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July 20, 2019

Graeme McDowell

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Q. That must have been a fun finish?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was a fun morning generally from the word go this morning. They were ten deep down the first and second fairways. It was incredible.

Obviously without Rory and Darren here people really focused on me this morning. And alongside Bubba Watson, of course, we pulled a huge crowd. It was an amazing atmosphere.

It was fun to have that Saturday looseness and kind of aggressiveness going on, but to be able to feed off this amazing crowd and to be able to enjoy it, frankly. It didn't have that Thursday, Friday tightness to it, that three shots off the lead tightness. It was relaxed and enjoying it and really taking it all in.

It was a lot of fun. Massive crowds and great support.

Q. How would you describe conditions and how tough or easy the course is playing?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Unfortunately for us, the early starters, it feels like the wind is laying down as we were finishing. It felt very strong and quite difficult at times out there this morning. Completely different wind directions out of the northwest, which is the first time most of these guys have seen this wind direction on the course.

For me, the two practice rounds I played before at Lahinch, I played them in these winds. So that kind of stood me in good stead out there, which was helpful.

But the conditions, the wind plays a little more across you from the northwest. There's less of the kind of downwind and into the wind holes. It's just a lot of holes in the right-to-left and a lot of draws from left-to-right. It makes it difficult in many ways, as well.

But the big key to the course today is the par-3s. They're very difficult to get at. Front left on 3. Back pin on 6. Front left on 13. Calamity is hanging off the back right.

So the par-3s are very difficult today in the crosswinds. And they'll certainly be a big key for the afternoon starters.

Q. And then in general there's quite a few tough pins out there, not just on those par-3s. They're tough today?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I thought the pins were quite difficult today from the word go. I thought 1 was tough. 3 is tough. 5 is kind of vicious off the back left. 6 is off the back. I thought the pins just in general were quite difficult.

8 is in the back right. There's five or six accessible ones, but with the crosswinds a lot of kind of hard right, left, and hard left, right out there. So it is very difficult to get close to flags.

There are a few gettable ones but you have to control your flight well out there today.

Q. And a very long way for the leaders going out at 10 to 4:00. If you were giving them advice, what would you talk about?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Shane, as I know him, he'll probably drink a few coffees. He's a big fan of a latte or three. And I'm sure he'll be watching the coverage trying to learn as much as he possibly can. I think you can learn a lot by watching the live coverage and seeing some of the pin positions, seeing how putts are rolling, and seeing how some of these holes are playing, for sure. 10 to 4:00 is a long wait. So Shane's a pretty chill guy.

I'll be going back and watching on the box and pulling for him obviously. Lots of good players on that board. And the course is very different and very interesting today, and we'll see how the guys adapt to that.

Q. 18 the other day was tough for you. But today it must have been special to hit that shot in to a couple of feet.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was. 18 has been pretty cruel to all three Northern Irish lads this week.

I think 7, 7, 7, normally decent if you're on the slots, but not so good if you're on the 18th hole at Portrush for me, Darren, and Rory.

Really nice to make birdie there today. Pretty gettable pin in the back left corner. I was in the side of a little divot and when I hit it I couldn't tell if I'd struck it correctly or not, it was such a strong impact and the crowd told me it was pretty good. And obviously nice to get one back there on 18.

Like I said, hurt the boys badly, hurt us all badly, myself and Rory on Thursday, and I can't imagine how Darren felt yesterday. I was sick for him.

And hopefully we can get it home again.

Q. We saw Rory's emotion yesterday and I think that kind of epitomized how much this has meant to everybody in the region.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think anyone that watched Rory finish yesterday it was exciting. It was like he was winning the tournament coming down the stretch yesterday. He was wearing his heart on his sleeve and he was laying it all out there coming in.

And to watch him break down a little bit kind of felt like legitimized my tears in my eyes Thursday morning a little bit. I was on the first tee on Thursday wondering what the hell was wrong with me. But when I saw Rory last night I understand it means a huge amount to us all.

I think Rory probably won himself a lot of fans last night. To show that raw emotion, to see how much it means to him, to see how much it means to all of us being out here and to bring this great tournament to Portrush, and for him obviously to not play the way he wants to play, the way he battled coming down the stretch says a lot about him as a person.

Like I said, it's great in sports when we see emotions because sometimes these guys look like robots out here. We're not robots; we hurt, and we hurt a lot sometimes. It's a tough sport.

Q. 2-under is pretty good. What would be a nice total tomorrow looking at the weather forecast with the wind and rain? You seemed pretty happy with your caddie walking off there.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I'm too far back. Like I said, I feel like the wind is dropping right now. I feel like we're going to end up having the toughest part of the day. I made the most of what I had in front of me, and that's all you can do. How far is too far back? Really depends.

I haven't had a good look at the forecast tomorrow. I thought it was going to be stronger winds. It really depends. It depends how far away the leaders get this afternoon, if anyone gets to double digits.

Me sitting at 2. You've got to imagine I'm going to need five tomorrow to have a chance to get to seven or eight, and that's if it's really difficult out there. Potentially too much back, unfortunately. But we'll see. We'll see.

I'm hoping this wind keeps it interesting for the guys this afternoon. It's a completely different wind direction, like I mentioned earlier, that they've seen all week. We'll see how game plans are tested, et cetera, et cetera.

But like I say, all I could do is play the course that was in front of me this morning, and I felt like I handled it reasonably well. We'll see what happens. I'll do my best tomorrow and see where it leaves us.

