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November 24, 2010

Graeme McDowell


RODDY WILLIAMS: We'll get started. Graeme, thanks for coming in and joining us, and welcome to the Dubai World Championship. It's been a great year for you so far, and it's going to be a very big week for you, as well, this week, isn't it. How are you feeling coming here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'm feeling very good. Very important week for me this week of course, been a great season, a lot of good things going on. My game feels good. Just great to be coming here this week with a chance, with a shot at it.
.I started off in a bit of a five-week run here with Martin nearly a million Euros ahead of me, and I wasn't quite sure I would be able to catch him. But I wanted to get here with an opportunity to win The Race to Dubai if I played well and I've given myself that chance now. Excited about it and trying to put a bit of polish on a good season really.
RODDY WILLIAMS: The five-week run you're talking about, it will give you a lot of confidence this week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I certainly feel like especially the last two weeks, I really started to hit the ball well. I'm probably feeling as good about my game right now as I have at any point during the season this year.
So Hong Kong, especially last week, tee-to-green, I played very well, struck the ball great, it's been a busy four weeks and a lot of travelling obviously, so I've been trying to conserve energy and not obviously spend too much time on the range and make sure I come here this week with the energy levels pretty good.
So I've been feeling great and feeling like there's plenty left in the tank this weekend. Looking forward to it, and obviously final group with Martin tomorrow, the adrenaline should be pumping from the word go.
So any tiredness in the body should subside until Sunday night hopefully.

Q. You said last year you were not a great lover of the course, and Lee was in yesterday and said it's a bit of a bomber's course anyway and Rory came in and made the point that you won Valderrama, Pebble Beach, you can probably play anywhere. Is that the feeling you're coming in with this week?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I certainly -- if you would have asked me this time on Sunday night of The Race to Dubai last year what I thought of the golf course, I probably wouldn't have had many good things to say about it. Of course I'm trying to come in here this week with an open mind, as you do any week really.
I do feel like for a start, I'm probably longer off the tee than I was this time last year, which is going to be a huge benefit around here this week. You've got to drive the ball well. There's no masking that fact around this golf course. You do have to drive it extremely well. Lee Westwood was probably the best driver of the ball in the word last year; probably still is, and it was no surprise that he played well around here.
Yeah, big emphasis on driving the ball, and I feel like I've upped my game from that point of view. So you know, I guess last year, I wasn't really in the mix and I was playing early in the morning every day. Golf course does play a lot longer first thing in the morning with a bit of dew on the fairways. So obviously getting a late tee time tomorrow will help things. The golf course will appear shorter than maybe at any point last year.
So I like what I saw in the Pro-Am yesterday. I drove the ball well, and the golf course didn't feel quite as much a slog as it did last year, so I'm hoping my extra length off the tee and the way I'm driving the ball at the minute should help me around the course this year. So like I say, an open mind.

Q. When you've on the U.S. Open, won The Ryder Cup; why does this matter so much?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I guess, you know, after The Ryder Cup, I could have probably put my feet up and taken 80 for the rest of the year and still looked back and said, great season, dream season, and all of the above. I didn't want to do that because I wanted to try and finish strong and try and really put a bit of a shine on the year. You don't get many chances to win an Order of Merit, or Race to Dubai as it is nowadays. I've certainly put Order of Merit championships up there with obviously maybe not Major Championships are definitely the pinnacle, but Money Lists are very, very important. They define careers. I mean, Monty with his eight, that's unbelievably impressive.
I wanted to give myself a chance to do it. Martin has had an amazing season. But to give myself a chance to be within touching distance this week is pretty fun.
So you know, I guess you've got to try and set new goals and move on, and you know, post-Pebble, my goals were Ryder Cup and giving The Race to Dubai a shot. I felt good and I felt motivate and I had felt energetic towards it. It's been good.

