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July 13, 2010

Graeme McDowell


MALCOLM BOOTH: Let's make a start. Ladies and gentlemen, joined by Graeme McDowell, U.S. Open champion. Thanks for coming in, and many congratulations on your victory at Pebble Beach. Has your approach changed now one month on as a major champion arriving at the next major championship? Have you got a slightly different view on how you're going to take on a major championship from now on?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, no, not at all. I mean, my preparation remains exactly the same. I think it's important that I keep doing the things that I've done to get me to this position. I mean, obviously coming here as the U.S. Open champion is a special feeling, coming here to St. Andrews, a venue that I love, a venue that all the players love, a golf course which we love. I think it's important that I remain the same guy. I mean, obviously there's a lot more attention on me from players, from spectators, from just everyone, and that's kind of the hard part to deal with, but it's great. I wouldn't change it for the world.
But my preparation remains the same. I'm obviously trying to work out how to plot my way around this golf course, a very tricky golf course when the wind blows, and I'm trying to respect it and really just be as ready as I possibly can on Thursday. No, not trying to change a thing. It's important that I keep doing the things that I've done.

Q. They're threatening some pretty horrendous weather for later in the week, tournament days. How do you feel about that? You grew up in Portrush with all that wind and so on, but it can get too strong, can it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. It's funny, when the wind blows and it starts raining people always say to me, geez, you must love this. I hate it the same as everyone else does.
But yeah, I grew up in it and maybe I've got a kind of game that can deal with it a little bit more. It's funny, in a way Loch Lomond last week will be good preparation. The turf there was nowhere close to the turf this week, but it was windy and rainy and wet and cold last week, and I played with my rain gear which I hadn't done all year this year. In a rain I was hitting balls in the rain last week at Loch Lomond thinking this could stand me in good stead for next week. Obviously the forecast is pretty changeable around here, you never know to expect on a day-to-day basis, but you've got to be prepared for anything this tournament can throw at you.
We always joke around that they should try and play the British Open in the summer some year. No, it's beautiful. We wish we could get seven days of that type of weather out there today. The golf course is just magnificent. I've got all kinds of wet gear and cashmere and woolly hats and mittens and we're ready for anything the course is going to throw at us this week. Growing up on the north coast of Ireland I guess my game is pretty adapted to playing in those type of conditions.

Q. Yourself and Rory are contenders here plus two other very good players from Northern Ireland. Do you put that down as just coincidence or do you think having grown up with golf in that country has equipped you all very well for what you all have?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think when you look at Irish golf as a whole, I mean, there's something about it in Ireland. It's a small place, Northern Ireland even, it's a very small country, but we keep producing golfers, and we always have. I think we've all known for a long time -- obviously when Pádraig won his three majors and Rory is waiting in the wings and Darren obviously has been a top player for a long time, Paul McGinley, myself coming through obviously, we've had a lot of great players for a long time. That can only put down to the standard of golf courses we have in Ireland, perhaps junior golf, the golfing environ systems and the coaching systems and just kind of the amateur stuff that we have here in Great Britain and Ireland in general. We have so many great tournaments, home and international championships, European team championships, just all kinds of great stuff which really bring us through.
We play the best golf courses, and I think our amateur system is as good as any in the world for bringing players through. I mean, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, we've always produced great players, and I'm lucky to be part of a great young wave of players coming out of Ireland in the last few years. I think it can only be put down to the level of coaching and the level of junior golf and the level of golf courses that we're blessed to be brought up on.

Q. You mentioned some of the attention that you're getting. Can you just describe some of the things that you've encountered. And is there anything that's stuck out to you in terms of something a fan has asked or a player has asked you about?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, the response I've had via email, voicemail, text, website, just all the forms of communications we have in this 21st century, just from all kinds of players, Frank Nobilo just asked for my number so he could pass it to Greg Norman so he could give me a shout. Stuff like that, it's just amazing, stuff I've had from legends of the past, current champions, all the players coming up to me from both sides of the Atlantic just really happy for me, just using words like "unbelievable" and "amazing", asking me has it sunk in yet, and it really hasn't. It's been a surreal few weeks. I still kind of really haven't come to terms with it, and I hope I never do. When you realise one of your dreams, I guess it's a pretty surreal feeling.
It's just been a great response from across the board, really. It's going to be tough to pick out letters and emails from people. Just like I say, just an Arnold Palmer, Peter Alliss, just legends of the game really, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do that and be able to enjoy my first major championship and everything that goes with it.
I think to win at Pebble Beach, such a special place, it's been a really cool experience so far.