Q. How many times did you play here on a Saturday morning dreaming that it's a major championship? And how many times has that major championship actually been here that you're dreaming about?
A. I played down the other course actually most weekends. So obviously played many north of Ireland championships in various bits and pieces up here. My local knowledge hasn't been amazing this week. It's been 20 years since I've really played any major amount of golf here aside from the Irish Open in '12. And the golf course has changed a huge amount, really. A lot of new tee boxes, a lot of new bunkering.

Q. You must have played here thinking I'm hitting shots in a major?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I grew up with a dream The Open Championship. I grew up with the legend of '51 here. I walked past Fred Daly's picture and Rathmore clubhouse with the Claret Jug in his hand many, many times. The Open Championship was something I was always aware of as a child.

It's obviously something I'll look back on in the future and go, That was a special week to be back here for the first time. Obviously hoping to be back here -- not sure I'll be back here much, but hopefully be back here a few more times the next 20 years.

Q. Just briefly going back to 18. When you hit that 6-iron did you say to your caddie something like, I'm not sure it's going to get there?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I said, I'm not sure I got all that. Because it was a sandy divot. When I struck it I didn't actually feel any turf underneath, it felt like it kind of disintegrated a little bit underneath me. In that scenario you can't tell if you've got ball first or not.

Q. It was a nice surprise?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was a nice surprise. Because I'm looking at the ball thinking, is it short, is it there? And it was a strange one.

Q. Back to, if you don't mind, back to when Jamie won the Irish Open. You withdrew that week after a 63 I think it was. What was the reason, do you remember?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Why did I withdraw? I pulled a muscle in my lower left ankle, I had shin splints type injury. I guess tibialis strain, type 3.

Q. Just on Rory, the way he reacted yesterday. Can that be a springboard for him? Talk about his reaction.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Like I say, I think he won himself a lot of fans just for reacting in a human way. Like I say, we're not robots, we're humans, and we feel emotion. And golf will test you to the absolute limit like no other sport, I think.

I said earlier in the week in my press conference, I truly believe Rory is in as good a place physically and mentally as I've ever seen him.

This was always going to be a difficult week for him because he was the Irish shining light coming in here. It's all right for me and Darren and Padraig and guys like that saying it's great. Rory was the guy with the spotlight on him this week. He was handling all the pressure. He's done a phenomenal job. But Rory is a rock star.

He was coming in with the pressure of a nation on his shoulders and he was always going to feel a lot more than we did. So it obviously meant a huge amount to him.

Obviously the start on Thursday was just a killer blow. And he nearly got it back and then misses that tap in on 16 I think it was. And triples the last and still takes it down to the wire yesterday. It was a special effort from him.

Like I say, he was the guy with all the pressure on him this week. It's a lot to handle. It's a lot to handle.

Q. You said that winning fans, winning fans is one thing, but we've come to expect he will win majors, not just tournaments. It's been five years now. Did you expect that gap? Can you see what's going to happen to Rory the next five years? If he finishes on four it won't be enough for golf of his talent.
GRAEME McDOWELL: He won't finish on four. He'll win more. I have no doubt in my mind. Five years is a huge gap for a man of his capabilities, no doubt about it. But people grow up at different rates. There's so much happens in a man's life. He's met his wife, got married. Life, for me, life gets in the way sometimes.

I feel like he's gone through that transition in his life and he's spent this year trying to really get himself settled and become more philosophical and really meditation and all the things that he's working on. I feel like mentally he's settling back down and getting back into his rhythm again.

I'm not making excuses for the guy. Yeah, five years is a big gap for him. But he's still a young man. He's only 30 years old. He's in the shape of his life. I think mentally he's in a great place.

In the meantime, there's some great players out here. It's hard to win. It's hard to win major championships. It's hard to win any championship. I have a huge belief in him that he'll win soon and he'll win several. I think double digits is well within his capabilities. But it's a tough landscape out here now.

Like I say, he'll get fairly criticized this week for not playing well. But he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders this week. It's difficult to come home and try and do what he tried to do this week with all that pressure and all that spotlight.

Q. (Inaudible.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: Sometimes you look at watching a ball and you kind of forget sometimes, especially on blind tee shots, that there are some crowds around the corner. We do get lazy sometimes because the marshaling is so good. There's a lot of signaling. There's a lot of forecaddying going on from the tee box. The quality of marshaling and the quality of setup sometimes makes us a little lazy as players because the guys on the tee are giving great signals.

What happened with Koepka last year at Paris, I'm always surprised that more people don't get badly injured in golf tournaments because you've got projectiles moving very fast in the large crowds. And thank God that very little ever happens.

I do feel like it's a professional responsibility to try and warn a crowd if your ball is heading that direction. Do I always shout "fore" when my ball goes in the crowd? No. Sometimes I make a mistake and don't realise that my ball is going to be as close to the crowd as it is. But the ball is obviously heading in that direction.

I try my best to shout all the time. Do they always hear me? I had a situation in Scotland last week where I hit a ball into the crowd on a par-3, but I shouted. And when I got up there there was a guy moaning that I hadn't shouted because he didn't hear me. But personally I felt okay about it because I thought I'd done my piece.

But it would be hard to live with myself if I hadn't shouted and I hurt somebody really badly. That would keep me awake at night.

Like I say, professional responsibility, try and do your best. It's not always easy to get it right all the time. But I think guys need to shout a little harder. And like I say, we do get lazy for obvious reasons.

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