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May 16, 2007

Graeme McDowell


RODDY WILLIAMS: Thanks so much for coming in and joining us, an important week for all Irishmen, how do you feel coming into the tournament.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I feel like we answer the same questions every year we come to the Irish Open: Why has no Irishman won it for 25 years. But I think certainly we have numbers on our side these days and a lot of great Irish players playing this week. We have a really, really tough setup out there and some pretty nasty weather to boot.
So certainly going to take someone who is really on their game this week to navigate their way around this very tough track.
RODDY WILLIAMS: How familiar are you with the course here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not very. I mean, the only time I played it was a couple of years ago at JP's Pro-Am and I think we're now looking at an extremely different golf course than it was a couple of years ago. So not very familiar. Certainly paying a lot of attention in my practise rounds. I played nine holes yesterday and will be paying a lot of attention in my Pro-Am this afternoon.
So really as I said just trying to find out how to get around this place, stay out of the rough, try to hit it into the correct parts of the green. Because not only is this golf course long, it's got some very, very tricky greens and it is really going to -- it's going to provide a test no doubt about it.
RODDY WILLIAMS: And obviously weather conditions, not great at the moment.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I haven't looked at any sort of long-term forecast, but you know certainly the way it blew yesterday and the way it's forecast to blow today and tomorrow, it's going to test the Europeans how they are going to set the golf course up. They have a lot of tee box options. They have 60, 80-yard difference on some of the holes and I believe we will be using them at some point.
I think our players and caddies alike are very -- going to have been to very flexible in where the tee box is going to be and expect to see some changes.

Q. How has the year so far, how have you played?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I've been very content with my play so far this year. I've got off to a reasonably good start out in the Middle East. My results maybe didn't quite show how good I felt I was playing. There was a little bit of frustration in there.
But you know, certainly stayed patient and my last three weeks, the two in China and the one in Spain I hit the ball probably as consistent as I have in a lot of years so I was very content with that. My overall game, short game putting, just long game, really is all coming together. I'm very happy with what I'm working on.
Yeah, I'm generally I'm feeling -- I've taken quite a lost time this year already and I'm feeling pretty fresh coming into the next three months, which are the key parts of the season really.

Q. From an Irish point of view, it doesn't do any harm that a lot of players are not here because of THE PLAYERS Championship, but there are minuses as well as pluses?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Absolutely. It's unfortunate the Irish Open, obviously the change of schedule in America that we have to come after the TPC last week. We're probably lacking a little bit in our field from what we've had in the past but okay, that gives us a better chance. That gives the top players here this week -- we'll have fewer top players to beat.
Yeah, being an Irishman, I like to see the Irish Open getting as much profile, as good a field as possible and when we win, we obviously want to take away as many World Ranking points as we possibly can. But it is what it is and it's going to be a tough week. It's a star-studded European Tour field as it is, so obviously we do miss the top players, but we've got to take what we get.

Q. What is your view -- do you resent the Americans for the schedule change --
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not really. Scheduling is so difficult. Obviously with the FedExCup this year, they are going all-out to steal all our top players off us and get them playing over there as often as they possibly can. I guess you can't really resent them for it. They do have money to offer; they do have TV; they do have the stars; they have Tiger Woods. It is tough. It's tough for our boys to not want to go over there really and there's not a whole lot you can do about it.
Certainly I'm looking forward to being back out there in the future myself but as I say, it's tough for these guys not to go out there.

Q. Do you think there will come a point that the players will actually stand up and say enough and just stay home?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's tough to do. Tough to do. I mean, I don't know really. It's obviously the Top-50 guys in the world want to play the Top-50 schedule. They want to play against the best players in the world as often as possible and not to say that America dictates the schedule but certainly the WGCs and majors and events like Sawgrass last week, they dictate the schedule really.
Guys can only work their other commitments internationally around those events and as I say, America really does dictate the schedule a little bit from that point of view.

Q. Could things get even more lopsided with the FedEx Cup
GRAEME McDOWELL: This is going to be a voyage of a discovery this year for the FedExCup. It could really be a make-or-break year from a lot of Tours point of view, Europe, Asia, Australia, alike. There's no doubt there is a magnetic effect for the top players to have out there, and if it works out well and it suits a lot of guys, yeah, it really can look gloomy for the future as far as star players go, playing on these soils.
But really you're going to have to wait to see what happens. There's a lot of guys that are a bit skeptical how it's all going to work. Like I said, time will tell.

