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July 17, 2008

Graeme McDowell


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we've got Graeme McDowell with us. Graeme shot 69 today, 1-under par and is joint leader of this Open Championship. You must be delighted to take last week's form into this week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously it's very important to kind of come down from the elation of Sunday night, Monday. Obviously a bit of media to deal with and it's important to put it out of your mind and move on. We've got the biggest tournament on the planet to get ready for.
I had a pretty relaxed buildup, played 18 Tuesday morning and then I played nine and walked nine yesterday, so I was really happy with my preparation. Obviously the game is in decent shape right now so there's no need to be standing on the range kind of hitting a lot of balls.
Yeah, I was happy the way I plodded my way around the golf course today. Obviously I felt very fortunate in the draw that we got. The guys this morning looked like they had a really, really tough time out there in the wind and rain, and we couldn't have had it off much better. We just had a little bit of wind to deal with all day. Obviously it was blowing hard, but like I say, you can always handle one or the other, wind or rain, but both together is a pretty tough combo. I felt fortunate to get some good scoring conditions.
MALCOLM BOOTH: One bogey at 6 and then birdies at 17 and 18.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, 6 was my only major mistake. I hit it in the left rough there and got a little too greedy. I only moved the ball about ten yards max. Laid it up, hit an average 9-iron in there to about 30 feet and made the putt for bogey, so that was really big for momentum. If I make double there I'm obviously feeling pretty bad about things.
Played really solid golf after that, played pretty smart. Never really aimed at too many pins, to be honest. I kind of had some zones in the greens where I was aiming to and gave myself a few looks at it, nothing major. Obviously it was nice to birdie the last couple.

Q. Some of the players this morning were talking about a four- or five-club wind. What was it for you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Probably in the three-club wind department. Probably with the rain I would add another club onto that. I was hitting 4-irons from 170, which is about a 35-, 30-yard race, so three clubs. Pretty tough.

Q. So you accept it was slightly easier this afternoon?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I certainly would be the first to admit that. I sat at home this morning with my breakfast cereal and cup of coffee in my hand going, God, do I really have to go out there this afternoon? Obviously we got pretty lucky, it warmed up in the rain a little bit. But generally I didn't have my jacket on all day. We count ourselves very fortunate. It's not often the 4:30 tee time at the Open is a good draw, but the guys out there earlier had it even tougher than we did.

Q. Can you just tell us what you hit down 18, because it didn't seem like a long second club?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I hit driver off the tee. I was debating with Ken the last couple days as to how to play 18. My feelings are there's not too much rough right of the trap there. The trap is 275 to fly. I figure if I get any kind of help at all I can fly the trap, and it leaves a pretty short second shot. I only had 158 yards to the pin for my second, and I just hit a little 9-iron in there, kind of got a little bit of a nice flier out of the right rough, and it was obviously nice to get a nice look at it and make a putt.

Q. Two years ago you had yourself sitting in the same chair at Hoylake as the first-round leader. Can you tell us since that time how you've come on as a player?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I certainly felt like a rabbit in the headlights a couple years ago at Hoylake. I was like, what's this all about. But certainly I've been face to face with you guys quite a lot in the last few weeks, and the comfort level that that gives you and being able to deal with it and move on and get ready to play again tomorrow. I certainly feel like quite a different player than I was two years ago, and I didn't really have a whole lot of belief in my game. It caught up with me on the weekend. Obviously Tiger kind of left the field in his dust. But I backed it up a little bit on the weekend.
Like I say, lacking belief in my swing, couldn't really string four rounds together, but I've obviously been showing some form for the last 10 to 12 months, consistency, really punching in some rounds, certainly stringing four rounds together. I've got a lot more belief in my game and what I'm doing. I'm certainly a lot more comfortable in this position than I would have been two years ago.

