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July 4, 2017

Graeme McDowell

Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Welcome, everyone, to our first press conference of the week. Welcome home. No place like home. You must be looking forward to this week.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, very much so. It's been awfully busy the last few years having my own family. I haven't had a chance to come back to the north coast much. Great to get an opportunity to come up and see my folks and family and friends, and obviously take part in what has become one of the premiere events in Europe again.

Portstewart is a golf course that I played a lot as a kid. We used to play a lot of our school's matches here and stuff. I think one of my maths teachers actually designed the front nine about 30 years ago. So got a lot of good memories here, and like I say, just great to be back in the north coast and showcasing what we have up in this part of the world, and attracting the type of field that we have this week. This has to be the best field we've had at The Irish Open for 15 or 20 years, I would imagine.

Obviously I think we are going to get some good weather for the next few days, and the golf course is in great shape and my game feels right there. Dearly love to compete here this weekend and give it a rip on Sunday afternoon.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Was the maths teacher better at teaching maths or designing golf courses?

GRAEME McDOWELL: The front nine here is very nice. It really is a golf course of two nines. The front nine is very much inner sand dunes, true firm and fast links. The rough is a little sparser I think on the front nine, and the back nine, kind of like they call the other golf here the Riverside, the back nine is completely different turf. It's a little wetter, a little lusher, and the back nine, for as little rough is on the front, there's three times as much on the back and it's much more narrow and trickier.

I think if we don't get any wind around here, the scoring will be low. But guys have to drive the ball extremely well here to have an opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the track was and how good the setup was. It certainly will hold its own well this weekend.

Q. Where will you stay when you're here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm at my mom and dad's house. My old room is still kind of in its former shape. My mom and dad have been living there, for, what, 17, 18 years. And like I say, my old bed's still there. So I'm at home, and a bit of home cooking, and probably a couple pints of Guinness and too many rashers of bacon. Definitely a part of the season where I put on four or five pounds.

It's great, listen, I have a lot of family to catch up with. I'll have loads of support out there this week, and certainly very excited to be playing up here.

Q. Surprised that so few players have played here before?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think there's always a nice edge, feeling like you do know the golf course. I have to be honest, I've probably played it twice in the last 20 years.

But I did play a lot here in my teens. You know, I remember it very well; let's put it that way. Missed the cut last week at The French Open disappointingly, and gave me a chance to get out here on Sunday. Had a really good look around on Sunday. I had my dad walking around and one of my friends, Ricky Elliot, who just won the U.S. Open with Brooks Koepka there a couple of weeks ago. So we had a nice wander around on Sunday and had a really, really good look at the golf course. You know, you never want to miss cuts, but I felt like I used my time well at the weekend and feel like I'm coming in here pretty prepared.

Q. Could you have envisaged when you were a kid that a tournament like this would be down the road, designed by your maths teacher?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think going back to Portrush three or four years ago, and the successful week, despite the weather; we had an awful week's weather, but to break all The European Tour attendance records was a special, special week. And it was really the kind of straw that broke the camel's back regards the R&A giving in to the idea that The Open could potentially come back to Portrush.

And to see how the golf course has evolved there for 2019; I played over there yesterday with my little brother, it's exciting. And to have The Irish Open back up here on the north coast in another fantastic golf course, Portstewart; and like I say, the best field we've had here in 20 years, it's a bit special.

Obviously big kudos to what Rory's done here. It's not easy to put your name to an event like this; to host and to have all the responsibilities that goes with putting this together. You know, I know that it's not an easy thing that he does, and he's really helped take the event to the next level, and like I say, massive thanks to him, and obviously Dubai Duty Free for coming here and really raising the bar here and like I say, putting this event back on the map.

Q. Your group looks pretty special, as well.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I have Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan. Obviously Tommy is one of the hottest players on the planet at the minute. I played with him early in the year in the last round at Bay Hill, actually, and he really impressed me a huge amount that day and he's continued to play great ever since. Looking forward to playing with him.

Andy Sullivan is a great lad. I really, really enjoy playing with him. Those are two guys who are two potential Ryder Cuppers for next year. It's tough to see past Tommy certainly being on the team. A few people have been Tweeting me wanting to a foursomes pairing of myself and Tommy, calling it Fleetwood Mac apparently (laughter). I just need to -- I thought that was kind of cheesy, but it's good. We like that, right.

I think Tommy is in good shape for that pairing. I just need to get myself on to it now. No, he's a great kid and I'm looking forward to that pairing.

Q. Can't really follow that. But obviously winning would be the main goal this week, but how much is your mind on those places in The Open and making sure you get qualified for Birkdale?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. It's been a frustrating year for kind of, sort of all the right reasons. It's been frustrating because I've been playing well, and just really haven't kind of had those big finishes which are the catalyst to kind of more confidence and more belief. That's really the big piece of the puzzle that's been missing for me a little bit is that belief and confidence.

I feel like I'm doing so many things right. I think I'm Top-10 in driving accuracy over in the U.S. this week and I feel like I'm back to putting nearly my best again. I'm doing a lot of things that sort of took me to one of the top players in the world around the 2010, 2012 mark. And like I say, frustrated that I can't seem to sort of get up into contention on a Sunday afternoon where I feel like I want to be.

So this would be a great week to really kind of reignite things for me. Of course, getting into The Open, I think I might be less frustrated than my caddie would be. I think he's caddied in the last 26 Opens in a row. So if he is to miss, he would be fairly disappointed in me.

But no, you know, listen, first and foremost is to try and compete this week. You know, to get one of those spots for The Open Championship would be kind of mission two, I suppose. If it doesn't happen this week, I'll go to Scotland next week and try to get in there.

If it doesn't happen, of course I'll be disappointed. I've been working hard, and like I say, I feel like myself and my team feel like we're right there and we're doing all the right things. It's just kind of been a waiting game which has tested our patience so far this season. But we'll keep chugging away.

Q. Did you give any thought to playing one of the final qualifyings, or do you think this is a better chance here or Scotland?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I meant to mention that actually in the question. Obviously they are at Woburn today I think, 36-holer. I didn't like the odds, the ratios, three spots for 90 guys or whatever. The old qualifiers, the Walton Heath and Sunningdale days, I think I was four for four in those. I was all pretty successful at that type of qualifying event.

But no, I never really did give it a huge amount of thought. I thought 36 holes today would not be the type of preparation I'm looking for for The Irish Open, and like I say, the odds are fairly low.

I know guys like Poults are playing today. Pretty hard for him to miss at Woburn I suppose. I spoke to him last week about it, and it really didn't make a lot of sense for me. I felt like these two weeks are big opportunities, and if I don't play well enough, I don't deserve to be there, anyway.

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