Q. Having said that, next week's field at BMW is very strong?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, exactly. Scheduling, again, it's our flagship event. If we can't pull a top field next week, we're struggling. There's no doubt, the players -- the players in Europe are very loyal, there's no doubt about that. We have a very loyal group of players here, and the stars especially. They never forget their roots, really, and as you've seen in the past, some of the guys come home and support the event at Wentworth.
I think that's one thing The European Tour has on its side is loyalty. The players know where they came from and as I say, there is still an underlying support there and a want for The European Tour to do well, so I think that stands in good stead.

Q. You say in the future you would go back to America, would you still try to play a balanced schedule?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'm striving for a Top-50 in the world schedule where I could say WGCs and majors can dictate my schedule and then I can just piece the puzzle together around those. It's the perfect schedule really to be able to play a truly international schedule where you are just getting best of both worlds. My commitments are always going to be the Irish events and the big events in Europe and just piece the rest together around that. So I think that's the ideal world really.

Q. Is there a lot of discussion about that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, there's no doubt over dinner we do talk about it a lot, you know, how the schedule is affecting players and what they all feel about it.
But there's never really a question of where our loyalties lie. As I say, I think the members of The European Tour are extremely loyal to this tournament. It's really just what the schedule is forcing players to do. As I say, I don't think it's a question of loyalty. It's just sometimes they have to do what they have got to do. It's tough.
Players are going to find it difficult to come home from the TPC last week. Obviously Harrington has done it and very few others like him this week. So obviously scheduling is so difficult nowadays, you can pretty much play every week of the year if you wanted to. For these guys there's lucrative money to go play and really it's difficult.

Q. If it affects Ryder Cup qualification, do you think the players will then have the backbone to take a course of action?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, that certainly could be a drastic measure. Ryder Cup qualifying is something that could help sway players in one direction or another. Would we be strengthening or weakening our team, who knows. Guys like Justin Rose who have obviously said that the Ryder Cup is not that big of a priority for him that, you know, needs to be out there full-time on the PGA Tour, it would be great to see him back in Europe a little bit this year. I mention his name but no doubt to take on a full-time schedule in the States, you're having to sort of turn your back on the Ryder Cup itself because five off the World Rankings, and they are pretty much normally automatic every year.
So the only way on to the team for guys like myself are kind of come through the European points list and we've got to be in Europe to do that. So there's no doubt, we do have that to sway players in the future but let's hope we don't need it.

Q. Which is better for your golf, to be playing in America or playing in Europe in terms of the standard of course and the players that you're playing against?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, there's no doubt that America sees more consistent golf courses on a week-to-week basis than we do, but is that a good thing? I tend to not think so. I think the players become very one dimensional over there. If they turned up at a golf course like this this week with the weather we've got and the setup, I don't think they would really know what to do.
I think we do create much more rounded golfers. I think we create better all-around golfers really, and there's no doubt the guys out there are really seeing great one-dimensional golf courses on a week-to-week basis. I think it does take that mix, and there's no doubt they have that depth over there in the States. If you're a young player coming through I think The European Tour is a fantastic place to learn your trade; as I say become a rounded player. I don't think we have the depth that America has. They are going to make more cuts, they are going to get the experience a lot easier.
Obviously my experience last year on the PGA Tour, I didn't play well. I missed a lot of cuts and I lost my confidence very quickly. So there's no doubt there is more -- there are is more middle of the road players out there. There's no doubt the top players here are as good as the top players in the States. We see that any given week when the Harringtons and the Clarkes and the Caseys of the world are over there competing with the best they have.
So I just think there is certainly a comparison to the two tours, but you know, there's a doubt, the changing -- the changing weather and setup that we have every week, certainly makes us -- how we have to think on our feet a little bit more. We have to adapt our game and we certainly have to hit different shots every week. So from that point of view do I think we do create more rounded players.

