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October 6, 2010

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Graeme, many thanks for joining us. We just with Wee Mac I think it is in here, and he was telling us his greatest Ryder Cup moment or memory would you be on the 16th. Would you start us off with your abiding memory of last week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, last week was a long, tiring week. You know, Monday was one of the more amazing days I've ever had on the golf course. You know, certainly the most nervous I've ever been on the golf course, that's for sure. You know, it was an amazing scene on the 16th green. The 17th green was pretty amazing, as well. It's all been a bit of a blur since.
I just remember standing on the 17th green being surrounded by 10,000 people shouting and screaming and wondering, what do I do now; where am I going. It was just nuts, and you know, it was just definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life; the most amazing experience of my life and it was great for golf and great for The Ryder Cup. I've had so much feedback from people saying it was one of the greatest sporting moments they have ever seen.
So to be part of that, what was a special opportunity, and taking nothing away from my 11 teammates that made the opportunity very possible for me, I think there's a lot of emphasis put on the guy that has the opportunity to get the winning point, but I wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for a lot of things leading up to that. You know it was probably only yesterday I got a chance to flip through some of the highlights and realise what Rory did on the last and the way Poulter played and Miguel and Luke; it was an honour to be able to have that opportunity but like I say I was pretty nervous.

Q. You said it was probably one of the best days of your life. Does it compare to the U.S. Open? You probably thought when you won the U.S. Open, you wouldn't beat that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I certainly thought winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Father's Day was a pretty tough act to follow. The Ryder Cup is something extremely different. You know, the U.S. Open I won for myself, you know. If I would have messed that up on the back nine at Pebble Beach, I would have let myself down, that's the only person, and my caddie and my family. Apart from that, I was only going to mess it up for a few people. If I mess it up on the back nine Monday, I was letting a lot of people rely on me. My teammates were relying on me and the team captain was definitely relying on me.
The pressure that I experienced was probably tenfold what I experienced at Pebble Beach. I've never been that nervous before. And like I say, it's because you're trying to win it for more than yourself. I mean, I think that's what makes team competition so amazing, and the two were uncomparable, because they were just so different. That's why The Ryder Cup is so special, because you're out there, and 12 guys, the team captain and everyone involved for the week, it's something very different.

Q. Rory was saying in terms of pressure, he thinks you're the best pressure golfer in the world, apart from Tiger Woods. Do you think this can lift you to more majors?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was a weird week for me because I didn't play my best golf. I struggled with my swing big time, but my putter was good. I putted great last week. It's nice to know that I can do it when the chips are down. It's nice to know that I can perform under pressure when it's most intense and there's no doubt I will draw a lot of confidence and a lot of experience from that. And it will stand me in good stead in the future, no doubt about it.
That is the most intense I've ever felt on a golf course, and you know, to be able to hole a putt like I did on 16, you know, I could barely hold the club at points on Monday, I was so nervous.

Q. Expectations for this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: That's a good question. I don't know the answer for that one this week. My expectation levels are extremely low. I'm playing with my dad this week and I've got my brother caddying for my dad. We are just going to go out and have some fun. I played eight holes on Carnoustie today, and it was nice to be out there and back to reality a little bit. I have no expectations and just try to be staying out of the jiggering, that's probably the goal really. That's probably the toughest hurdle this week.

Q. We had two of your teammates this week, Lee who could be No. 1 by Sunday, or definitely in a couple of weeks' time, and he's saying he's definitely not taking up membership of the U.S. Tour. And Rory is saying he's going to cut down a couple of tournaments next year. Will you join the U.S. Tour next year and how much of you will we see back here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yes, I am joining. I took my card in '06 and got injured at the start of that season and never really got a chance to experience it. I want to give it a go next year, because it's a non-Ryder Cup year and I would like to try the FedEx Playoffs. Although I didn't like the format this year. I thought it was very volatile and didn't reward the consistent players this year. If you had a good playoff series, you can win the whole lot.
I certainly want to go out and play more golf out there. My schedule will continue to be European Tour-based as well. I'm going to play some golf in the Middle East and I'm going to play some golf in Asia and obviously the main events back here, Wentworth and things like that.
So it's definitely going to be a little bit more of an American influence to my schedule for the first six months. And like I say, I want to give it a go out there, just to see how it goes. Like I say, I felt like in 2006, I never really had the opportunity to taste it for a full season.
You know, I'll play maybe not quite as a U.S.-based as a Luke Donald or Ian Poulter or Justin Rose, but maybe like a Harrington-type schedule.

