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February 3, 2016

Graeme McDowell

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

SARAH GWYNN: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. It's been a while since we've seen you on The European Tour, so how is life?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, things are good. Great to be back here. I love coming to this golf course. I think it's evolved a lot over the years. The golf course really has changed. I think from last year, first time we've been playing these run-offs, and never seen the golf course as fast and as fiery as it is this year.

I think it's a great setup for my type of game. You know, you really have to drive the ball well here to keep it in the fairway and give yourself a chance to attack these greens, which are about as good as you'll ever see. They are fast and they are very firm, and a good test of golf. So looking forward to it.

Nice to be back this side of the pond, well, I suppose it's a long way to the other side of the pond I suppose. But always enjoy this tournament. It's great to be here.

SARAH GWYNN: Win late last year, must set you up nicely for an important year with a lot of confidence.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, a tough decision to head back Stateside for the end-of-the-year events, The Race to Dubai and passing up on the BMW and obviously the Dubai World Championship. It was a tough decision for me to make. I thought it was based on -- I had my reasons.

Obviously getting off to -- I kind of felt like I really had not achieved much either side of the pond last year, and I kind of had to refocus and get back to basics and get off to a decent start with the FedEx. I thought if I continued to play the way I was playing, I needed to try and focus somewhere and try and play a little more golf to make sure I had at least a Tour card. I guess that's really the -- making a decision, when I talk about getting back to basics with my thinking, I needed to start playing golf. I can't afford to be playing minimums if I'm not playing well enough.

So getting back over and playing the Fall Series and getting some points on the board was kind of the key. I put a few more on the board than I expected to. Really it was nice get rewarded for making a tough decision. I felt like it really takes the pressure off, and coming into the new year feeling a lot looser and a lot fresher and playing better than I was this time last year, and I really feel like I can have a big year from here. I'm excited about how the schedule lays out in front of me, and the way I'm playing and the way I'm feeling.

Q. When you talk about schedule, how important is this sort of unique year with the Olympics and Ryder Cup and back-to-back majors to get that schedule right?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's really difficult. Obviously the first half of the year doesn't really change too much, but from June onwards, it's going to be a pretty interesting sort of three or four months. The Olympics, of course, obviously with Shane being ahead of me in the World Rankings is not really sort of in my thinking right now.

If I play the kind of golf that I expect to play the next six months, of course it will be back on my radar. But Shane will obviously control that himself, as well. If he plays the way he's been playing lately, he's going to be tough to catch. I'm just trying to keep my head down and try to play the schedule the next six months and play as well as I can and cross the Olympic bridge when we come to it I suppose.

Like I say, it's not really in my hands right now -- well, I suppose it is. We'll see. All you can do is play hard through the U.S. Open and just see where that leaves me. It's going to be an interesting summer and we'll just have to let it happen, I suppose.

Q. Does that mean that you're going to focus more on the US PGA Tour, and less on the European Tour this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think that was my focus the end of last year. Yes, I was going to focus more on the states. But the win has taken the pressure off a little bit from that point of view.

I think it means that I can go back to playing a similar-type schedule to get to what I have been playing the last few years. So there's really not a huge change. I'm adding a couple of extra events, probably Stateside, that I haven't played, sort of Tampa, Tampa being one of those and obviously the two in Hawai'i that I played the start of the year.

I think getting to Atlanta and THE TOUR Championship and the FedExCup is one of my goals this year; having not played well in the Playoffs, having not got off to a fast start; kind of got married in the middle of the Playoffs, had a baby in the middle of the Playoffs, just life stuff been happening, and I just feel like getting to Atlanta was really a big goal, finishing off last year and coming into 2016.

And of course, The Ryder Cup's a massive goal for me, as well. I've got a lot of agendas, but I'll just be trying to focus and play the same schedule I've been playing, adding a couple here and there. Trying to play a bit more golf and trying to stay sharp and not kind of fall into the complacency that I felt helped me arrive at playing some bad golf end of 2014 into 2015. I'm just trying to avoid that from happening going forward.

Q. You said it made you play bad golf, the way you put it, but isn't that a very important phase of your life, as well? Would you trade it for playing good golf the last couple of years?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, getting married and having kids is obviously a big part of life, and I've certainly enjoyed every part of that. But when you're struggling at your profession, doesn't matter what your profession is, if it's hard and you're not making any money, it's frustrating.

So of course you kind of go through that little period of sort of introspection and trying to work out what it is you want to do with yourself. Of course I love the game of golf and I want to win more tournaments and more major championships. It's just a re-dedication process, and I've enjoyed it, coming out the other side of it and getting the rewards out of end of last year. I felt like I went into my short off-season with some good energy and good positive vibes and come out the start of this year and try to take the pressure off myself and get back to enjoying the game and hopefully playing well.

Q. If your win on the PGA Tour was like a nice "remember me" statement on that tour, do you feel like it's time you did one on The European Tour?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. I read your article a couple days ago there. I guess this was my last Top-10 in Europe this time last year.

Of course, like I say, just trying to get back to being as well prepared as I can every week I tee it up, and taking the pressure off myself. I think when you do -- I've had a few periods in my career where you're not playing good and you can panic a little bit, and you start forcing the issue. I think I started forcing it a little bit at the start of the summer last year, when I was starting to play a little better, but I just couldn't get out of my own way because I needed it too badly. It's happened to me a few times.

I think that win in México was special on a lot of levels because I felt like I really kind of ground it out for four or five months to get there. You know, I did say to myself, if the win came along, I'm going to enjoy the next one that came along.

