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July 20, 2006

Graeme McDowell


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, Graeme McDowell with 6 under par, leading The Open Championship. You had a good Open last year, even though you had one or two bad shots coming back in. Is this year going to be better than that?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I hope so. If I can obviously repeat the form, I feel like I can control the ball very well. I hit some nice irons, gave myself some nice chances. Didn't light the world up with my putter, but certainly I've been rolling it well lately, so hopefully I've saved a few of those for the weekend.

Q. You said yesterday that you thought you were capable of winning this week. What gave you that confidence?

GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I feel like I've been playing really good golf, and after a few months, yeah, my results are not great really and probably a lot inconsistency there. But I feel like I've really been getting very close to some of my top form. And the way I played for 45 holes at the U.S. Open this year have really given me a lot of confidence. I'm hitting my irons as well as I ever have. I'm shaping it well, controlling it well. I haven't been driving the ball particularly well. It caught up with me a little bit on the weekend at Winged Foot. I'm generally pleased with the direction it's going.

I drove the ball well today. I know how well my iron play has been. In the short game, my putting has always been there. It's been frustrating the last five or six weeks. I haven't been stringing four rounds together. But I know how well I've been playing, and that's why today doesn't really surprise me. I have really been feeling pretty comfortable about my game.

Q. You unintentionally had a couple of extra days to prepare for this week, after missing the cut last week. I'm just wondering as far as an Open Championship is concerned, have you ever gotten to an Open Championship as early as you did this year?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I did exactly the same thing last year, so I didn't play Loch Lomond. I just was experimenting with a week off before a major. And I got to St. Andrews last year and did the same thing, played 18 on Sunday and 9 on Monday. Last year at St. Andrews, I felt unbelievably well prepared. Especially Sunday and Monday is a great time at a major to do work, there's not that many people around, and you can work on your short game and really get some work done on my golf game.

I've had my coach here all week. 27 holes Sunday and Monday was unbelievable preparation. I was dissecting the golf course well. I was playing a lot of shots around the greens and really doing a lot of experimentation and different shots that I was going to require. And again I had this feeling, I felt very, very well prepared for the week and it's kind of an extra day Sunday, really does help that out. There's no doubt that you look at the way Phil is preparing for majors these days, and there's no doubt that the extra bit of work that you can do away from kind of the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the kind of circus leading up to a major championship, is difficult to get work done, there's no doubt about it. So I think obviously a little extra time that you can spend at the venue outside of the tournament sort of atmosphere is a big help and I felt like it's a big help to me.

Q. Seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard on the first day, does that scare you, worry you or excite you?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It excites me, you know, it's fantastic. Playing in the practice round there on Monday or Tuesday or something, and they kind of had your name up as you were playing 18 and it was right at the top and I was looking up thinking that would be pretty nice to see that this weekend. And obviously coming down today and seeing my name up there, it's a lot of fun. I know it's Thursday, but I was still it still excites me. I know I'm playing well enough, I just want to be up there on Sunday and enjoy myself coming down the last hole. It would be pretty nice.

Q. Can you tell me about the encounter you had in the pub last night and the advice you got?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I was having a couple of beers last night with some friends, and some local lad came up to me and basically kind of gives me that old, oh, you're Graeme McDowell and stuff, and I was like yeah, yeah, autograph. He said, "You get it pretty laid off at the top, don't you?" And I said, "Yeah, I guess I do." He said, "Get a bit of work done on that, will you?" I said, "Fantastic, thanks a lot for that." I was kind of joking with the guys I was with, if I shoot 66 here tomorrow I guess I'll be wanting to see that guy on the range Friday morning.

Q. Did you think about that on the course at any point?

GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I mean I'm something I'm working on anyway. So he knew his stuff. So that was pretty funny.

Q. Were you a little bit worried, after doing all that preparation and then there was the rain last night, which would have changed how you approached the greens, whether you could fly it in or bump and run it in, were you a little bit worried that you'd done all that preparation and it was all going to be changed? Did you notice very much difference?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, certainly when I woke up this morning and I had a text message from one of my managers, saying 30 minute rain delay and I was thinking I heard obviously watching TV, I saw shots stopping and stuff, thinking maybe these last four days have been a waste of time, the golf course is doing a 360 on us, and now it's something completely different.

But, no, I don't think it changed that much. I'm not sure what it was like for the morning. I heard obviously obviously it was flat this morning, and guys spinning shots back and stuff. And there was no doubt when I was watching a little bit of the coverage this morning the ball was stopping a little bit. I didn't know notice a lot of differences today.

No. 8, I thought, I saw a few pitch marks laid the first time this week. Some shots I hit in had some pitch marks, but it was only 5 to 10 percent difference out there as far as how I thought it was playing, anyway. From that respect it wasn't too disastrous.