Q. You won the Open at Pebble and that was a fantastic golfing experience, but The Ryder Cup seems to be a little bit beyond golf and it's gone kind of into a big, big sporting event, and celebrities coming your way and I understand that you're now among the favourites for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. How does the celebrity angle sit with you as a golfer?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I guess I feel like I'm entering into a world which is a bit unknown to me for sure. Something like that, that would be amazing. Yeah, it is great that the Ryder Cup does transcend golf. It goes into sport, and like I say, a lot of people Tweeting me and e-mailing me, telling me it was one of the greatest sporting moments they have seen, never mind golf, so that's really cool, no doubt about it. But the whole celebrity status and the other stuff, that's an unknown world for me and I'm certainly not quite sure how that all works and what's going to happen from here.
But first and foremost, I've got a pretty good family background and people to keep me grounded, and certainly first and foremost I'm focusing hard on the end of the season. The Race to Dubai is a pretty big goal of mine. I'm playing the last five or six events in a row to finish the season, and looking forward to that.
Definitely life-changing experience I've went through the last few months. I've certainly lived two of my golfing dreams, to win a major championship and to hole the winning putt in The Ryder Cup; these are dreams. These are absolute ultimate golf dreams for me, and I've just lived two of those in the space of four months and I feel incredibly lucky.
I can't get my head around it for sure now but I feel very fortunate and privileged that I've had the opportunity.
Where life goes from here, obviously I want to continue to be the best player I can possibly be. And you know I've got a good team of people around me, my management company and my family, to help me plot the rest of my life. I mean, obviously things are good right now and I've certainly got to capitalise on these things and continue to give myself the opportunity to be the best person and the best player I can be.

Q. It's the old question, if somebody had told you what lied in store for you in 2010, would you have thought it possible?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Like I said, dreams are something you imagine. Do you really believe that you'll ever actually achieve them? You hope, you work hard, you practise hard and you try to be the best player you can be, but you know, if someone had told me what's just happened to me in the last few months, if you had taken me aside in January and said, you're going to win The Wales Open, shoot 127 on the weekend to win, go to Pebble Beach and win the U.S. Open and a couple months later you're going to win the holing putt for Europe and win The Ryder Cup, I'd say, you're nuts. But like I say, it's an extremely surreal feeling.
I worked very hard to get off the cloud nine feeling I had after Pebble Beach, and all of a sudden I'm riding here in Scotland again. It was Loch Lomond obviously after Pebble and the whole tour is buzzing about what we did back there in Wales, and I'm back on cloud nine again. These are great problems to have and it's been an amazing season
I was joking with my caddie, 2011, I'm not sure how I can do anything to back this season up. Anything after this is going to be disappointment and I'm certainly going to readjust my focus and goals and expectation levels and like I say, work out where I go from here. But it's great stuff. Loving it.

Q. Given what's happened to you this year, I would imagine winning at the Home of Golf is another ultimate dream; is that possible and what would that mean? You came close here before.
GRAEME McDOWELL: To win here this week obviously, to win an Open or a Dunhill Links, obviously I got beat in a playoff by Stephen Gallacher way back in '04, I think it was. Yeah, to win here is obviously a massive goal.
Like I say, my expectation levels are reasonably low this week, but who knows? Certainly links golf is in my blood and I hit it okay at Carnoustie this morning. Just had a total out-of-body experience on Monday, and like I say, getting my head screwed back on again for tomorrow is going to be tough. Like I say expectations can sometimes be a killer and if you don't have any, you can sometimes perform pretty well. Yeah it would be amazing to win this weekend. We'll see what happens.

Q. You mentioned watching the highlights; were you watching it with a group of people? What was it like?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I haven't had a chance to sit down and watch it with many people. I think I was just bumming about yesterday and just sort of saw a few of the highlights on the beeb and SKYSports.com.
Obviously looking forward to watching how the whole day panned out, because once -- it was a very weird day for me, because the first 12, 13 holes, you know, we were very much the side show. The side show very quickly became the big show, and like I said, for 12, 13 holes, no one really watched us at all. We literally had a couple of hundred people and it was a surreal feeling being at the back of the pack. I remember sitting there on Sunday night when the singles draw came out, we were sitting as a team and Monty was reading through the lineup and we got to No. 7,8,9, my name still hadn't came and I was like, okay.
And then he said Harrington 11 and myself 12, and I remember -- I remember feeling a mixture of emotions. Disappointment, because I felt like maybe I wasn't going to have a chance to be part of winning euphoria, because I thought that maybe we'll do it, sixth, seventh, eighth spot might be the man, and obviously a mixture of certain disappointment and a bit of excitement, as well, imagining thinking if it did come down to me what that would mean. Just an amazing experience to be the 12th man. I was reading about how in '91 it came down to the last match, and to be part of it, it was quite a privilege to do that. I was just thankfully able to do it.