Q. We've seen players win their first major and go on to great things, become a multiple major winner and seeing other players win their first major and it's had also a negative effect and they've fallen down the World Rankings. How do you achieve the first but guard against the second?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, here in the short-term there's not much I can do about it except try and play my own game. How I deal with it in the long-term boils down to decisions that I make, schedule, just big decisions like that. I'm very aware of the pitfalls, complacency, expectation levels, really trying to change my game now that I'm a major champion -- there's all kinds of mistakes that guys have made in the past. I know plenty of the guys well enough, Ernie and Pádraig and guys like that to be able to seek them out here in the next few months to have some dinner with them and chats with them and understand how they have dealt with it in the past and really try and make sure that I surround myself -- I've got a great team of people working with me, and I believe they'll not let me make the mistakes that will sort of drag me down No. 2. I certainly hope I can take confidence and belief away from Pebble Beach. I'm a 30-year-old guy, 31 in a couple weeks' time, I feel like I have my best days ahead of me. So I'll be making sure I don't fall into any of the traps, like I said, and really try and speak to the right people and get some good advice and keep doing what I'm doing, really.
I feel like I've got some good processes and some good work ethics going on, and it's important that I do that. It's difficult to put Pebble Beach behind me, and I don't want to put it behind me because I'm enjoying every second of it and it's been an amazing experience. I've got to look forward to the rest of the season. I've got some big goals I want to achieve. Like I said, here in the short-term it's going to be difficult to put Pebble behind me. I'm here this week, I tried to deal with a lot of stuff last week and get that out of the way and I'm really trying to free my week up and play golf here this week.
How I'm going to deal with it? We'll see. I'm going to enjoy this week but I'll be trying my best not to make any mistakes for my future.

Q. You talked last week about Rory McIlroy being so excited about this tournament. Is there a danger of overexcitement, that he must be putting too much pressure on himself? And also the last thing, with Loch Lomond, how excited were you to see Darren in the field?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Rory is a very experienced young man for a 21-year-old golfer. I know he came here like Thursday and Friday last week and spent the last four days back in Northern Ireland playing at Royal County Down and Portrush and those courses. He's been on the big stage before. I don't think there's any risk he'll get overexcited. It's great to see the sort of inspiration that the like of me winning at Pebble can bring to your friends and your colleagues and British and Irish golfers in general. I'm sure there will be a lot of guys out there this week that will have watched me at Pebble and believe they can win a major sooner rather than later. It's great to be able to have a part of a purple patch of European golf right now. I really think Rory has a great chance this week. I think he loves this golf course, and like I said, he's an experienced kid for -- he's got a pretty mature head on young shoulders, and he's got the game to do it. Like I say, I think he's pretty excited about this week. I guess he's coming in next, so you'll find out how excited is really is. But like I say, he can handle himself pretty well I can imagine.
Regards to Darren, it's great to see Darren playing well. I'm going to play with him tomorrow around at 1:00. It's great to see him back where he belongs. He's been a world-class player for a long time now. I'm sure watching myself and Rory win tournaments in the U.S. has certainly refocused him. He's a very proud guy, and he certainly wants to keep his end of the bargain up as far as Northern Ireland golf goes and golf in general, and great to see him here this week.

Q. For golf fans who may not be familiar with links golf, can you nominate a whole or maybe two that could bear some more explanation? For instance, they're seeing things on television, wondering why you're playing it this way, sort of a strange hole.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, if the wind direction stays the same as it was today, No. 12 is going to be a very interesting hole. It was into out the left today, and we actually had to hit our tee shots into the right rough there. The bunkers here at St. Andrews, they're not like normal bunkers on any other golf course because there are actually real penalties. You go to a resort-type golf course anywhere in the world, bunkers are probably more desirable than the rough for most top players. No. 12, 260 yards to carry the second set of cross bunkers, come through that left to right wind here and a seaside breeze. I played with Paul Casey and Oliver Wilson this morning, and we all laid it up in the right rough. It's going to look like a very bizarre play to people, but it's the only play. You're not going to lay up and give yourself 180 yards in impossible green to hit with a wedge, never mind a 5-iron. Holes like that are going to be interesting as far as guys making decisions.
Maybe take 16 as an example. Just because of the firmness of this golf course, again, you've got to take that first drop out of play and leave yourself like a 5-iron into the green, and I kind of see that shot as an extended pitch and run from about 200 yards where you're trying to fly the ball like 175, 180 and make the ball release up onto the green. Just because of the firmness of these putting surfaces you can't fly a ball on and control it the same way. The way these fairways are you really can't get the same amount of spin and flight control that you can maybe off of lush, zoysia type fairways where you can hit the high spinning ball. Guys will be playing the ball much more along the ground this week. You'll see a lot more of extended chip and run, but it's a low flighted ball from 200-yard pin where you're trying to fly it 175, 180 and let the ball skip up slopes and release. That type of shot is very interesting in links golf.