Q. How much of this new length is down to confidence and how much is technique?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's probably down to technique. It's down to a little bit of new equipment. I've put a new driver in the bag since Pebble. It's 46 and a half inches long. So it's an inch and a half longer than standard and I've picked up two or three miles per hour of ball speed, which equates to about eight yards of carry in the air.
Yeah, so it's a little bit of technique. I've been working hard with Pete the past couple of years, Pete Cowen and he's given me a better understanding of my golf swing. I turn up every week and feel like I've played better this year after some time off, which is always something that kind of plagued me in the past.
I wasn't particularly great after three or four weeks off but this year, I've had such a better understanding for my swing and for my bad habits and for what I do to get back playing well again, and Pete has me swinging the club better than ever.
So a bit of technique and a little bit of equipment and a little bit of confidence, as well, you can swing a little harder at it. And this golf course is not intimidating off the tee. There's probably 12 drivers out there, and you're pretty much swinging as hard as you can on every 12 of them. It's definitely a grip-it-and-rip-it type of golf course.

Q. How long was your driver before?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was 45 and a half, the one I used, the one at Pebble. It's a full inch longer than the one I've been using. It's the newer head. It's the ft tour head. I won Pebble with the FT-3. Callaway, obviously.

Q. Leaving here last year, what would you have taken as a good 2010?
GRAEME McDOWELL: My goals in 2010 were to get back in the winner's circle. I wanted to compete at a Sunday afternoon at a Major Championship. I had kind of given myself some Saturday chances. I had never really given myself a Sunday afternoon sort of tussle, and that's what I wanted; and to get myself as high up as the World Rankings as possible.
What would I have taken? I probably would have taken something -- if you had shown me the script in January for this year, I wouldn't have believed it. It's certainly beyond my wildest expectations this year, for sure. But it's felt right. I certainly feel like Pebble -- I had earned a couple of my stripes to be there. I certainly had enough experiences. I've been quietly going about my business the last five or six years gaining some great experience around the world and putting my game to the test and learning from mistakes that I've made. I arrived in 2010 I suppose. I feel like a pretty experienced player, and my game has lots of room for improvement, but I feel like I'm getting better all the time.
I certainly wouldn't have expected this season to go the way it has. To have two huge highlights like Pebble and The Ryder Cup, it's been amazing.

Q. There's been much discussion this week about the merits of playing on the PGA Tour and European Tour at the same time, Rory said it doesn't quite fit for a European at the moment. Martin said he's not going to commit to it. What are your long-term plans on how you're going to divide your time?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I really don't have any long-term plans. I'm just kind of taking it year by year to be honest with you. The way I look at next year, it's not a Ryder Cup year, so it's a perfect opportunity for me to go to the States and experience the FedExCup. Obviously Rory and Lee experienced that last year. Something I want to have a go at.
Maybe of the guys you mention, I'm probably the guy who is most settled in the States; college out there of course, I have a house in Orlando. I'm maybe a little bit more settled in the States that some of the guys would be. But I'm very aware of the pitfalls of playing too much golf around the world. I'm very aware that you've got to stay fresh.
One of my goals for next year is to schedule myself as well as I possibly can and make sure that I turn up ready to play for really 15 to 20 events that I'm going to earmark as the ones that I want to play well. When I look at my schedule next year, there's very little change from the schedule I played this year from January to August. The main change in my schedule will be the FedEx Playoffs.
Apart from that, I'm playing a nearly identical schedule. And of course, I want to maintain my commitment to The European Tour. I love The Race to Dubai. I love this stage of the season here, these four or five weeks where we play some of the greatest events in Asia, and I want to continue to play the Wentworths and The Scottish Opens and the Irish Opens and the great events back in Europe.
Of course, there's a balance required and you've got to be very careful not to be chasing around the world wearing yourself out. But as a Top-50-in-the-world player, you get access to the best events in the world anyway, so why do you take your PGA Tour card? You take your PGA TOUR card because you want to play in the FedEx I guess. There's no other reason really for a Lee Westwood or a Rory McIlroy to take their membership status. We get to play the best events anyway. It's personal preference really.
Everybody has their own goals and the things that he want to do. I took my card in '06 in the States, but I was injured that year. I didn't really play great and didn't get the full experience. I want to give it a go.