Q. With the success you've had so far, have you had any self doubts coming into this week? Have you answered any of your own questions you might have had today?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, certainly I've doubted what I've been doing on the golf course. I've never really doubted my own ability, but I've certainly doubted my technique this year. I've been working really hard with my coach Claude Harmon the last three months. And last week, especially at Loch Lomond Thursday, I felt like I got very confused on a golf swing, and I was on a bit of a downer, especially Friday morning. I was kind of tearing my hair out a little bit, thinking how can I go from hitting it as good as I was hitting it at Winged Foot, and two weeks later, yeah, I've got my driver back in play, but all of a sudden my irons are all over the place.

I've doubted what I've been doing a little bit and my technique a little bit. But I feel like I'm very, very close to being back on track. I've been pretty happy with the stuff I've been working on in general the last three months, and I feel like I've got the golf ball doing what I expect it to do, but more, which is what we're looking for, really. It's great to go out there today and control the ball the way I did and obviously set myself up well for the weekend.

Q. Can you tell us the name of this pub and where it is, and will you buy this fellow a beer if you win?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yes, it's the pub just on the corner on the roundabout, La Bodega. About a thousand people hang out in the evenings. It's a pretty nice spot. Yeah, I'm sure that guy will be looking for a beer when he sees me.

Q. You were saying beforehand how as this course dried out you felt more and more comfortable in the conditions, because it reminded you growing up so much on Portrush. Is there anything how comforting is it to have that experience behind you on the weekend? How comfortable do you feel out there?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It's nice to have that little bit of added edge, that extra 5 percent on most of the field, having grown up on these kind of conditions. I've played well in these kind of conditions before. Obviously you don't see a golf course, a links golf course firm up as much as this place as firmed up. This is pretty extreme. I have been lucky enough to play decent I have seen golf courses set up like this, I've seen golf courses around the area, like Castle Rock, I played an event there in 2000 and it was absolutely rock hard, like I've never seen anything like it in my life before until this week.

No doubt the shots I'm playing around the greens and coming into the greens certainly felt very natural and just stuff I've grown up playing. It feels very comfortable, and I feel generally quite comfortable on the golf course, so it's nice.

Q. Did you learn a lot about yourself when you had that terrible run of results in America at the start of the year?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, certainly there's no doubt I think most players will say they learn more from their down times than they do from their up times. Golf is the easiest game in the world when you see flags in the fairways. But you're missing cuts by one, two, three, shots and your golf shot is not under control. It's very mentally tough and you have to ask yourself a lot of tough questions and you've got to come up with some tough answers sometimes. And you obviously you have to switch coaches and switch caddies this year and switch fitness coaches, it's been tough. It's been a tough 12 months for me, you know.

And I feel like I'm certainly back on the road that I want to be on, the road to success, the road to winning golf tournaments. It's a nicer place to be than in the doldrums or whatever you want to call it.

Q. When you sort of were a youth or a junior here, how or how aware were you of Fred Rathmore and all the Legends?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Probably not too aware until my mid teens until I started becoming a pretty good player, and all the old guys in the golf club hanging around the bar that remembered Fred did this and Fred did that. And certainly there's a lot of members of my club back home at Rathmore, certainly the picture of Fred on the wall and his golf clubs and stuff. And I guess it started to hit me how good a player he was. And I guess I really don't know enough about him, but maybe by doing the business this week I might want to find out.

Q. Did he come to your mind once in the round today?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I definitely thought about it. There's no doubt in my mind I was wondering coming down the stretch there, the brain doesn't really experience leading an Open very often and it conjures up all kinds of nice scenarios. But the thought of Fred and stuff, and obviously the Irish winner of a major, and for The Open to be back at Hoylake, and obviously from a guy from Portrush leading, and it's nice to think things like that.

But obviously I've got to take myself back into the present very quickly. I've got a lot of work to do this weekend. It's no good leading The Open on Thursday; I have to lead it on Sunday evening.

Q. You've spoken about your ambition to win a major since you were an amateur and a college student. When did you first realize that you had actually had the game to win?

GRAEME McDOWELL: It was probably St. Andrews last year. There's no doubt when you take your game up to the big stage, what I call the big stage, the major championships, the WGC events, all of a sudden you're shoulder to shoulder with the best players in the world, top 50 in the world. And I guess my performance at St. Andrews, on 17, I had a chance to win the British Open last year. I played well enough to do it.

And that really gave me the confidence to go ahead, and I finished sixth at the Amex, obviously. Just little performances like that, where I kind of felt like I played good golf and obviously mixed with the best of them. So I think there's no substitute for that kind of confidence and obviously playing well on the big stage.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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