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July 6, 2017

Matthew Southgate

Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Q. Due to Open Qualifying, you didn't play a practise round, first round you've played here and you've had a fantastic opening day.
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Yeah, well, we walked it yesterday, and I think when you walk a course, you just sort of see where you want to hit it rather than any of the troubles.

So I think it maybe acted as a positive for us. I love the golf course and obviously that showed in the score today.

Q. Great reaction on 14 when you sunk that long par putt. How important was it to keep blue numbers off the card today?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: It's been a long time since I've gone bogey-free, and that was in my mind because I knew I was swinging it well enough to go bogey-free.

We were really unlucky on 14. I really burst one off the tee and it finished right on the lip of the bunker and I had no stance. We just had to sort of chip it back in play and then hit a loose third shot.

So making that putt, a lot of momentum going into that last four because they are not easy holes, and obviously made the most out of everything we could get our hands on.

Q. You had a great Irish Open last year when you finished fourth. So is there something about playing in this part of the world that appeals to your game?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: I feel like I'm under pressure from myself, more than anyone else. But after last year's performance in this tournament, I sort of feel like I owe it to myself to go well again. There's enough pressure already with the crowds and with the golf course testing you like that.

It has played on my mind where I've not played so well recently, and I'm chuffed as punch just to be up there on the leaderboard today. I'm just going to enjoy the rest of today and deal with tomorrow when she turns up.

Q. How nice was it to get through Open Qualifying and know this is a preparation for Birkdale?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Yeah, it's great. I played great in The Open last year finishing 12th. I do think it is a bit harsh not being exempt into this year's Open Championship, so gave me a real incentive on Tuesday at Royal Cinque Ports. It's a golf course I love and it was in fantastic condition.

I just played very similar to how I did today. The Open Championship, that's what we play for. To be picking it up in three weeks, it's a special time in the season, so hopefully make the most of it.

Q. Maybe this is the new approach, just qualify on Tuesday and fly over on Wednesday and shoot 65.
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Yeah, obviously not the normal preparation, but a lot of positive stuff came out of playing 36 holes on Tuesday on a great links course, and the turf area is obviously exactly the same as here. Nine hours on a golf course down at Royal Cinque Ports really set me up well. Not my normal preparation but still good preparation.

Q. Did you get much sleep Tuesday morning?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: No, just a few hours. I've had between a four or five o'clock alarm every day for the last four or five days, so the body is on shut down. So this afternoon, put my feet up and recharge for tomorrow.

Q. What time did you get here on Wednesday?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: We got here in the morning. I was at the golf course sort of by 10.30, hit some balls and got out there, walked all 18 holes with my caddie and sort of sussed out where we were going to go.

I feel lucky to have such a good caddie on the bag, because when you're playing a golf course blind, you need somebody who is getting you fully committed to shots, and done that today. We work really well as a team out there and that obviously shows in the score we shot.

Q. Did you have a smile on your face after what happened last year?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Yeah, it's obviously nice. Obviously I feel a little bit under pressure to sort of perform the same. I sort of thought, it would be very easy for this week to be difficult and maybe miss the cut, or not find my best form, where I put myself under a bit more pressure than normal.

I really feel like I rose up to the task today and I'm chuffed with that. Rest of the week, still a lot of holes to play. Try to stick around that side of the leaderboard as long as possible.

Q. When you reflect on that fourth place last year, fair to say it changed your career?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Changed my life. Completely changed my life. I think the biggest thing for me was that I always thought I was good enough to perform like that, and it was more like proving a point to the rest of the world that I could do it. That sort of put me in a nice place mentally because I stopped worrying about can you do this and what other people think of you and have you got the game.

It became actually, Matt Southgate plays well, good golf and is actually good enough to compete, which is a huge monkey to get off your back. Obviously the rest of the season was a lot more solid than that. It's something I don't really think about anymore. I just sort of try to play my best and if I do, the results will look after themselves.

Q. When is the last time you played with Rory?

Q. And that must give you a boost, having played well with him.
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: It always special playing with someone like that. It's difficult to switch off, because he's just on another level I think. I think Rory is the best golfer in the world by a long way, even now.

And it was such a special day and he made it so comfortable for me to play. We chatted about football and we strolled around and it was obviously really special for me to then finish fourth and then watch him win it. It's like dream sort of stuff.

Q. What is your goal right now, today?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Get some rest this afternoon. We'll just take it one day, one shot at a time, and obviously we've got a lot of golf still to play. So there's no real goal. We get to get some preparation in for The Open Championship and there's obviously the Scottish Open next week.

Q. How about winning this tournament, you are not focussed on that?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: You can't control that on a Thursday. We've set up a lovely first round. Obviously there's people who haven't teed off yet, so it's not worth -- if I stick another three rounds like that, I think we'll probably end up winning it.

So we'll just look after each shot, each hole as it comes and just shoot as low as we possibly can, and if someone ends up giving us a trophy Sunday night, I'll be out for a Guinness.

Q. Did it change your life financially last year, as well?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: Massively, yeah. Completely changed my setup and gave me the opportunity to sort of relax on the expenses a little bit. It's been enjoyable and it's taken a lot of pressure off just to allow me to focus solely on golf rather than who is paying the electricity at home.

Q. Do you have many course records in your golf bag?
MATTHEW SOUTHGATE: No, don't think I have. Now I've got one. It's a nice bonus I guess.

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