Q. Saying this tour makes more rounded players -- does this tour become more of a nursery for the US PGA Tour, learn their trade here and then go to America?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt that's a danger, like you said the magnetic pull of the U.S. Tour is getting larger and larger every year. It would be awful to think this tour was a nursery. I don't think that was the case. We do see a lot of Aussie players come here, learn their trade and never see them again as they go to the U.S. Tour. As I said I think there's a loyalty aspect of the European-born players that certainly they really never ever turn thick back on this tour -- I say never ever but the majority of players never turn their back on this tour.
Yeah, as I say, the PGA machine certainly is getting bigger and bigger and more magnetic every year. Fingers crossed, we are getting stronger. Our magnetic pull I guess is Asia at the minute. We are really starting to create some great events out there. My first time playing in China this year and I really enjoyed it. I thought the golf courses were fantastic and tournaments were really well put together.
So we are starting to create some great dimensions on our tour as well now, and obviously we have to step up on the plate a little bit and to keep our schedule as strong as the PGA Tour schedule is becoming.

Q. The increasing competitive envirnment as you just described, is it the responsibility of the Tour to attract players, do you think playing the Irish Open in May like it's been the last couple of years, is it wise?
GRAEME McDOWELL: If you asked me that question a month ago, is it wise to play it in May when the sun was shining, etc., etc. But The European Tour, they have had some terrible luck here, the Irish Open especially. We've played fantastic golf setup at Carton House the last two years which was just made to look shambollic really because of the weather. It's just unfair because these are great golf courses which are made to look unplayable.
Again this week, if this golf course does -- weather, it's as simple as that, we're going to get weather anyway and it's going to be incredibly difficult.

Q. Is there a message?
GRAEME McDOWELL: The message might be -- the weather is very unpredictable, yeah. You cannot control weather obviously and you know, scheduling -- scheduling is such a difficult thing. The tournaments really are jockeying for position in the schedule and everybody knows where the primetime slots are, and it's difficult to try to squeeze everybody in to spots they need to be in.
May in Ireland as we have discovered in the last few years is not a great shot so what can you do really. Hopefully things clear up this weekend and we can certainly enjoy this fantastic layout.

Q. Do you feel you played too much last year and are you playing less this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think that's exactly what I'm doing, taking my PGA Tour card last year in hindsight was a mistake by hindsight is 20/20. I didn't play well last year. I was chasing things. I suppose I always believed that I had to give myself a chance to Ryder Cup the Ryder Cup Team and come home from America in high form and ended up going on a run of, I think I played 19 of 21 weeks last year with two majors and two 36-hole qualifiers for majors and sponsor days. And it was just absolutely beating myself into a pulp and really was not a mistake that I ever want to make again, that's for sure.
I realised that I'm a player who needs to stay fresh. I need to stay very mentally fresh. There's no doubt if your head is not in it, if you're feeling at all tired or fatigued and you're questioning, why am I here, what am I doing, I need to take week off, I've realised quickly I'm not a player that can play through that very easily. I need to be fresh. I need to be ready and the right mindset to be at a golf tournament to help me obviously perform.

Q. In that situation, were you just doing it by yourself or was your management company trying to persuade you to slow down?
GRAEME McDOWELL: When you're committed to playing 15 events on the PGA Tour and 11 back here with the Ryder Cup, so, you know, I don't know, the schedule kind of kept dictating itself and it kept sort of filling itself in, you know, with the U.S. Open qualifying.
And it just so happened it was the Barclays Classic that week in the States and we have a great relationship with Barclays through our management company. I've played in the tournament in the past and so went straight from Monday qualifier to play in the Barclays championship. And I actually finished 12th in the tournament somehow, but I have no doubt that it affected my mental fatigue the following week at the U.S. Open. I think I shot 79 the last round and was kind of tearing my hair out at the end of that week.
But as I said, the schedule just kept filling itself in and all of a sudden I was just on this incredible run that, you know, led up to the British Open and again, the British Open, it's here, I've got to play. It's just tough to take weeks off, I guess, and, you know, I'm not sure whose fault that was, management myself. Really as I say, it wasn't a problem until it really happened and all of a sudden it was a major problem and I was beating up and I really wasn't enjoying my golf anymore. Certainly learn from those mistakes and try to foresee them and try to obviously stop them before they happen. As I say, that just happened before I realised it had even happened.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Graeme, thank you very much for your time this morning and good luck this week.

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