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July 13, 2008

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Graeme, welcome. Barclays Scottish Open Champion, it's got a nice ring to it. Why don't you start us off with putting in your own words what this means for you today.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, hasn't really sunk in. Obviously it's a massive door-opener for me. Certainly takes me in a massive step towards The Ryder Cup Team which has been a dream this year. I really wanted to make it a multiple-win season; done that.
Yeah, I'm just so happy the way I've played the last month, month and a half. I've been knocking on the door a few times and it was great to dig in down the stretch today and be able to enjoy it for the first time. It's my first win where I've actually been able to kind of have strolled down the last fairway and think I've got this in the bag, won by one in Sweden, playoff in Korea and a playoff in Italy.
So I never really had a chance to enjoy it. I have to say, it's pretty special coming down last there this afternoon. .
Obviously I have my mom and dad here, and it's been massive. It's been a bit of a dream to punch in a win with my dad in the crowd. He's been by my side for 20 years in this game, and it's great to give him something back. He just retired there last Friday, so it's kind of my little retirement present to him. He's pretty pumped up there.
It's been a special week and I really love this tournament, and you know, I've had a chance last year down the stretch, didn't quite do it, and obviously the disappointment last week.
Probably as nervous as I've ever been on the golf course coming down the stretch, six holes to go, I was pretty nervous and probably as nervous as I've ever been in my life. It was great to hit some great shots under pressure, hole some putts, and as I say it was nice to have a bit of a cushion coming down the last.

Q. Getting closer to the Ryder Cup, what are your thoughts on that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, The Ryder Cup, I put it up there with winning majors. The Ryder Cup is something that I've really, really wanted to do. I desperately, desperately wanted to be on The Ryder Cup Team. I refused to be measured up last week at The European Open for my clothing and for my suits, etc., etc., and maybe I'll accept that invitation next time I get it.
You know, it's never over it's over obviously. There's a lot of golf to be played. It's a massive jump in the right direction today, and like I say, it's a real door-opener for me and hopefully -- I'm just really happy with the way I've been able to stay in the present.
Chasing The Ryder Cup, it's tough. We're out here playing tournament golf every week, and it's tough enough competing without having that in your mind, as well. I'm really happy with the way I've been able to stay focused and try to compete on that given week and give myself a chance to win tournaments and that's probably been the most satisfying part of it.

Q. Was The Ryder Cup something that when you were a kid you dreamed about?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, no doubt about it. I think the Irish affinity with Ryder Cups is something that I think every Irish golfer, we rate The Ryder Cup pretty special, maybe because of that Christy and Eamonn Darcy and Paul and so many great Irish guys holing winning putts and hitting great shots; maybe that's got something to do with the fact that it's very special in my heart. If I have a chance to tee it up in Valhalla in September, it will be a dream come true, obviously no doubt about it.

Q. Was there a turning point in the last few months that started you on to this sort of level you're at now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously Korea gave me massive confidence. I knew I was playing well, but you need results. Results equal confidence. Playing well is all well and good, but you have to be able to do it under pressure. I think obviously getting across the line in Korea was massive. It gave me a real boost.
Getting into The Open there after Wentworth was massive because it really set my schedule up. Obviously the win in Korea gave me the Bridgestone, as well, so I was pretty much set with my schedule which meant I was able to focus and be comfortable and really get my head down and play golf. There were going to be no surprises in store for me.
I knew what my schedule was going to be. I paced myself well this season to be feeling fresh and fit and well for this stretch of golf which is the most important stretch of golf in the season, and for the very first time, maybe in my whole career, I same into this stretch playing well and feeling fresh mentally and physically.
I think it's been great to play well in the important events, these last three or four weeks.

Q. Your mom and dad were here you were saying; can you tell us what their names are and was it your dad that put a club in your head?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Kenny and Marian. My dad put a golf club in my hand for the very first time when I was about seven or eight years old, and, you know, he's been a massive influence on my career. It was love at first sight with the game obviously, but he's kind of been there through thick and thin with me through my amateur days, through the up-and-downs, and there's been tears of joy and tears of sort of frustration. He's a pretty emotional kind of guy, my dad, no doubt about it, and as I say, there will be a few tears later on tonight.
Lake I say, he's been a massive influence on me. We're a really, really close family. I speak to my dad nearly every day. Every time I play golf I speak to him afterwards. He's never been a coach or anything as such to me, but he's always been there, been my rock and been my support. I've got a great family that are a really close-knit family and support network. I have to say moving back to Portrush in the last few years has been one of the keys because I can go there and be with my family and get back to reality, because this is a fantasy world we live in out here, no doubt about it; so back to reality has been a key to success.