I enjoyed México. It was a special win for me, like I say, trying to use that as a bit of a springboard, take the pressure off myself and just get back to believing that I can play the kind of golf that can compete most weeks I tee it up.

It's been good. It's a tough old game sometimes, but I feel like I've got good people around me to help me stay kind of grounded and neutral, and believing in myself. So I guess I'm at a point in my life where I'm not going to all of a sudden start hitting it like Rory. You've just got to come to terms with that. That's fine.

I have to look at Jim Furyks and Steve Strickers and these guys that have played well into their early 40s, by concentrating on playing their own game, and that's kind of where I'm at right now is just trying to play me golf, just be myself and play the type of golf that I know I can. Some weeks it's not going to work. Certain golf course setups just won't work and that's fine. You just have to get over that. But weeks like this one, where you have an opportunity and you play well, and I know I can compete.

Q. The Scottish Open might be an event that can suffer due to the busy schedule this summer. You played last year. What's your thoughts?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's on my -- I'm pretty sure I'm going to be there this year. I'll make my return to Castle Stuart. I'm sure they will be glad to see me there (laughter).

I'm looking forward to it. I was actually talking with Kenny today, we were talking about that little period. But Scottish Open definitely going to be on the schedule this year. I'm going to play France, Scotland, hopefully The Open. I'm obviously not automatic just yet but I'll be hoping to be there.

Q. Did you look at the EurAsia Cup, and what were your thoughts of Darren's captaincy, and the makeup of the team; and I know you're concentrating up to Augusta, but how much do you want to be part of that team having seen what went on in Malaysia?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously I was keeping a little bit of watch on the scores and stuff and listening to some of the feedback from a few of the guys and the feedback has been really good. I think the guys enjoyed the week. I think Darren did a fantastic job, very organised, put his teams, put his partnerships together really well. I think he had a really good plan for the week and executed well.

Like I say, being part of that team is a big part of my priorities for 2016. I really want to be there. Played the last three rounds in Kapalua with Davis Love III, and you know, trying to tap him up for some info (chuckles). Couldn't get much out of him to be fair. I'm very motivated to be on the squad. Rory will be there obviously and be great to have another Northern Irish head in the room.

It would be very special to be part of it, and I think Darren's going to do a good job. He's really going to rise to the occasion. And like I say, from what I heard from Malaysia, he did a great job. Obviously had a nice mix in the team room of vets and rookies. I think that flavour is probably going to continue to Hazeltine I think. We are probably going to have a mixture of experience and rookies on the squad.

So I'll be hoping to obviously even one of the more experienced players there and be tasked with the job of maybe taking a rookie like I did at Gleneagles, and I look forward to that task again. Definitely, obviously, I've got a job to do to make sure I'm on the team. I have to take care of my own golf ball for the next seven or eight months, but hoping to be there, of course.

Q. How are you going to tame Augusta this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, good question, don't know (laughs). I feel like I learn something every time I go back to Augusta. I think for me, I've got to focus more on the greens. I have a tendency, I did in Kapalua actually, I spend far too much time trying to get ready for the tee-to-green aspect of the golf course, and I didn't spend enough time around the greens.

I think I walked away from Augusta, I think you get there and you get intimidated by a few of the tee shots, like 10 and 13 and the second shot to like 7, and what am I going to do there.

When I always look back, I always win it and lose it around the greens, and so I think my focus is really going to be chipping and putting that week, and just you know, trying to use the slopes to your advantage and not get scared of them. Just working harder on the greens this year, is definitely going to be my key for Augusta. So we'll see (laughter).

It's not going to make or break my spring. I have some more important events on my calendar. Augusta is just one of those little nuts, that I'm hoping to crack some year. So we'll go with an open mind again and chat to you lads and afterwards and have a craic about it.

Q. Playing Houston?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No. I'm going to play all of Florida, Tampa for the first time, Doral I'm not automatic for but hoping to get into Doral. I'll play Honda, Doral, Tampa, Bay Hill, hopefully The World Match Play and then I'm going to play Hilton Head and San Antonio after Augusta.

So pretty busy, hence, I'm kind of having a slow-ish start to the year. Played the two in Hawai'i, which I wouldn't have played under normal circumstances but I'd have given my right arm to be in Kapalua before I won in México, so I thought I best should go. In retrospect, I wish I haven't gone, so I have two weeks off, play here, I'll have another two weeks off and I'll start my season proper at the Honda, you know, obviously I'm starting it proper here, as well.

I've been working hard and feeling good this week. Whatever happens this week, I'll go into two weeks off and get ready for the main bulk where it gets busy.

Q. Coming back after México, Russell Knox, the type of player --
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think he -- having not played a huge amount of golf with him, yeah, he's obviously not the longest driver of the ball in the world. He's just tenacious with the irons and a good putter. Good kid and obviously had a great end of the year.

Took his European Tour Membership, right? We were actually chatting about it on the way home from México. I told him, he obviously didn't have much to lose by taking his membership. It was worth a shot. He's a great player. So he could certainly make a good run at The Ryder Cup Team. He certainly has the talent. Nice lad, though. We had a few tequilas on the way home. He had a decent couple weeks, so I don't think he was too disappointed coming off the back of winning Shanghai.

Q. Your next tournament on The European Tour?
GRAEME McDOWELL: So I'll play Ireland and Wentworth and obviously France, Scotland, and we'll see what happens after that, really.

Yeah, similar schedule, like I say. My focus did switch a bit to America at the end of last year because I was thinking to myself that I needed somewhere to play. Needed to try to get a Tour card somewhere. That win obviously took care of some business, so that was nice.

Q. How old is the daughter now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Year and a half. Breaking my heart. It's great.

SARAH GWYNN: Thank you.

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