Q. Can I ask you about the changes made to the Road Hole and what level of influence it will have on determining the outcome of this championship?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, the Road Hole has obviously been steeped in drama over the years here at the British Open at St. Andrews, and it's a difficult hole, and they've made it more difficult. I think architecturally the tee box fits in beautifully, just like it's been there forever. It really looks like part of the golf course. It looks really good.
You know, if anything, it's probably going to make me play the hole a little bit more conservatively because you're going in with 4- or 5-iron into a green, which was really difficult to hit with an 8-iron. The wind today was in out of the left, so I hit a really good drive and I had 170 to the front edge. So I had like a 6-iron onto the front edge of the green, and that's going to be my target to probably three out of the four pins.
The left rough there is probably some of the thickest on the golf course. You know, they've taken a hard hole and made it really, really hard. Yeah, there's going to be a lot of drama there. Like I say, I think guys are going to play it more conservative than they have. I don't think they're going to be taking pins on. When you have a 7- or 8-iron in your hand, it's pretty tough to ignore a pin. When you have a 4- or 5-iron you can ignore a pin. I see that as the only change. I see less bunkers because of it and I see less balls in the road because of it. So from that point of view, perhaps it might take the drama out of it. We'll see.
I'd imagine 17 is going to play a pretty big part in this tournament, no doubt about it. If anyone is selling four 4s there right now, I'll buy it. Wind direction is obviously the key to this golf course. If it blows downwind the putting surfaces will become more accessible, but into the wind any shape or form I'm not taking the green on at all. I'm laying up to the front edge, apart from the back left pin where I'm trying to blow it past the bunker on the left and trying to putt out to it.
So like I say, four 4s, I'll even take two 5s and two 4s to be honest with you. It's a tough hole.

Q. Going on from my question just now, it's hard to imagine back in 2000 when they played the Open here that there would have been so many British and Irish players in the top 20. Is it a cyclical thing, or is there a reason why all you guys have suddenly come through together right up to the top of the World Rankings?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt, there's definitely a cyclical effect to it. There's no doubt. You know, we've had a lot of good young players coming through for a long time now. Why? I don't know. I mean, European Tour is a very global tour. We travel a lot and we play in all different types of conditions. I think from my point of view it makes our tour a little bit less one dimensional. Not saying the U.S. Tour is one dimensional, but they do play a much more kind of a level type of golf course as far as the setup week in and week out. We're playing in China, Australia, South Africa, all over the globe, and I think -- I don't know if it makes us maybe more rounded players perhaps, makes us be able to deal with much more environments, tougher weather, different grasses, all kinds of stuff. I'm not sure if that's got something to do with it. The fact that we play a lot more in the U.S. these days, all the exemptions, all the invitations we get, we get to play a lot more golf in the U.S., as well, so we're much more comfortable over there and we can compete on the U.S. stage whereas maybe 15 years ago the guys weren't getting that much opportunity to go to the States. We've got the WGC Championships. The TPC would give us a game. Now all kinds of cool stuff where we get to travel to the U.S., play over there, gain the experience, and like I said, come to Europe here and play around the globe, and whether it has something to do with the fact that the guys become much more adapted to play in any types of environment, I always say it makes them slightly more rounded golfers. I believe that.
Slow greens, fast greens, heavy rough, no rough, we've just used to play in all different types of environments. Maybe that's got something to do with the fact that we're starting to produce the best players in the world. Good to see European golfers really start to make an impact in the World Rankings.

