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July 19, 2006

David Howell


STEWART McDOUGALL: Welcome to David Howell. David, you've had a good year so far, two wins in the 2006 season. How do you find preparation has gone for The Open Championship?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, the last month I guess has been -- I would take as preparation for this week, and I played terribly. And I played terribly in Loch Lomond, and here we are.

As I say, that was the plan, schedule-wise, to be here, and I started hitting the ball quite nicely the last couple of days, so hopefully the plan is going to work and I'll have a good week. I've got the rubbish away.

Q. Could you talk about preparing in this kind of heat and what it's been like these 18 holes under the glare of the sun?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, yeah, obviously yesterday I teed off at 7:30 and it was still unbelievably hot when we finished. I wouldn't have liked to play yesterday afternoon. I'm pleased I came up last week and played the course a couple of times, in very windy conditions, it would have to be said. But actually I believe when I played last summer it was the prevailing wind, which we haven't had the last three days, so I'm pleased by that, as well.

I haven't had to do too much. I played nine holes Monday, 18 yesterday, and nine very early this morning. The heat hasn't been a problem for me. And I can rest up now and ready for tomorrow.

Q. What do you feel about playing the competitive days here in this kind of heat, and are you all fit enough to cope with it?

DAVID HOWELL: I don't think it's a problem. It's not as hot as it was at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago, I wouldn't say. I think the temperature is going to drop by a few degrees tomorrow. I don't think the weather is a particular problem.

Obviously it's unusual for British Open, you prepare yourself for particularly bad weather, not particularly hot. But a pleasant surprise. No major problems, I wouldn't think.

Q. Do you enjoy playing in front of the northwest crowds, and how would you compare this course to maybe Birkdale or Lytham?


Q. No --

DAVID HOWELL: I don't enjoy playing in front of -- no, I'm joking (laughter). It's wonderful. It's nice to play in England in The Open. Lots of support already shown over the three days. I know a few members here, as well, which is nice. So I have a few friendly faces hanging around the place.

It's a pleasure to be here. I think everybody is delighted to be back at Hoylake. And in general the Opens in the Northwest are obviously so well attended that it's a joy to play in this part of the country, and it's going to be a fantastic week by the looks of it, the fans are coming out in full force.

Q. You know a few members, so have you got previous experience at this course, perhaps more experience than some of the other guys who are finding for the first time?

DAVID HOWELL: I played a British Amateur many moons ago, 12 years ago now, but that doesn't count as much. I played a couple of company days here over the last five or six years. It just so happens the members I know are former Junior National organisers and committee members, so yeah, I've been here a little bit here more than most guys.

But I certainly haven't seen the course play like this anyway, so all that's really by the way. It's a new challenge for everybody.

Q. You're one of the few people to make the European Ryder Cup team. What do you think your chances are for retaining the trophy?

DAVID HOWELL: They're good, but I think that this might possibly be the first Ryder Cup that we ever actually go into as favourites, that could be the case. But even possibly on paper with the rankings, I'm not sure, but we have to wait to see, there's a possibility of that. That's the moment we have to be most careful as we've proved so much over the years because as you go in as the underdogs, it's when you're at your most dangerous. I think more so than ever before, we have to be at the top of our game to retain the trophy.

Q. I was talking to Paul McGinley, and he thinks team spirit is going to be keen. Would you agree with that?

DAVID HOWELL: I think team spirit always is key. I've only had one experience with the Ryder Cup. Our team spirit was good last time. But the American side seems to have a great team spirit, as well, so it comes down to that. It comes down to a lot of factors, most of which are how you play in the day.

So I think it's very natural for everybody to come together and all pulling the same direction that week, I don't think there's ever really been a problem, certainly for us; I don't think it's probably been a problem for them either.

Q. Is there anyone you're looking forward to coming up against?

DAVID HOWELL: No, not particularly. Obviously any match is a huge match in the Ryder Cup. It doesn't matter who you're playing against, just having the opportunity to play a Ryder Cup match again is something I'm really looking forward to, and hopefully we'll win it for Europe.

Q. A lot of people have gotten you down as one of the favourites for the tournament this week, the No. 2 pick. Are you comfortable with that kind of expectation?

