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February 1, 2007

Graeme McDowell


SCOTT CROCKETT: Many thanks for coming in to join us, as always. A fine opening effort. You must be very pleased. Just give us your thoughts on that first round.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously very, very pleased to continue the progress that I feel that I've been making the last few weeks. Obviously this golf course seems to be a game of two nines, really. The front nine doesn't really give up a whole lot of chances, and you know, I got off to, I wouldn't say a slow start, but I really wasn't firing all cylinders early.
But I made a ton of pars, one birdie. I knew the back nine would yield a lot of birdies. I was very happy when I got on there and birdied 10, and got things moving with an eagle on 13.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And a good save on 12 I think you said.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I hit 4-iron on 12, missed the green pretty well shot and hit a flop shot to about six feet and made that; which really was the turning point on the back nine. Went on to eagle 13 and I had a great chip on 14 and gave myself great chances coming in, so I was very, very pleased.
SCOTT CROCKETT: No dropped shots is also pleasing as well.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, and the wind, it's pretty breezy out there. It's gusting, came from a consistent direction today, that's a good thing. You can really trust where it was and play with it.
You know, my caddie is pretty experienced. He's won around here before, and it's really great to have his course knowledge on the bag this week. You know, he kind of said to me earlier in the week that he thinks this golf course could well play easier in the wind than it does in the flat calm. I can see that because some of the par 5s you can knock it on in two and you can cut off some of the doglegs in the back nine. So the back nine was nice out there.

Q. What was the putt for eagle, please.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was about 25 feet I would say. 25 feet, pretty straight down the slope.

Q. What did you use to get on?
GRAEME McDOWELL: 4-iron, I hit pretty good tee shot and 4-iron from about 210 I think it was.

Q. Can you please tell me the name of your caddie and who did he win with?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Ken Conboy. He won with Thomas Björn. He's played pretty well around here in the past, so nice to have him on the bag obviously.

Q. You described it was a work-in-progress; in percentage times, how far along do you think you are?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I'm probably about 75 per cent right now. It's tough to put a number on it. I'm really struggling with the driver, and I'm worked hard off the golf course with my driver. I can't seem to find it on the course right now.
Although I did hit a lot of fairways out there today but I'm really not driving the golf ball as well as I would like to. But my iron play is probably 50 per cent better than it was this time last year -- sorry, even toward the end of last year. My iron play has improved immensely. My short game has improved immensely and my putting has improved immensely. There's a lot of positives in there. I say 75 per cent; it is tough to put a number on it. But I feel like so many parts of my game have improved immensely and I'm very happy where it's at right now.

Q. Why the improvement, are you working harder; do you have a new coach?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I've got a new coach since the end of November, Clive Tucker. Been working very hard over the winter with him, especially these 3 1/2 weeks we came into Dubai early before the Abu Dhabi tournament and been working very, very hard with him. He's been a good influence on me, really sort of a breath of fresh air in my game, and there's no doubt I have been working a lot harder on certain areas of my game and really seeing improvements.

Q. You say you've got up to 70 per cent now, but before this three weeks started, where were you, 20 per cent, with all of the work you've done?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's tough to say really. Last year was very tough to quantify for me. There was some great golf and there was some bad golf. I really needed to clear the decks a little bit end of last year took everything back to zero again and wanted to get myself back up to where I know I can perform at. It's tough to talk percentages.

Q. It's very early days but the last time I think you led a tournament, when Tiger Woods was in the field was the Open at Hoylake. How does this compare, where you are now to where you were then, and did you learn anything from that experience and will it help you this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Certainly the symmetry wasn't lost on me coming down the last couple holes today. July last year I was a completely different player than I am from right now. For one, I'm playing my third event in a row, and then I was in the middle of a 16-week stretch there at the British Open; so a bit of a difference there.
Mentally I was not in a very good place at the British Open last year. I probably didn't really believe in my technique very much either. I wasn't really on a good path as far as where I wanted to go long term with my golf swing. Now I can see I've got a long-term plan. It's great that I've got some short-term results right now, but there's no doubt, I'm not putting as much pressure on myself as I was at the British Open. I'm a much more relaxed player, and I'm really trusting my technique and my ability a lot more.

Q. You've made a lot of changes, and you seemed to have wiped a slate clean coming home to live in Portrush; what difference has that made?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously being surrounded by family and friends, the people who have always supported me, and they have never wavered in their support and all of that. Obviously it's not the ideal base from a traveling point of view, but it's where I feel most comfortable. That's where I can go home and really reset and relax and be myself.
Obviously as far as a sort of clearing the decks go, I mean, this game, I can really take you to the highest points in your mentally, physically, just how you feel, it can really take you to the lowest places as well. Certainly when you get to these low places, you've got to do something about it. That's how I've always reacted in the past is try to find some new people and some new enthusiasm in my team and myself. That's what I've worked on over the winter.

