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July 18, 2019

Graeme McDowell

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Q. Talk about the day.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Very important that I take the positives out today, because there were a huge amount of positives. I played beautiful all day. I felt like apart from the flat stick, which was very cold, you know, the three-putt on 15 and started lashing down, kind of took the momentum, the sting out of the day a little bit.

But I felt like a steadied the ship. Good tee shot on 16. 17 I did well, a bad lie, I left it exactly where I was trying to leave it, then three-putt, as well.

I was frustrated walking to the 18th tee. It was an innocuous tee shot. I wasn't expecting to lose the ball, put it that way. I'm walking down there expecting half a lie, maybe get up short of the green or back into play and try to make four, and can't find it. It's disappointing.

Such a special day. Getting off that first tee this morning, I literally had a tear in my eye. It was kind of cool stuff. And like I say, to conduct myself as well as I did all day and play as well as I did all day, and then to finish like that was -- it hurts, you know, it hurts a lot. But it's golf. It's golf.

Listen, you've got to take the rough with the smooth and that was rough. And hopefully some more smooth ahead.

Q. It's a mental thing to get your mind tomorrow into the same groove it was in. You were in a terrific groove. You were bogey-free, the only one on the course for a long time.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Listen, I got to not let this spoil my week, because it could easily spoil my week. I feel like all the air has been let out of the sails plus some. The ship feels like it's sinking. It's not air out of the sails, it's everything.

But it's important just to regroup. Got a big day tomorrow. Big weekend ahead. Like I say, important that the positives come out today. I played beautiful. I really gave myself so many looks today.

I didn't feel great on the greens, been working on some stuff with my putting, and it just didn't feel great today. The ball-striking was really solid. I hit a lot of nice shots.

And the last is one of those things. It's a tough hole. There's not a blade of rough on the golf course that looks like the stuff down the right of 18, potentially a little artificially done. But you shouldn't be over there in the first place. It is what it is. Gutted, obviously. But it is what it is.

Q. What are you working on with the putter?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I probably should forget about whatever it was I was working on. I'll be working on something new tomorrow.

Q. There can't be too many receptions like you got on the first this morning. Can you describe it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it was emotional. I did have a tear in the eye, and kind of embarrassed to say it. But I didn't know why I had one. I guess I do know why I had one, but at the same time I'm trying to go out there and play golf. And I'm welling up just at the -- it's just been a great journey. It's been an amazing journey to get here.

People have been amazing. And the receptions out there were really a lot of fun. And to be honest, as soon as I got off the first, I felt very relaxed. But the first tee was definitely a little emotional and a little intimidating. I was happy to get that away.

But in a funny way, the way the golf course set up today, the first five holes were there for the taking a little bit. And you could kind of get into the round quite easily. I was only 1-under through 6, and you feel like you should be a little better.

I felt like I played the top part of the course really well. Set myself up with a good chance coming down the stretch. That heavy shower came through, it definitely took a little bit of sting out of the greens. I three-putt 15, I three-putt 17, which is hugely disappointing. And definitely kind of hurt a little bit.

But that finish is going to take a little bit of getting over for half an hour.

Q. Is there local knowledge coming back in your game? Does it give you a spark for the next three days?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm not sure how much local knowledge is playing a part out there. Apart from just feeling comfortable on some of the tee shots when the winds switch when guys are a little bit not sure what to do.

I felt reasonably comfortable off the tee. I guess my memory of the greens isn't really as good as it used to be. But like I say, outside of the Irish Open, I haven't been here in 20 years.

How much local knowledge is there? I don't know. There's certainly of plenty local support. It's a lot of fun. Really enjoying the experience out there. It's a lot of fun.

Q. Do you think the fact it is a home course kind of adds to the pressure and why you're beating yourself up a wee bit more?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I'm beating myself up because I tripled the last. I loved the support. It was brilliant. I really enjoyed the crowd out there. The people were amazing.

There's no beating myself up. I tried to go out today and used the energy positively, and I felt like I did that. It was nothing to do with the crowd at the last that made me make 7. That was all my own work.

Q. Have you got the emotions over and done with?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm more emotional now than I was six hours ago. No, listen, it was always going to be the first tee. It was always going to be difficult this morning.

Like I say, I played beautiful all day, really handled the course well, I felt like, on what's probably a trickier day today. I think the weather forecast looks a little better the next couple of days.

I feel like it's certainly a round that got away from me. Does it put me out of the tournament? No. But it's like I focus on the good stuff today and try not to let that 7 beat me up.

Q. Do you think the 3-minute rule is appropriate in conditions like this?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I thought it was a hell of a rule there until about 12 minutes ago (laughter). It's amazing, 5 minutes feels like a long time when you're looking for a ball. And 3 minutes feels like no time at all. We had 30 people over there looking for that thing. 12 seconds after the 3 minutes was up we found it. We found my ball.

It was a lie where I could have gotten it in the fairway. It wasn't a great lie. Unfortunately it was 10 yards right of where I thought it was. For some reason, no one saw it and the marshals didn't get an eye on it.

Like I say, it's very different from the rest of the course, that rough over there, let's put it that way. Yeah, 3 minutes felt awfully short.

Q. How do you handle first tee jitters?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You just really have to execute your routine, execute your shot. I don't get first tee jitters very much anymore. But I've had them a couple of times this week already.

Like I say, the first tee was very emotional today and I was a little nervous. I'm not sure if I was nervous or just caught up in the moment. Thankfully it was an easy enough tee ball and I was able to get 2-iron away in reasonable shape.

But it was fun out there. I enjoyed it and I felt much better, much more relaxed than I thought I was going to feel today. I thought I was going to struggle to handle the pressure and the expectation today, but I didn't. I really handled it well. I felt great out there all day, right up until the last.

Q. Talk about Rory, 8 on the first.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I can imagine how he felt. Listen, it's obviously a horrible way to start. In many ways would you rather start with an 8 or finish with a 7? (Laughter.) You've got 17 holes to kind of battle your 8 back. On the 7 you've got to go have lunch and think about it.

Listen, triples and quadruples are never going to help score cards. Very hard to win Open Championships with those kind of numbers on your card. It's better to make it on your first and have 72 holes left. No better man to steady the ship than him. I'm sure that would have hurt a little bit.

Q. You talked about conversations you had with yourself.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's a simple enough one. I played lovely today. I'm not going to stand here and beat myself up over one swing. It is what it is. It's hard and hurts because I had the round -- I had a good round going. I did the right thing on 17, make 5 there. And then make 7 up the last and turn a good round into a bad round.

There's nothing to say. I played lovely. And I've got to go play good again tomorrow. It's as simple as that.

Q. Shane Lowry is at the top of the leaderboard. Everyone is hoping for an Irish story, whether it's yourself or Rory, but he's in good position?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Fantastic. Listen, I've always thought Shane had kind of three big things going for him. Obviously he's a great driver of the ball; one of the best chippers of the ball I've ever seen; and he's got a lot of guts and determination. To win an Irish Open for an amateur speaks volumes of who he is and what he is.

He's a good friend out here and I have a huge amount of respect for his game. He could easily continue this into the weekend and could easily contend here on Sunday afternoon. He has the game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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