DAVID HOWELL: I wasn't aware of that, and people can think what they want, can't they? It's a nice compliment, but if you ever look at -- I've been signing on my page in the official guide, page 110, David Howell, and it case missed cut, missed cut, missed cut, did not play in the last five Open stats. So I would love to play good this week. I'm better than I was four or five years ago.

But I have no right to think I'm going to do great this week. I'm going to go out and do my best. And if I can have a great finish, then fantastic. First thing I've got to do is improve my best finish of about 45 at this place. Hopefully we can do that. Anything better than that is a bonus. I don't feel anything of an expectation, and I'm certainly not burdening myself with any expectations, other than to go out there and give it my best.

Q. Is there a sense with your Open record that you kind of owe it to yourself to put in a good Open and really sort of shine at this tournament?

DAVID HOWELL: Yeah, obviously I'd love to. I remember the excitement when I first qualified I think my second year on the Tour for The Open. I had my moments in the Championship. I had good nine holes, managed to force my way on to the leaderboard early in the week, and never managed to follow it through.

I'd certainly be disappointed if my career ended without having a good run at this Championship. Obviously no better time to start than this week. Good form, I'm playing the best golf in my life in general at the moment. I'd be very disappointed if I came away this week with another MC next to my name or something down in the 40s; I have better expectations than that. But we'll see how it goes.

Q. Obviously a lot has gone on with The R&A and the people in this community to bring back the event to this neighbourhood. What have the players been thinking and talking in terms of this being back?

DAVID HOWELL: I wouldn't say it's been over-discussed with the players, to be honest with you. I have played in the British Amateur and know some of the members, but it's not something that's generally discussed. Obviously there's curiosity by a lot of the guys as to what the course is actually like. I know some people have come over the previous month to have a look at the course, which is possibly slightly what they wouldn't normally do at most of the other courses. But it's not overly discussed. It's nice to be here and we had a very warm welcome from everyone.

Q. You say that hasn't been discussed, what has been a talking point, the greens or --

DAVID HOWELL: Well, obviously this is as firm a course as we've ever seen, I would imagine. And Monday it looked in danger of a couple of the greens dying. Obviously they've gotten back on track, 6 in particular. It looked almost grey on Monday, but there's a little bit more green in it now. As I said, they've got the course exactly where they want it. I think they realise possibly with the rough dying off, as well, it's not the hardest -- obviously the hardest test of an Open.

It's not like we turn up at Carnoustie and it was clearly going to be a disastrous week. And I think they've decided that the way to counteract that is to keep everything as firm as possible. The weather has obviously helped in that fact, and I think it's going to be a very tricky test, I really do. If there is any breeze out there, it's going to be very tricky to keep control of the ball from any position, let alone from the rough. So I think if the wind plays its part, we're going to have a very interesting week.

Q. If it doesn't end up being a tough test of golf, does that matter, if there are a number of players on Sunday evening all competing for the trophy?

DAVID HOWELL: No, it doesn't matter at all what the scoring is, obviously. But I just don't think it's going to be as low as everyone is assuming, I really don't. So all we want is an exciting finish, doesn't matter if it's level par or like the U.S. Open or two or three guys get to turn out with 3- or 4-under. I don't think The R&A -- I don't think they really care. They want the best player to win, and an exciting finish would be great for everybody watching.

Q. Can you give us a couple of examples of sort of extreme clubbing changes because of the conditions, what you're hitting into 18?

DAVID HOWELL: Well, I hit drive today down 17 that went about 370 yards past the bunker that didn't even contemplate even being in play, and that's one of the tricky things when the course gets that firm, you just -- it's very hard to think outside the box that we normally -- the way we normally think, and think that that bunker might possibly be in play. You can hit 3-irons 290 yards, which is just hard to get your head round that, basically. I guess as the week goes on you learn each day it becomes easier to remember that's what's going to happen.

Obviously conversely into the wind the ball is not going half as far. So it's typical of links golf. It's interesting. It's interesting to play. And it's going to be very interesting to watch, I think.

Q. What did you hit into 18 today?

DAVID HOWELL: 18 was playing into the wind today, so it was driver, 3-wood. When I played here last Sunday I hit 3-wood and a 9-iron and I could have putted on 17 today, and I hit a 2-iron short the last time I played it a week ago on 17. So that sums it up, really, quite nicely. I don't know why I didn't say that in the first place. I bored you for a couple of minutes (laughter).

STEWART McDOUGALL: David, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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