Q. Being in contention the last few weeks, playing consistent golf, is there any worry at all about peaking too soon or wearing yourself out looking ahead to next week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's the biggest tournament on the planet next week, and should be able to get myself up for it. But you know, if things don't work out next week, so be it.
I've given myself a great run these last three weeks. I've put some points on the board which is what I set out to do. I really targeted this run of five events. Missed the cut in Munich which is one of my patterns; when I have a couple weeks off, I tend to miss the cut the following week, I don't know why. But set me up for a really good finish in France, on to London, on to here, and hopefully I've left something in the tank for next week, but obviously it's going to take a couple of days for this to sink in.
But I really didn't have too much planned the next few days anyway as far as practise and preparation. I played the golf course already and I was really going to go with a chilled-out approach to the Open this week. I was going to play nine tomorrow and 18 early on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday, so that would probably stay pretty similar to that, and obviously excited about it, like I say. Let's hope I left a little bit of something in the tank.

Q. Do you have brothers and sisters?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I have a younger brother and an older brother, Gary and George, respectively.

Q. You were in the Open leading in Hoylake a few years ago.
GRAEME McDOWELL: No doubt about it, when I led The Open in Hoylake in 2006, I wasn't playing particularly well. I just had one of those rounds where everything went in the fairway and I holed a few putts and bang, I was leading The Open. But I didn't have the belief in my swing that I do now.
I've worked very hard with my coach, Clive Tucker the last year and a half, to have a golf swing which I can trust a bit more down the stretch under pressure. Been able to shape the ball both ways, especially from left-to-right, that's a shot I've never really had in the bag over the years, and I've worked very hard over the last 18 months to be able to hit that shot.
And like I say, I think I have a lot more belief, a lot more trust in my game than I did a couple of years ago, and you know, if I get that chance again next week, I think I'll be able to do something a little different with it.

Q. Fantastic pitch-and-run at 13. You'll need that shot next week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I was joking with Cam, my caddie, who said Loch Lomond wasn't great preparation for The Open and here I am sitting 6-iron bump-and-runs up the hill, and I'm thinking, that will serve me well next week.
I hit a terrible second shot in there and didn't leave myself a particularly nice-looking pitch. You know, Cam being the great caddie he is, helped me sift through my options and we up with a great bump-and-run. Easy to slip that one back in the bag. It was nice to do that under pressure.

Q. Could we get the details of the birdies?
GRAEME McDOWELL: 6 was a 70-yard lob-wedge to ten feet.
8 was 155-yard 7-iron to about ten feet, 12 feet whatever it was.
Bogey on 10 obviously.
13 was the bump-and-run I was talking about.
14, drove the green to the back, back tier and it was a pretty good 2-putt in the end.
And 15 was a nice little cut a 9-iron to three feet, four feet which was nice.
Obviously the bogey on 17 was just my regular, standard bogey on 17 this week. I hit it in the right trap every day.

Q. Did the fact that you started from a very early age, playing in America, was that a help or a hindrance to your career?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For a start, I wouldn't say you guys as the media put any undue pressure on me. I don't really think that I've been marketed as this next great thing coming out of the U.K. and Ireland. I see myself as a player that flew under the radar for my six years on the circuit, so I really don't feel like there's been any major hindrance out there and the only pressure has been from myself.
Winning early was a massive achievement for me but didn't take me long to realise it's pretty tough out here, 35 weeks a year, and these guys are pretty decent players out here and you have to play solid golf to compete with them. Took me a lot of time to work out all of the nuances that come with playing tour golf.
You've got to manage your time very well and you've got to really be disciplined. It takes a lot of learning, so I don't think there's any major hindrances so far. I've been happy enough the way things are going. I feel like I'm still creating that little niche for myself at the minute.

Q. With Tiger out of the field, how do you think the emotions are going to be coming up to the Open?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, we are disappointed he is not going to be there obviously. He's the marquis man. People come to watch Tiger Woods and we're very lucky to be playing golf in an era where Tiger Woods is the greatest player that's ever touched a golf club. He boosts tournaments all around the world when he plays, and like I say, he's going to be a massive loss to Birkdale next week.
On the positive side, obviously we don't have to beat him. He's pretty tough to beat when it comes to major championships. You talk about when I was leading at Hoylake, I shot 1-over par on Friday morning and Tiger shot 65 and just left me in a cloud of dust and that was the end of my British Open.
Like I say, it's a mixture of disappointment that he's not going to be there because he adds a lot to the atmosphere of the tournament in general but at the same time, blasts the field wide open, doesn't it, which is good for us.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Graeme, again, many congratulations.

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