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July 8, 2009

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Graeme, thank you for joining us here, your defence of the Barclays Scottish Open. Maybe just start us off with memories from last year and what the win did for you.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Lots of great memories from last year, definitely one of the highlights of my career. Probably the best event I've won against the best field. Solidified my place on The Ryder Cup Team, which was huge. Mom and Dad in the crowd, first time they had watched me win as a pro.
There was just a lot of different elements to it that just made it a huge win. So certainly got me on a run last year and got me on The Ryder Cup Team and it was definitely a great moment.
I played the back nine yesterday and it was certainly pretty cool to just sort of remember a few of the shots that I did hit coming down the stretch last year and brought back some good memories. It's always nice to come back to this venue. I guess I'm a little biased now, but I really like this golf course. It's just a beautiful part of the world and when the sun shines on a Sunday afternoon, there's nowhere better really, and certainly last year was pretty special.

Q. Did you get a chance to celebrate last year, and if so, how did you do that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously wasn't really able to celebrate as much as maybe I could have done if I had not been going straight to the British Open. But I actually went to a wedding on the Sunday night believe it or not. Phil Morbey, 'Wobbly' who caddies for Søren Hansen at the minute, I actually went straight down to his wedding reception which had been planned anyway. We took the celebrations down there and turned into a double celebration and it was a lot of fun. My manager is sitting there; he had drove me down in his car because I had a couple of glasses champagne too many to be driving a car. It was a fun car journey, as well.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Quiet night, was it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Very quiet, yeah.

Q. As the most recent champion here, you always have to do everything well, but is there any specific that you felt that you did particularly well last year and that you would believe you would need to do again this year if you were going to successfully defend your title?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's a golf course where you've got to score well. There's a lot of birdies out there, and I think you've definitely got to take advantage of the easy holes out there, really.
I birdied 13, 14, 15 the last round last year, which was a key stretch of holes I always thought. You've got to play -- there's just certain little key elements of the golf course that you've got to play well I think. You've got to get off to -- there's a few real key holes, like 2, 10,11, holes like that, and then holes where you've got to make birdies and you've got to birdie 9 and you've got to birdie holes like 13, 14 and obviously play the closing stretch well, 16, 17, 18.
So there's just little sections of the golf course where you're trying to score and sections of the golf course where par is a good score. I think just getting the balance right. It's just a golf course that rewards -- it's obviously a reasonably wide open golf course off the tee. You've got to drive it solid. If you do start missing fairways, there's some rough around. Generally if you can drive it good, your reward will be shorter irons; tough greens, tough targets.
I remember last year I hit my irons extremely well, very accurate from kind of 5-, 6- 7-, 8-iron sort of region, and that was kind of key to the golf course.

Q. Would you say it's a second-shot golf course?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Very much. So like I say, you shouldn't be missing fairways out there. You don't necessarily have to be massively long off the tee. Helps in certain areas, but I don't think -- obviously I'm not a massive hitter. I'm middle of the pack maybe. But certainly last year was all about second shots for me. Any time I got 7-iron, 8-iron in my hand, I was definitely giving myself a good shot at birdie. Second-shot golf course, good description.

Q. Are you trying to re produce last year in any way? Are you superstitious about hotel rooms or anything like that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, not really. To be honest my accommodation last year wasn't great. Rented a house with myself, Simon Dyson and Anton Haig, so I haven't revisited that. It wasn't a great spot to be fair, so I haven't gone running back to that one.
Not really. I'm not too superstitious from that point of view. All tournament weeks I like to feel comfortable and feel like I'm well prepared and try to do all the right things and practice and get myself ready really. Feeling pretty good so far.

Q. In any way, did winning here hurt you for The Open? You began it so well but didn't finish it off.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think I maybe ran out of steam on the weekend at Birkdale, no doubt about it. It's just the emotions of it all. It's very hard to kind of switch the brain back on after something as big a win as this was for me at the time.
I got myself off to a good start at Birkdale, but when it started blowing there on Saturday, I just felt like I ran out of steam a little bit.
Yeah, it did hurt me a little bit. I think you're always learning from those experiences. I'm always a guy that when you see players win back-to-back weeks and think, how can they do that. Any time I've ever won, it's a massive high and it takes you a little bit of time to come down from that. Like I say you're always learning how to react. They are always good problems to have, reacting to wins, but I'm trying to do that better and better all the time.

Q. You've been focusing on majors to a degree, and obviously there's a belief that you can do well in them. You've had a lot of good first rounds. The U.S. Open seems to be a step further down this year. How close do you think you are to getting in contention on a Sunday at a major?
GRAEME McDOWELL: That's certainly been one of my goals is getting myself into maybe the three top groups on a Sunday afternoon in a major. I'm getting closer and closer to that. Like you said, the U.S. Open is probably as close as I've got myself to that. I was on the wrong side of the draw at the U.S. Open this year. That was probably one of the biggest spreads I've been involved in in a major championship but I'm getting there.
I'm getting there. I certainly set my schedule up really this year to try to target the big events. I maybe have not scheduled myself as good as I possibly can this year. It's been a little bit too stop/start for me. I see myself as a player who needs to play blocks of tournaments, three, four, in a row. It's been a bit of a learning curve for me again this year.
But my performances at Augusta and the U.S. Open, despite a disappointing-ish last round, Sunday night, Monday morning at Bethpage, it was a tough last round. The wind got up. Green speeds were very tough to putt. I guess the 74 was more disappointing because 66 would have got me in a playoff and that was very disappointing.
I think I'm getting there. I'm starting to working out these major conundrums if you like. They are different tournaments. The golf courses are so brutally tough that mental stamina, physical stamina comes into a lot more. I'm certainly trying to work them out but I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to my dream which is competing on a Sunday afternoon and winning on a Sunday afternoon at a major.

