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March 16, 2008

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Obviously quite happy to be here I would suspect.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, took a little bit longer than I expected. I mean, to be three back after four holes, Jeev was asking me all the questions; I knew I had to -- well, to shoot 6-under after four or five holes, he said, let's shoot 66, if you're going to beat that, fair enough.
It was great to do it. Obviously one back with two to play, I was certainly looking for a playoff. I had 20 feet on the last green to win in regulation. It was a relief to hit it in close on the last. He looked like he hit a fantastic shot himself and I knew at that point it was do-or-die for me. I had to stand up and hit the shot and I did. So it's a major relief to get over the line.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Is that one of the best shots you've ever hit?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's definitely up there, no doubt about it. Yeah, no doubt, it's in my top five best shots ever hit under the gun. In the playoff Jeev looked like he hit it pretty good. I had a pretty similar yardage to what I had the second time around. I had 177 yard the first time and I had 179 the second time, and I knew 7-iron was obviously perfect. And this time I just had to make sure I aimed right at the flag, and it came off perfect I have to say. The second I hit it, I thought it was the club, and not too much work to do at the end, a couple of feel.
It's a great feeling right now. Been a lot of changes going on the last couple years, coming out this year with a new equipment contract with Callaway, new golf ball, the Tour ix golf ball, it's nice to win early in my Callaway golf career and it's a Ryder Cup year obviously.
So I'm massively happy at this point to have chalked 1-up early in the season.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: And maybe talk about next week now. Pretty big event next week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously massive bonus, Doral. I knew coming into this two- or three-week stretch that I needed 150,000 Euros or something, that was certainly one of my goals for the three weeks was to give myself a chance to get into Doral. It was going to be end-all, be-all.
Played really well last week tee-to-green and really could not have played any better. I was disappointed with my putting performance on the greens. I had a slight change of my mental approach this week, which I did. I have to say it seemed to work.
Very excited obviously with it being a Ryder Cup year, I don't want to be not playing in the WGCs and the majors, obviously with my World Ranking, that was something but I can't do much about it at the minute. It's massive to be chopping 1-up and get in next week and put some more points on the board.
Obviously the ultimate goal this year is to make Faldo's team in September and give myself every possible opportunity to do that now. Just keep working as hard as I have been doing. I feel like my game is improving all the time and got a great team of people.

Q. Talk us back to the shot at 18, what were you thinking?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously the first playoff hole, it looked like he hit it in the trap but it just snuck on the green.
Second playoff hole, I didn't even see the shot. Caddie told me it was in the trap. Yeah, hit it in a pretty similar spot. I think he was a little further up and I did have a look at this one this time. I saw it most of the time and he laid the gauntlet down for me and I realised this was the time that I had to attack and aim at the flag.
Second time around, he made a fantastic putt. I was standing there with two footer for par and he's standing there with 15 feet and I'm already thinking, this is my opportunity and he slams the door right shut on me again and we are back on the 18th tee going, here we go again.
Yeah, definitely one of the top five best shots I've ever hit. Just had a perfect yardage, obviously pumped up, 179 yards is a lot of 7-iron for me but pumped up. And great caddie on the game again, I didn't think 7 was enough the first time around and it was plenty. It was perfect club again second time around.
So certainly thank him a lot. The last couple of years he's been a massive advantage. It's been huge having that kind of experience on the bag.

Q. Can you expand on your ranking now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Well, my goal was at the start of The Ryder Cup -- I took most of August after last year and I was really targeting the start of the points. I wanted to give myself something to look at over Christmas, a bit of time off, something to work at. I wanted to see my name up there and give me something to motivate me and work hard. I wanted to come out at the start of this year and get some consistency in my game and give myself a chance to win as often as possible. I think I've played seven events in year and gave myself five chances on Sunday, within five shots of the lead. It's all I can ask for, really.
Yeah, this is the year for me, really. Like I said, at The K Club, I realised I should have been on the team. I was good enough to be on the team and I was disappointed not to be there. I promised myself I was going to give myself every opportunity to be on Faldo's team at Valhalla, so yeah, I'm off to a flying start. Like I said, I feel like I'm playing well enough and I'm working hard enough. Definitely on the right track, so, yeah, just got to keep doing more of the same.
I realise there's a lot of golf to be played in the summer and doesn't really get going until May, June, July, and that's when you've got to be playing your best golf. Good to have a head start.

Q. Are you longer, straighter or what?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Well, definitely with this Callaway driver, I've had my eye on the driver for a few years now. Obviously I was a TaylorMade player until the end of 2006. I've had my eye on this driver for quite a while now. That was one of the main reasons why I decided to have the year out last year and do some testing. I think I ended up using 13 Callaway clubs most of last season, so it was a pretty easy transition.
Obviously the golf ball was a major issue. My timing was perfect, because Callaway came out with two new balls the end of last season, the Tour i and the Tour ix. It was great timing from my point of view, so it was great timing from a golf ball point of view.

