rough's firm and fiery, the ball is bouncing into trouble when you do actually hit it offline here, and the greens are hard to hold. So it's tricky. I had my first top 10 here last year. I kind of cracked this nut last year for the first time, and it was my best finish here ever. Maybe starting to feel a little more comfortable on this golf course at long, long last. It was definitely a puzzle which had eluded me for years.

Q. And sorry to get so detailed, but what did you have left for your third on the 16th?
GRAEME McDOWELL: A lot. A lot. 230 yards. 16, you do not want to miss that fairway on 16 because it means you can't get your layup over the fairway trap, which means you're going into that green from 220. It was good because I kind of felt what Bubba feels like when he hits it off the bottom of the tee there and goes for it in two, but I was there for two and going for it in three. I walked off the green, and the guy showed it to me, nice birdie. He obviously thought I drove it down there. He was confusing me with someone else.

Q. And 17, what happened, and what were you trying to --
GRAEME McDOWELL: I didn't have a stance over on the left. The ball had hit the rake and stayed out of the bunker, and I had no stance. So I kind of aimed way right and kind of like jumped backwards and tried to get the club face closed, and it was a little bit of a hit and hope.

Q. Sort of three important pars in terms of --
GRAEME McDOWELL: They were big. I had a big par save from the front right fringe on 9, which was huge for my momentum at the time. It was great to hang in there with some good short game on the back nine. It was a good balanced day. I had a chance to do a lot of things well -- chipping, putting, driving, some good stuff in there. So it was a good workout today.

Q. You said you worked for ten days leading up to this and worked on some things. Would it be fair to say you almost expected to play better than you had been playing because of that work?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'd been hitting it a bit better in practice and stuff. It's certainly one of the things that had been plaguing me a little bit. Scottish Open, British Open, Canadian Open, I had the lefts off the tee. I was hitting it left, and I managed to pretty much take that out of things through my practice the last ten days or so. So I knew I was driving it better, and it was nice to -- I only hit it left once today, and that was on 16. That was just a little bit of bad concentration there. No, I definitely felt confident that I could drive it better. I've been doing everything else pretty good. My iron play has been solid lately, but I just haven't been able to put it in play. It was better today.

Q. Do you have a gut feeling about Rory?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't. I don't. He looks fit. Obviously, I -- I don't know. I've been texting with him, but I don't -- I haven't really been hunting for information because I've just been wishing him well. When he comes back, he comes back. I guess we all want to know if he's going to play next week, don't we? He certainly looks like he could. If it wasn't such a hike around that golf course next week, I think he would be back. But I played it on Tuesday, and that golf course is a -- as far as demanding walks go, that's right up there. It's potholes and side slopes. It's a tough walk. He's a fit kid. He'll come back when he's ready. Certainly, golf swing looks all right.

Q. You played this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I played on Tuesday. It was pretty cool.

Q. What did you shoot?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I didn't play ball down. I hit about five balls off the 8th tee. The wind was hard out of the left. Probably made about 12 down there. It's a tough golf course. You get off the beaten track down there, and there's going to -- talk about stances like I had on 17 there, you'll see plenty of stuff like that round there. It's a great golf course, though. Fairways and greens, I love it. It's pretty funky once you start getting off the beaten track, though. Pete Dye will get you.

Q. Was it nice weather?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was really nice, decent breeze. It's in great shape.

Q. They hadn't really had that the last two?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Decent weather? No, it's good.

Q. No big wind?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I played 18 off the top tee and I had 220 to the front off a decent drive back into the wind there. So 18's still hard. There's a big stand over Dustin's bunker, though. There's a big corporate hospitality unit on Dustin's bunker. So you're in good shape if you whip it through that fairway. There's some bunkers on that golf course that don't even look like bunkers. It's hard to see how he done it.
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