Q. Related to that, because The Open is so different, the course is so different, a lot of guys take this week off to do links practise. Why do you feel that playing is better for you than just going out to Turnberry?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I've always played Loch Lomond the week before the British. There's no way around it. This is not ideal preparation for the British Open. You couldn't get two different styles of golf. This is soft, thick, meadow grass, rough. It's obvious what the difference is.
I guess from my point of view, I'm a links player born and bred, so I slip into the links style of golf very easily. It comes back to me very quickly. My ball flight is pretty suited to the wind. My short game, kind of like I say, the imagination, the different types of shots that you get a chance to hit at links golf courses, that comes back to me pretty quickly.
So I guess my weeks off, I'm home at Portrush and I'm playing there. I've been to Turnberry twice. I was there on Monday. So I guess I'm feeling pretty ready to go over there anyway. That's why in week is no problems for me to come here.
If I was not defending this title, would I still be here? I probably still would. I'm pretty happy with the way my preparation set up.

Q. On the first trip to Turnberry, Rory said he turned you over a bit?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Was he bragging? He normally turns me over in practise rounds. He's one of the best Tuesday players that I ever played with. He's pretty good on the weekends, as well. Yeah, myself and Rory went over a few weeks ago and he put a pretty good display on and took the money. Enough said. (Laughter).

Q. And what is the forecast?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Fabulous. Unbelievably impressed. I played both days in flat calm, so I felt like we were out there not really seeing Turnberry bearing its teeth, if you like. It's got some of the heaviest links rough that I've ever seen. It's got a lot of grass on it right now. The greens were not really up to speed when we were playing them.
But the greenness and the lushness of the golf course is beautiful, and it really is a spectacular venue. There are some great holes on it, and like I say, there's some serious rough to be avoided. It's going to be interesting to see obviously what the weather does this week, and how that's going to get the golf course get ready for next Thursday. It's going to be an unbelievable test. It's not one of these unbelievably long major venues; it's just a golf course that asks to you position the ball well off the tee, and the greens are not particularly tricky. This week is a second-shot golf course, and I think next week is a tee shot golf course, positional golf course.

Q. No player has successfully defended the Scottish Open title, do you relish the extra challenge this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt about it. This is my fourth title defence in my career, and the first three have not gone particularly successfully well. And I'm always endeavoring to learning from my mistakes and not get sucked into the whole: Well, I won last year and surely I should come and birdie the first five holes this year.
I'm dealing with the extra sort of exposure that you get and just everything that goes with it. It takes a little bit of learning, and like I say, I haven't handled it too well so far, but you know, I think I'm getting bigger and more experienced and I'm certainly realising that come tomorrow morning, everyone is back to level par, and you know, I've got to go back out and win it again this week. Certainly treating this like any event come tomorrow morning.

Q. Judging from what you just said, it doesn't sound like Turnberry is all that dry and running, despite the recent heat wave. Can you describe how much run you're getting on the fairways, and how far off them does this rough start? It sounds as if it's a hack-out job if you find it on occasion.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the golf course is running averagely like a links golf course. It's certainly not soft by any stretch of the imagination. It's certainly not Hoylake.
You know, it's probably running similar to Birkdale was early in the week last year at the minute. And this rough, I actually think the rough is really well done. They have got it -- you know, I take 9 as an example. 9 is a par 4 which is kind of a blind tee shot over the top. It's a bit of a hung-back fairway. If you miss that fairway left, no problems. If you miss that fairway right, you're hacking it out.
So there really is -- you've got to do your homework and you've got to know where the stuff is. 17, the par 5, when you're going for the green in two there, if you miss it right, obviously I've never seen rough as thick in all my life. If you miss it left, you're perfect. So you've got to know which side you can miss it on and which you can't. In certain areas, the rough it's unbelievable. But I think the setup looks really good.

Q. If you miss it off the tee --
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, there is some thick stuff all around. Like I say, I don't know if patchy is the right word. They have got some thick stuff in places and they have got some start stuff in places where they have not punished the players too much for missing it in what could be conceived as the correct place. But if you miss it in the wrong place, you might want to bring a couple golf balls with you. I certainly lost a couple with you on Monday.
The course doesn't ask you to hit too many drivers, really. It definitely is a very strategic golf course. There's bunkers that you can tack on if you want to or you can lay back short of them. It's going to be interesting. I think there's a lot of different ways to play the course, which is one of the beauties of links golf, I always think.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good luck with your defence this week.

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