Q. Did you watch 16?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I've seen the putt on 16.

Q. What was that like?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was kind of nuts. It was crazy to see it. That's the best putt I've made in my life. I barely remember the ball coming off the face. I don't remember hitting the putts. I just remember knowing it was fast and I was certainly trying not to drill it by. You know, I just remember catching the edge of the hole and just going crazy.
The reactions and passion and emotions that flows through your body and everybody on the team, it's different. I use the analogy of what it must be like to score a penalty in a packed stadium, football stadium, what those guys must feel like. That's the nearest we'll ever get to that feeling, to be able to hole that putt in front of 30,000 people, whatever it was, and having your teammates there, it was a special feeling. I remember going off that green and walking on to the 17 tee botch box and Monty is there telling me, "Calm down, calm down, you've still got a job to do here." It's a crazy feeling.

Q. Rory claimed earlier that Monty kindly let you know on the 16th that you needed a point, not a halve.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I walked off the 14th green and just got it up-and-down for the halve, I think was I 2-up at the time. Yeah, and I remember asking Kenny, my caddie, I said, "Is the halve good enough here"? I was just so freaking nervous. (Laughter) he said to me, "A halve is a good enough." Edoardo Molinari was 3-up at the time.
And it was probably one of the hardest days he's ever had on the golf course because I was in bits most of the day. I really was. I was having a tough time. We were standing on the 16th fairway and everyone is there on top of me and a cheer reverberateses back and Colin is there and he says, do you want to know what's just happened? I said, 'I don't know, do you want to tell me.' He said, He just got a halve; you need to win.'
Shoot. (laughter). Did it help? Did it hinder? I don't think anything could have made me feel any more nervous at the time anyway.
I hit a pretty good 6-iron in there, and obviously to hole the putt was amazing. But that was kind of how it went on the 16th fairway. Like I say, I don't think -- it certainly didn't hinder me because I was in pieces anyway.

Q. Monty said that when he read the singles order out the other night, he paused and said, "Is anybody not comfortable with where they are put." Were you on the verge of saying something?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I was. I was on the verge of saying something. I had to kind of -- I think I had a blank look on my face and I remember Thomas Björn saying to me, "G-Mac, you okay. "
I was like, "Yeah, I think I'm okay. "Because I had spoken to McGinley night before and he had asked me where I might want to play, and I said, I don't how honest I was when I said that, put me anywhere, give me a tough game. I remember pairing ton saying that two years ago at Valhalla, give me a dog feet dog kind of game and I guess I kind of said the same thing to McGinley. I'm not sure how honesty was when I said that.
When he read the order out, yeah, I was on the verge of saying something but I was going to ask the question, and I did ask the question to a couple of guys, I asked to Ollie and Monty maybe I said, "What do I do? How do I do this? How do I play No. 12? What do you guys expect of me? How do I go about doing this?" ?
I guess I knew the answer. It was all about trying to win my point and not look at the boards and not get sucked in by red or blue or what it was but I was on the verge of saying something at that point. Stupidly -- well, it wasn't stupidly in the end.

Q. Have you heard from Eammon, Philip Walton; join the club?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'm sure there will be messages flooding in. Not quite sure what it is with Irish players and The Ryder Cup, but there's a special affinity there. And I guess I've just added a pretty good chapter into that story. I'm not sure what it is about how they build us in Ireland. They build us pretty tough I suppose. It was great to add myself to the history.
I remember watching like some of the highlight reels and sort of the advertisements and some of the sort of emotional-type footage that they were showing pre-Ryder Cup, I remember kind of watching it and not really seeing myself in too much of the highlight reels, and thinking, why haven't I done something cool to be on the highlight reel. I guess I've put myself on to the next highlight reel. (Laughter).
You never really understand that you're a part of history, but it's nice to add yourself into the folklore that is The Ryder Cup, because that's a special event, and to be part of that is amazing.

Q. By winning the U.S. Open this year and also by being the man who takes The Ryder Cup away from the Americans, what sort of reception do you expect when you go to the States next year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I just hope they let me in, when I go to the immigration, I'm flying to Orlando next year. I'm just hoping they don't send me home.
You know, I mean, yeah, it's going to be interesting going out there as a PGA Tour player next year. Certainly it wasn't lost on me at the weekend playing against these guys who will become sort of my peers and colleagues a bit more next year, guys that maybe don't know me very well will start to get to know me a bit next year. I guess I've got my relationship off to a rocky start with a few of them.
But the great thing is about this sport is we were able to have a couple of beers on Monday night with some of these guys that we compete with so hard on the golf course. That's the great thing about the sport of golf is that we can share a beer and talk about these things. I'm sure the reception will be pretty good. I've had a lot of sort of e-mails and stuff and Twitter messages from U.S. people saying, "Damn you, but you did amazing, as well." It's going to be interesting to see what kind of reception I do get and like I say, interesting to see how my relationship goes with these guys. I'm sure it will be great though.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Many thanks, as always are for coming in.

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