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July 4, 2018

Graeme McDowell

Ballyliffin, Republic of Ireland

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Graeme, always a pleasure to see you at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

For the 15th and final time let's discuss your golf clubs.

GRAEME McDOWELL: I figure there will be emptiness in this room, heard the story a hundred times, anyway. Let's just recap.

Obviously lost the clubs there France, Sunday night. Paris-Manchester; there for The Open qualifier on Tuesday at St. Andrews Links, which I had planned to play a practise round on Monday, anyway, way, getting ready to go.

No golf clubs arrived Sunday night and you know, spent most of the day on the phone with customer service Air France an Monday which is frustrating to say the least. Anyone that travels a lot, you know, you lose a suitcase from time to time, you lose a piece of luggage. In fact, I lost my clubs coming in from the States to Paris from Hartford, got them back within about eight hours.

This time, this time around, it wasn't quite as easy. Spent most of the day Monday not knowing -- we established they were in Paris on Monday, but couldn't establish when they were going to get to me, just basically get in the queue, you're one of many people that have lost a bag and you'll wait your turn.

You know, obviously had to pull the rip cord on The Open qualifier on Monday night, much to the world of Twitter's dismay. They couldn't quite understand why I couldn't just go borrow a set of clubs and go shoot 65, 65 and qualify for The Open, which I could have done, I suppose.

But you know, I guess the main point of that was it wasn't my Last Chance Saloon. If I had been had I last chance to qualify for The Open, of course, of course I would have went out there and gave it my best shot but with three spots up for grabs this week and next week in Scotland, I felt like, you know, yesterday was going to be an unnecessary risk to take with regards to preparing for this week.

On Monday night, I still didn't know where my clubs were. It wasn't until around ten o'clock, 10.30 Tuesday morning that I started talking to somebody sensible at Air France that told me they were going to get ahold of them and put them on a flight for me.

I had to start making arrangements over here and putting a backup set of clubs together. Thankfully the story had a happy ending. They landed in Dublin last night at 10.00 on one of the Air France flights coming into Dublin, and a courier company had them at the hotel by 3:00am this morning.

It was really the power of social media in the end. If it wasn't for Twitter and the fact the story really gained a huge amount of momentum to where Air France's PR department had to call me and say, listen, we have to sort this out for you, the clubs would still be in Paris somewhere. Thankfully I was able to Tweet that out there, look for help and gain momentum and got it sorted out. It was a frustrating one. The Open qualifier, the impact on that is one I thing. There was no guarantee to go there yesterday and qualify, anyway. It wasn't like it was a huge loss in the end.

But getting here, being prepared for The Irish Open, if the clubs would have started to impact my preparation for this weekend, then we'd have start -- the problems were starting to mount up at that point. You know, I can safely say that I'm sitting here physically and mentally as ready to go for The Irish Open as I would under any normal circumstances.

Just very keen on putting this whole story behind me. I appreciate the support that I've had from everyone on Twitter and the media and really helping me kind of get ready for The Irish Open.

Q. Obviously winning two French Opens didn't help your cause. Judging by the team's score you must have played quite nicely today.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I played with the captain, the president general manager of the club and figured they know their way around the track pretty well, and they made a few birdies this morning, and I played quite well myself.

And you know, like I say, I feel like mentally, I flipped the switch on Monday night regards getting ready for this week. It was probably around 11 o'clock Tuesday morning, when I made the plan to jump on a plane, okay, it was like, I'm going to leave Manchester now, because I'm talking to someone sensible who can get them to Ireland for me. Let's get them on a plane and get to Ireland and start preparing for The Irish Open.

Once I kind of flipped that switch in my brain, I was able to start focussing on this weekend. My game is in good shape. I made 19 birdies at The French Open last week. Just made too many mistakes but I'm certainly playing good enough golf to compete any week at the minute.

Certainly looking forward to a layout like this, which I think is a very tactical layout. It's in great shape and you really have to position the ball well. I'm excited about the week and just keen to move on from all the distraction and get focused on trying to compete in this golf tournament.