Q. As you said you were this morning, watching, did you then sort of get a battle plan in your mind, how you were going to approach it, the fact that, I guess, you knew somewhere along the lines you were going to get some bad breaks and you had to sort of accept that and move on?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think playing late on Thursday is quite good because you can acclimatize yourself to how the scoring is. If it's a score fest and 9-under par is leading, you know I've got to fire at some pins today, play aggressively. But when you're watching something like I was watching this morning at say 10:00, you're acclimatizing yourself to the fact that it's going to be a battle of survival out there. Ken and I went out there with the attitude today that we were going to play 18 little challenges where par was a great score on every hole, and that's kind of how I went about my game today. I said to myself, par is the target on every hole. There weren't too many birdie chances out there until 17. 17 was probably my first real time when I actually had an iron in my hand and I thought I could make birdie today. That was the first time all day I wasn't too bothered about the flags. I was playing to the middle of the greens, especially on the par-3s, and I was really I happy with my execution all day. I didn't get sucked in by too many pins, I didn't hit too many bad shots, really. Apart from 6, that was the only time I was in that position I felt. Like I said, it didn't really offer up too many birdie opportunities, but the two that it did offer up, I was happy to capitalize.

Q. I asked Padraig the same question this morning, pointing out to him that he grew up on seaside golf courses. You did even more so because you're from Portrush. Do you feel that gives you an advantage over the majority of the field because you're so familiar with the wind and the links condition and so on?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think so. There's absolutely no doubt about it. Links short game is a completely different fish from short game that we're faced with week in, week out, especially for the American players. Links short game requires a lot of imagination. You can play shots with anything from lob wedge right through to hybrids and 3-woods, and it really does take a lot of experience, and like I say, a lot of imagination.
Certainly playing golf in the wind, it's about all flight control, it's about shaping it against the wind, and it's really about understanding how the wind affects the golf ball.
I think maybe I'm not the best shaper of a golf ball, haven't been in the past, but I think I've got pretty good understanding of how the wind affects shots. I'm pretty good at kind of getting into my head what a certain flight is going to do, how much the wind is going to affect it, kind of controlling the gusts, timing your shots a little bit, and certainly that kind of experience is hard to come by, obviously. 10, 15, 20 years golfing at Portrush I think kind of stands me in good stead when I come to the British Open.

Q. How would you rate this round against the first round two years ago, and how nice is it to know that Tiger can't do what he did then?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I really don't remember a huge amount about the first round at Hoylake. I just kind of watched the highlight real a few times, obviously. I don't know. I'd rate this one probably a little better. I was so happy the way I controlled my ball in tough conditions out there. I think my two days of preparation, Tuesday, Wednesday, and I played the front nine yesterday, and I thought, wow, this place is tough, really tough.
I mean, it was amazing, the 25-, 30-mile-an-hour crosswinds, you're aiming at the right edge of the green and trying to hit a cut at the same time to a left pin. I remember standing on that fourth hole yesterday, the par-3, and we're hitting 4-irons in there, and you're aiming 25 yards left of the pin and trying to hit a hard pull hook. You know, it really is hard to acclimatize your game to that kind of crosswind. Like I said, I was really happy with my execution today. And without having putting the eyes out of it, I got it around at 1-under par and gave myself some looks at it and played patient golf. I'm pretty content with that one.

Q. The Tiger effect?
GRAEME McDOWELL: The Tiger effect goes without saying. Not having him in the field is a major boost to everyone, apart from the fans and the crowds and the good of the tournament, you know (laughter)?

Q. Fifth event in a row. How much are you running on fumes right now or adrenaline? Have you any fear about keeping it going maybe for four days?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't really know. To be honest, I feel unbelievably fresh. I don't feel like I'm running on adrenaline. I know what that feels like. I actually feel pretty calm and comfortable. I've been doing a little bit of fitness work for the last eight or ten months. Maybe you can't tell. But I feel like maybe my stamina is a better than it was a few years ago. Mentally I know what majors are all about, so I'm not going to be out there whacking golf ball for the next two hours. Certainly I realise it's about pacing yourself. The golf course is going to certainly cause me some problems over the weekend. I mean, it's going to cause everyone problems, so I'm certainly prepared for that mentally. If it keeps blowing like this, it's really going to be a tough, punishing weekend.
I know how tired I was when I got off the course last night, 18 holes in the wind, and I'm certainly going to feel the same way tonight. It's about sleeping as much as possible and resting and not beating ourselves up in the rain too much. But these majors are really marathons. I'm sure the R & A are going to set the golf course up tougher and tougher as the weekend goes on. I'm sure if somebody does something silly like shooting 3 or 4-under par tomorrow I'm sure the pins will be hidden away on Saturday and I'm certainly well prepared for that.
Physically, I feel pretty good, and mentally I feel good, too, which is kind of a surprise on the fifth week in the row. But fingers crossed that I keep things going this weekend.

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