Q. But are you longer?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm driving the ball much better. My confidence is better. My length is back. I was quite a long driver of the golf ball when I was in college and early on in my career. No doubt I lost sort of two, three years into my professional career, I was driving it worse than I ever drove it in my life, whether it be the technology, didn't suit my game, didn't suit my swing. But I found a driver right now which is obviously perfect for me. It's the FT-3 driver. Just the launch characteristics give me the opportunity to get my distance out there.
Yeah, so I'm definitely driving the ball longer than I was two years ago.

Q. Twenty yards?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Probably 15, 20 yards, yeah. I'm probably back to the good side of the middle of the pack, Top-50 or 60 in the driving distance, I don't know. Some of these guys are insane obviously but I feel like I'm hitting it long enough to compete on any golf course. And this golf course sort of was set up for the bombers a little bit, but I feel like I've got a good enough wedge game and driving the ball well enough to where I can hit it close and obviously my putting is improving all the time.

Q. Now sort of years down the track, how much more comfortable and how much more experience and dedicated are you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, no doubt, Sweden, obviously winning there was perfect because it set me up and gave me a couple of years to learn how to be a consistent player. When you turn professional, I mean, all of a sudden you go from playing 15 to 18 events a year competitively to playing 30 to 35. It's a massive jump.
It's tough to play well every week. Obviously you want to try to play well every week. It takes a lot of learning and understanding how to pace yourself during a season, how to not have peaks and troughs. I've probably had more peaks and troughs -- my six-year-old career, or whatever it's going to be in June, I've probably had more up-and-downs than six-year-old kind of professionals.
But it's been a big learning curve for me I have to say. I feel like I'm a smart enough guy where I do learn and I try to learn from my mistakes, and I have made plenty. I think everyone makes mistakes and only the dumb people keep making them, so I try to work. And feel like I've arrived here as a three-time winner on The European Tour, and to keep getting better. I feel like I've arrived here as a three-time winner on The European Tour, and to keep getting better, and I have to say, this one feels even better than Italy and Italy felt much better than Sweden.
You know, now I feel ready to be a prolific winner. I feel like I can win multiple times this year no problem and feel like I'm playing well enough, got the confidence and got the momentum going now.
And there's no doubt, I feel like I've learned from a lot of mistakes I've made, so it feels pretty pleasant to be sitting here as a winner again. Been too long.

Q. So you've got Doral next week and then possibly Augusta next month? What do you think of that prospect?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously I have no idea of how it's going to affect my World Ranking. Obviously good performance next week gets me in Augusta. I'm not really going to be too bothered.
I'm going to be going next week and not having too many expectations. It's going to be a long journey to get there, pretty jet-lagged, but I'm not really going to be too worried what happens.
If I don't get into Augusta, it's not going to be the end of the world. I'm playing well enough to give myself a chance next week. Just nice to be there. I've played Doral before. I know the golf course.
So, yeah, I mean, obviously I'll be trying to take advantage of the World Golf Championships event and try to put some more points on the board. If Augusta happens, it happens, but I certainly don't have my heart set on it at this point. Certainly have more of a chance now going into next week.
I'm just excited and I'm obviously excited to win and excited to be playing Doral next week. Got some good stuff to look forward to now.
So no doubt this is a bit of a schedule-changing experience this week. But obviously Ryder Cup is my goal. Augusta, it's my favourite tournament on the planet, it's unbelievable, would be excited to get in there but not the end of the world obviously.

Q. You talked about learning from mistakes. Can you give us a couple of examples?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Thinking the game's easy. When I won in Sweden, I thought this is easy.
Obviously scheduling. Scheduling has been a big learning experience. What makes me tick as far as three, four, five events in a row. I'm kind of around four weeks and the head's off sort of by then. So the fourth week has to be something to work toward, has to be a good event, so try not to spend more than four weeks on the road if possible.
You know, look back and taking my card back in the States in '06 was a mistake. I wasn't really playing well enough. It was a Ryder Cup year. I don't really know what my thought process was looking back but I realised it could be that, as I say, at The K Club, I realised Ryder Cup was a massive goal for me, and I wanted to be on the team. So Europe is the place for me to be right now, trying to get on the team.
I don't know, coaches, people I'm working with, caddies. It's just been a massive learning experience. I think you've got to be pretty honest with yourself sometimes just trying to work out what makes you tick, because what works for one guy doesn't work for the next. Certainly not to be a follower, that's certainly something I've learned.
Just things like that really. Like I say, it's different for everyone. I really try to be honest with myself and just try to work out how to improve and keep getting better, just sure surround myself with good staff, good people, good management, people who are motivated and want to help me achieve my goals. It's a complicated game. We make it very difficult.
So I think I've learned how to work hard off the course and enjoy myself on the course. I've probably had 18 months or two years of probably having more fun on the golf course than I have in a long time, so that's one of the keys.
So, I don't know. I don't claim to know everything about the game, and I know what makes me play well. I'm starting to learn that about myself and certainly what makes Graeme McDowell play well is not going to work for the next guy. My dad always told me when I was young, every disappointment or everything I did was always experience. Didn't really know what he meant.
But as I grew up and started playing more and more, playing professional tours, I realise everything you do is experience and it's something to learn from. So that's kind of what I mean when I say I learn from my mistakes and now trying to keep improving and keep getting better.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Congratulations again, fantastic performance. Thanks for coming in.

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