Q. How does the course compare to what you remember years ago as an amateur?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's a better golf course than I remember. I don't remember this being a spectacular up here. I guess when I was 16 years old, I didn't really appreciate the north coast maybe like I do nowadays, not living here anymore, when I come back and look around here, it's a stunning part of the world. I'm very, very happy for Ballyliffin this week. They are very proud of their product up here. I know what they went through to get the Irish Open here, and the product that they have put in front the players this week is something they should be proud of.

The players are raving about it. They really like it, and the sun looks like it's going to shine, as well. I just hope for Ballyliffin that it looks great on TV, and I expect it will, and we have a great winner this week and hopefully we can get an Irish winner, as well. Just really, really happy for them. Spent a bit of time here in my late teens playing club golf and matches here. I don't remember much about the course, I've got to be honest. It's a better golf course than I remember it to be.

Like I say, probably never played it in this good of condition before.

Q. Before you mentally flipped the switch Monday night as you were going back and forth, did it cross your mind, what the hell happens if they never discover these clubs? Is there anything in your bag that's totally irreplaceable, sentimental value?
GRAEME McDOWELL: The thought crossed my mind: What if I don't get these clubs back this week, next week; what if I don't see them for months on end.

I was having a conversation with Phil Casey walking around a few holes, we were just talking, my equipment is kind of old generation stuff. My irons are three years old. My driver is a couple years old. I really don't play with a lot of up-to-date equipment, so a lot of the stuff would have been very difficult to replace. Like the irons I use, Srixon won't carry those on the truck anymore. The wedges I use, Cleveland, they won't be on the truck anymore. The putter is 15 years old.

The stuff I would have been able to get close -- I probably would have been able to replicate them 90 per cent but I wouldn't have been able to replace a lot of the stuff in my bag. Certainly this week I would not have been able to do it.

I do have most of a backup set in Florida but you know, I think probably most people on Twitter on Monday night when I did sort of officially withdraw from The Open qualifier and proceeded to get lit up by everyone who called me, you know, multiple names, you know, just basically couldn't fathom the fact that I wasn't going to try and qualify; do you not have a backup set; can someone just not fly another set to you, go get another set from Srixon. It's not that easy. I wouldn't say there's a player in this field who has an actual replica backup set on hand if they needed it. You get close but you just never -- you'd never replicate your game or set, and it would never be the same.

You try and get a backup driver. I have a backup driver that was in the bag, wasn't really much of a backup. I suppose I probably should have put it on the Srixon truck, that would be a better backup, but something like that goes wrong, you never really kind of -- it's easy to kind of look back and say, shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Like I say, The Open qualifier was not a guarantee. Disappointed that I wasn't able to go and try and compete, but you know, I feel prepared this week and just looking forward to moving on and perhaps -- perhaps I will put some sort of backup protocol in place now just in case something like that did happen again. Losing my clubs, it's not an ideal situation.

Q. As you mentioned, out on the course, the Srixon lads are three quarters of the way getting you a set ready. Will you keep those clubs now going forward, as you said, maybe have a backup plan?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's a couple of clubs in the set, we brought some new irons out about a month ago. I was in the middle of having a set of those built up anyway to filter into the bag eventually, so I probably will hang on to those. So there were a few bits and pieces in the bag which I quite liked.

Like I say, for some reason, we just brought all our new equipment out in the middle of the season, which that's kind of what we do, Srixon. So new driver, 3-wood, irons. I'll probably ship those back to Florida and they will be waiting for me when I get back home and do a bit of work with those.

Like I say, I had called the guys on Monday night and said, hey, we're going to have to start working on something here, because if it wasn't for social media, I still wouldn't have my clubs and it would be starting to impact on my performance this weekend.

Q. Obviously having missed The Open last year, obvious question, but how keen are you to avoid missing it again this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, probably not as keen as my caddie actually. I think that was the first Open he missed last year in 25 years. No, listen, the way I'm playing at the minute, I feel like I can compete any week. So not being at The Open in a couple weeks' time is going to be disappointing for me.

Listen, you know, I've got to play well the next two weekends or one of the next two weekends to play. But yeah, it would be disappointing to sit that major out.

Augusta is an interesting one when I sit that one out because it's not a course I play very well. But Carnoustie is a course I really feel like I could get around in an Open setup and would dearly love to be there. I feel like I'm playing well enough to compete one of these next two weekends and love the way this place is set up.