Q. Is it because the previous generation might have only gotten to play with the best players in the world when the Americans came over?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think we're just much more familiar with everyone now. The sort of top 50 in the world thing really has made the world sort of into one global stage now. We play with the best players in the world more often rather than just seeing the guys at the major championships. I think getting over to the States and playing a lot more with obviously the best players in the world have been out there the last -- Tiger and Phil and top players like that, and obviously getting to see those guys more often, you become more comfortable with them, and obviously you feel like you can start to compete, rather than, like you say, just seeing them less often and being less over-awed.

Q. Talking about the rough a minute ago, we saw players in the practise round actually tossing the balls in the rough to play out of there. What part of that is your game? How much time do you spend practising that sort of golf out of the long grass?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the rough here, links rough is very difficult -- different. It is difficult, as well, I suppose. It's the wispy stuff that we're not used to seeing much of. I think the R & A, Mr. Dawson, set the golf course up really well. There's not a lot of rough out there actually. It's very -- he has it in certain places. Left of 17 is some of the thickest stuff on the course for some bizarre reason. Like I said, it's a tough hole. Didn't really -- he's beating us up there. But there's not a lot of rough apart from that, there's just certain areas you've got to avoid. The guys are probably throwing balls in there trying to get used to it. I'm not the kind of guy that gets a lot of fliers, but when I come to links golf courses I get a lot of fliers. Obviously you've got these firm, fast greens and fairways. So we're really getting a handle on how the ball reacts out of this rough. It's definitely something different.
Like I say, I'm not a guy who experiences fliers often except out of this type of stuff, and it definitely takes a little bit of getting used to.

Q. Older players have been successful at the last couple of British Opens. Can you think of a reason why that might be? And is there anyone in the older set that you think this year might do well here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, major championships require patience and discipline, and a golf course like Turnberry last year where Tom Watson, should have, could have won, hit a fantastic shot on the last, and I'm sure Cink was a great champion, but the fairy-tale story was for Tom to win, and we're all kind of disappointed to not see that happen.
Length is not an issue because of the firm and fast fairways. A guy sort of in his late 50s and 60s who's not as long as he used to but has the mental discipline and the patience to realise that you've got to plot your way around. Even if the wind was to drop here at St. Andrews and all of a sudden the golf course becomes sort of a presumed gift nearly, the pins are going to be tucked away and they're going to be tough to get at and you've got to position your ball well.
So short game, and like I say, patience and grit and determination and just having the sort of peace of mind to realise that par is a great score on most holes, and there's no doubt -- like I haven't really looked at the field this week, but I mean the likes of a Tom Watson could compete around here. There's no doubt about it. St. Andrews is about dodging the bunkers off the tee and just pace putting really, really well. That could sort of bring anyone into the equation. Obviously the weather is going to be a massive element this week, but the golf course, I think it blows the field wide open this week the way it's set up.

Q. There's a long list of players who have succeeded as a result perhaps of realising that someone who they thought was a little bit better than they were wasn't, and they've gone on and achieved success of their own. Do you feel comfortable in the situation that there are now people sharpening their claws and thinking, if G-Mac can do it, so can I? And secondly, might one of those be Rory?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I feel very comfortable with that. I mean, these guys are all my good friends and I'd love to see them win. I think we're great friends off the course. I'd love to go head-to-head with a Rory or a good friend of mine down the stretch on a Sunday afternoon somewhere. Like I say, it's great to be part of -- I look at Pádraig three or four years ago and look at him winning three majors, and a guy who is not blessed with the certain naturally talented long game, and he's just worked so hard to get where he is right now, and to do what he did, to realise that you can win a major championship. Tiger always says they're the easiest golf tournaments to win because the courses are set up so no one is shooting 65 on a Sunday to pass you up. You've just got to win it with a really strong head and a really strong short game, and a man like Pádraig showed that.
There's been a lot of first-time winners in the last four or five years. I think guys are starting to believe now. Tiger's domination around 2000 when he was just winning every major he teed it up in, the fields seem to be a lot more wide open nowadays and guys are believing that they can do it. To be part of that inspiration factor hopefully for European golfers and for a guy maybe to win this week or to win at the U.S. PGA, I'm comfortable with that.
Certainly I hope to compete this week, and I certainly hope that Pebble is not my last major. I hope to give myself chances to win more, and like I say, I'm just proud to be part of a strong British and Irish contingent and part of a strong European contingent right now. It would be great to see another one of the boys win this week.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Graeme, have a good week this week.

End of FastScripts

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