Q. In the Web site you swore off the beer; how is it going?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It went very well actually for 27 days until Sunday night Qatar. I have to say I had a few cold beers and they tasted pretty nice.

Q. Were you in Florida before you moved back?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I kind of tried at Manchester for six months just to try to have a better base as far as airports and stuff go. But I realised I'd rather not spend my weeks off there. Manchester was really just a thoroughfare. It wasn't really somewhere I would kind of spend time if I had a week off for example.

Q. A nomadic existence?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Very much so, I had a very nomadic lifestyle. Being single, I have no one to answer to; I can just be wherever I wanted to be and if it was a Manchester United game on a week off, I could zip in. I guess my time off was becoming -- half of it was being spent on an airplane, so that kind of had to change a little bit.

Q. Was there someone in particular who suggested you went back to ground zero, or was it your own doing?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was just my own feelings really. I quickly realised it was a trial period in Manchester and I quickly realised that I would prefer to be with my family and friends. My family mainly on my weeks off; Portrush will always be home for me. Obviously Orlando is quickly becoming a second home as well. I think having two homes is enough really for time off.

Q. In Manchester did you get sort of uptight or dismal or miserable?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I really didn't spend enough time there to sort of -- I think what Lawrence said about being very nomadic, I think that was my main problem when it came to time off last year. I didn't really give myself somewhere to just kind of sit back and really be sort of retrospective or whatever and really, you know, give myself a break, really. I think that's what I realised. I felt like I needed to be somewhere where I could give myself more of a break and get away from tour life a little bit.

Q. After last year you said you were going to come straight on this year and you climbed in the rankings after last Sunday. If you climbed again in the next couple of weeks, would you change that or is it still strictly Europe this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I few invitations in the Florida swing and that's the only part of the season I'm looking at being in America at all. I realise I'm the type of person that needs to be focused and I need to feel like I'm achieving something, Order of Merits and World Ranking. I need to feel a sense of achievement to keep my motivation going.
I think I realised last year that playing an international schedule is very, very difficult. It's very difficult, only the best players in the world can really still kind of compete in Order of Merits by playing international schedules; you've got to win five or six times a year to be doing that. I'm really not at that level yet. I need to feel like I'm in Europe, at least until the next Ryder Cup Team gets picked, give myself a chance to compete and really feel like I'm getting involved in trying to win Order of Merits and really getting high up in the rankings.

Q. Is it fair to say that you tried to do too much, too soon?
GRAEME McDOWELL: My career has kind of gone a little bit like that, there's no doubt about it. There has been -- obviously I won very quickly in my career and had a little bit of a acclimatization period, if you like, and then I won and obviously got my PGA Tour card pretty quick.
I don't know if things have happened too quick or if I really haven't dealt with it very well. It's been tough. There's no doubt that you know, when you achieve things quickly, it is tough to re-goal-set very quickly. Obviously setting your goals is very important. That's the type of player I am; I need good goals and I need a lot of motivation. When you achieve success very quickly, it's tough to keep resetting all the time.

Q. Was it the lifestyle in America that you felt affected your golf in general?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No. There was nothing to do with environment or the lifestyle. I want to play on the PGA TOUR in the future, there's no doubt about it. I love it out there. I've set up my second home in Orlando.
In hindsight, there was nothing probably wrong with the way I set up my schedule last year apart from the fact that I played terribly for the first three months of the year. Which meant, A, I was way behind as far as earning out there goes as far as keeping my card; and B, I put a lot of pressure on myself when I came back to Europe to try to perform again. And obviously there was a certain Ryder Cup Team that I was trying to perform well to try to be involved in as well.
So I got off to an awful start last year and really spent the rest of the year just chasing my tail and getting nowhere. I realised that I needed to get my focus back, and that meant coming back here.
I had the option to go back to the States the end of last year and play six, seven more times trying to chase my card. But I knew I didn't want to. I knew I had to be back here. I had to get my focus back a little bit.

Q. Were all of the changes prompted by a general sense or feeling that you were not doing yourself justice or was there a moment where it all came to a head?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think getting Ken on the bag was a huge move for me really in July, August of last year, because I was pretty -- I was beating myself up very badly from a schedule point of view. Really, from a golf swing point of view, that was really affecting me immensely. I was really not pretty. I've just beaten myself up, I was not the player that I knew that I was anymore. I didn't recognise who I was anymore on the golf course. I was just a different person.
He helped me get a little bit of perspective on what I did and the mistakes I made to my schedule and just the mistakes I was making in general. He's worked with some of the best players in the world and he's certainly been a big influence on me as far as trying to get me back to where I know I can kind of perform and be.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Graeme, thanks very much and best of luck tomorrow.

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