I know I can get around Gullane next weekend. So let's just get the head down and see what happens and we'll move on from there. It's been a frustrating year for the right reasons, just playing well and not getting it done. You keep chipping it away, and I'm enjoying my golf at the minute, which is a plus. Just looking for that X-factor, confidence, belief, getting into the mix and just get the old juices flowing again and see if we can't win one of these in a couple of weeks and get the ship moving back in the right direction again.

Q. The Irish Open has been more than elusive to you. Is there something you thought out there that said, this could be the week? What is it about this course that could be the week that changes all that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think experience and perspective has helped me with The Irish Opens over the years. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself as a young Irish player, coming to The Irish Open, I felt the pressure and expectation level from the crowd. Maybe went through a few years where the social scene was a little too fun for me. The Guinness was tasting maybe a little too good for me in certain parts of the world in Ireland. You come home and see family and friends and it's easy to get into that real relaxed state of mind, as well.

I feel like every week is so important to me at the minute just because I'm on the edge of playing well. You know, I'm kind of -- I'm not up against the clock, but I mean, it's an important summer of golf for me. I really feel like I'm close to where I could have a big summer, and coming to a week like this, I'm certainly not looking at it like I would normally look at an Irish Open.

I'm looking at it very much as an opportunity. It's another opportunity, and I look at this golf course, you know, it's not a bomber's track. The bunkers are really -- I don't remember the bunkers being this well positioned when I was here ten years ago. I'm not sure, maybe they have made some changes but incredibly well bunkered. You know, you're forced to kind of hit it into areas. It's pretty tactical, pretty strategic and the greens are really, really good. I feel like I can make a lot of putts on these greens, as well.

Like I say, it doesn't feel like a regular Irish Open to me. It feels like a real opportunity for me where I just put my head down and see what I can do. Of course I'd love to win an Irish Open.

Q. Can you put your finger on the X-factor what's really happening for you at the moment, that you know it's close?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm struggling with confidence. It's that little bit of scar tissue that builds up over three or four years of not playing well. You see these guys that are better -- best players in the world on top form, they just seem to cruise.

You know, you play your best golf when you don't care; when you practise really hard and really intensely and you get on the golf course and let it go and you play carefree. It's hard to play carefree when you've had three or four years of not playing well. You need it too badly and you want it too badly, and it matters too much to you and that takes the carefreeness away.

So it's being able to tap into that care free nature, even though in the back of your mind, you need this. That's kind of the X-factor for me a little bit and it's hard. It's hard to do that. I feel like I'm one result away from having a lot of great results, but I just can't get that one result under the belt, you know. That's probably the only way I can describe it to you.

Like I say, I am enjoying my golf. It's been a big turnaround this year compared to last year, even though you put my results beside each other, they will look like similar years. Last year was a frustrating year, I didn't enjoy playing and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. This year I'm starting to get that carefreeness going and starting to be like my old self again but still can't get across the line. But got plenty of opportunities ahead.

Q. You've won a major, lots of tournaments, lots of money. How difficult is it to have that desire to really want to keep on doing this?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, the desire's still there. You know, my motivations are different. I never really remember ever playing the game for money in my 20s. It was never really about money. It's such a cliché. It's not about the money. We make great livings out here. You create a lifestyle for yourself and you want to maintain that lifestyle.

But I'm not out here to make money. I'm out here because I don't want -- the legacy that I want to leave in the game, I don't want to go out like this, so my motivation is, I'd really like another two or three years at the top of the game. I've got young kids. I'd like my young kids to see me at the top of the game. I have that visual of having my kids come on to the 72nd green of a tournament. That's what I want. My motivations are different.

I don't remember what drove me in my 20s. I played playing and competing. I still love to compete. You definitely become more reflective later in years, like why am I out here? Do I want to keep doing this? Do I want to hole 6-footers the next ten years? Hopefully I'll hole a few of them. It's a hard sport, especially when it's not going well.

Like I said earlier, three or four years of not playing well starts to take its toll a little bit. But the boat's bounced off the bottom and starting to float back up again and starting to enjoy my golf again.

My motivations are different. Like I say, they were never about money. I was lucky things came easily enough and early enough in my career where I could focus on trying to be the best I could be and I suppose I'm still trying to be the best I can be.

Like I say, I want to show my kids that I am a great player and don't have to pull out the old DVDs. If they know what a DVD is, my kids. They probably don't. Pull it up on YouTube.

Q. You mentioned there possibly the missing ingredient is a little bit of confidence. You talked about social media coming to the rescue, but it can also be quite active. How do you deal with that side of criticism?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was funny because Shane Lowry texted me on Sunday night, reading some of your Twitter feet, kind of like, that's why I deleted Twitter. You have to take stuff with a pinch of salt. People can be kind of nasty.

You know, I feel like I'm pretty good at ignoring the haters and focusing on the positive stuff and having a bit of craic from time to time with some of the idiotic statements that you get out there.

But Twitter is a tool. I try and just use it as a tool. I'm not as passionate about it as I used to be. I'm not really sure if I was ever that passionate -- but it's a part of my contract and a lot of instances with sponsors, so keeping up my profile on Twitter is important, Instagram and Facebook, it's important from a sponsor point of view.

Like I say, I don't really look at it from a personal point of view like I used to. Used to have this dream of giving people the insight inside the ropes a little bit, give them the inside of the ropes experience, but it's become such a mammoth thing now, it's hard to be as engaged as I used to be because you log on there when things are good and people are nice to you, and you shoot 75 and they are ripping you to shreds the next day.

I take it with a pinch of salt. I'm not that into it anymore. I use it as a tool and the Air France scenario was an instance you use it as a tool. You try to get these guys' attention to hopefully get you to jump the queue a little bit because you're in an urgent situation. In this instance, it happened to help. It's a little bit of a negative tool most of the time nowadays. It's hard to use it well.

Q. How much will the spots for The Open be on your mind now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: The Open Championship will take care of itself. It's not something that will be on my mind until Sunday afternoon. You might look at the leaderboard and go, wonder, is he exempt for The Open, do I have to get past him. It's something that will take care of itself.

First and foremost I'll be trying to get myself on the leaderboard going into the weekend and see what happens there. The French Open last week, I felt like if I could have shot 65,66 on Sunday, that I might have a chance to sneak in a Top-10 and get one of the spots, but it would have taken about 6- or 7-under last week in France to qualify.

You can't really worry about The Open stuff because you could finish fourth this week and not qualify for The Open because the top three guys could be non-exempt. You just have to try and focus on playing the golf and see if that's enough. It may be. You know, you could finish ninth and qualify and you could finish fourth in this, so it's a funny old one, really.

So we'll see if we can compete and we'll take care of the rest from there.

Q. How big an advantage is having a links background this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think knowing the grass that's up on the north coast here, knowing the conditions. I'm not sure if I'm used to playing in these conditions, but yeah, I think having played a lot of golf up in this part of the world will stand me in good stead. I think the greens, especially, just knowing the grasses, knowing the breaks, knowing this type of turf; I like the golf course a lot.

Like I say, much better than I remember. Not that I remember it as a bad golf course. I just didn't remember much about it and I was really, really impressed by the layout out there. It was much trickier off the tee there, I remember. You know, I think looking at the forecast, you're going to need 20-under par this week.

You're going to have to play aggressive golf. I played with the captain, the president and the general manager this morning and I was just sort of trying to prepare them for 25-under. Doesn't mean this is a bad golf course. St. Andrews would get ripped to shreds in flat-calm conditions, as well. That's just the nature of links golf.

I was just trying to prepare them for what could possibly happen because I see this as a potentially low-scoring event because it doesn't look like the wind is going to materialise much. But as we know, it's the north coast of Ireland and anything can happen.

Q. What was their response?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think they are okay with it to be honest with you. They are obviously just very proud of what they have accomplished, getting the event there and I was trying to make sure that they were fully prepared for getting their golf course bleeding come the weekend and making sure that they realise that doesn't mean it's a bad golf course. Because you take any golf course on The Open rotation, for example, and give it 25 Celsius and flat-calm conditions, and the best players in the world will make it look silly.

Especially as firm and short as this place is. The 4th hole is a 600-yard par 5 that I hit driver, 6-iron to today. Tee shot went 380 and you've got 200 yards front edge. They have a new too box back there and could have it another 50 yards.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks for that. Good luck this week.

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