Q. Do you think The European Tour has now closed the gap on the PGA Tour in terms of status?
GRAEME McDOWELL: As far as tour status, you just have to look at the World Rankings to see what kind of a year we've had. We now go across the Atlantic to the States and play against those guys and we compete and we win tournaments. We are -- we are definitely on the level with them as far as our best players are certainly as good as their best players.
You know, there's no doubt there's a financial gulf between the two tours if you look at them as a whole, but that's obviously a sign of economic times. Europe is a tough place at the minute. But there's no doubt our best events are as good as their best events, and our players are starting to show how good they really are.
So like I say, I'm taking a short-term view on it. I'm a PGA Tour player in 2011. 2012 is a Ryder Cup year, a good chance I'll be coming back full-time European Tour player again. It's really a voyage of sort of experimentation for me just to find the right balance for me to be the best player that I can become and that's really what I'm trying to do.

Q. Back to this week. Do you like the format? It actually puts you alongside Graham for the first round --
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I know who you meant. (Laughter) I love the format. It's great. I got asked the question yesterday, had I ever been in the position where I needed to come into a week like this and play and put a performance in; you know, I don't think I've ever been in this type of scenario.
So yeah, the format is great. Of course I want to look Martin in the eye on Thursday and say, you know, let's go. Let's get this on you know what I mean. Of course, we are going to be very keen to get off to fast starts. You know, it's not a match-play scenario by any stretch of the imagination on Thursday. It could become a match-play scenario on Sunday but not on Thursday. We don't want to get sucked in trying to beat each other up while half the field goes past us. It's very important that I concentrate on what I'm doing. I certainly can't affect what he does. I can't go tackling him; not that I'd want to.
All I can do is focus on my ball and try and approach it like a normal week, really. I feel like I've done a good job. Especially the last four weeks, of concentrating on the golf tournament really and not looking at The Race to Dubai. Because if you can play well this week, obviously the big picture will take care of itself.
It's going to be fun to play alongside him on Thursday and look each other in the eye. He's had an amazing season as well, and it's going to be a lot of fun out there. Like I say, the adrenaline is going to be there from the word go, so I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Can you give us some insight into what Martin is like as a guy? You got to see him a bit more and learn about him at The Ryder Cup. So what's he like?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Martin is a great guy. I mean, he's quite quiet. He's a very understated kind of guy. Got a great golf game obviously. Very strong, very powerful. He's in just great shape to play golf. I haven't spent a lot of time with him off the golf course to be honest. He would be a pretty good guy to go drink a beer with for sure. He's a young, cool guy really.
Yeah, just getting to know him a bit this year, obviously played with him at the Grand Slam and The Ryder Cup, he's just an extremely talented guy and obviously very driven, very quietly driven. Certainly does the talking with his golf clubs.

Q. I wonder if you can characterize the battle between you two, looking for a boxing metaphor, like a scrapper against a technician; you can guess which one is which; I wonder if you can sort of frame it in some sort of way.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think Martin used to do a bit of boxing actually in his young days. So I'm definitely not going to go down that lines (laughter). I'm glad we are going to beat each other up with the golf clubs this week. I think I would lose that fight. (Laughter).
It's been an interesting battle because I mean, I guess I can imagine from last year, Martin was gutted not to win The Race to Dubai last year. He obviously got in that go-karting accident last year and probably should have won The Race to Dubai last year. I mean, obviously Lee played great, but I mean, Martin was in control.
It seems this year, I was surprised to see his schedule when he was pretty much playing everything from the Dunhill Links in apart from last week really. I was surprised to see his schedule. I certainly hope I've given him something to think about the last four weeks.
You know, there's definitely an interesting atmosphere between the two of us yesterday when we were messing around doing those Major Championship photos and the photos we did down at the first tee. There was definitely a quiet stand off there. But I think we are both enjoying it. I think we both had a great season. But I can definitely feel from him that he's extremely driven and he really wants this desperately bad this week. And I feel like I'm the guy with the momentum coming in here. I certainly hope he thinks I'm playing great and I can give him a run for his money this week.
You know, it's an interesting one. If you put it in horse racing expressions, he's had a 25-length lead and I'm coming fast up the inside rail now and we've got one fence left and I feel like I'm coming strong.

Q. Would you have accepted the contrasting styles, do you think that adds to the kind of intrigue of the whole thing?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think we definitely have very different games. He's the powerful -- he's a powerful striker and I'm definitely a guy who maybe, I don't know how you describe my game, I'm more, like you said, the technician, the thinking man's golfer or whatever. I've definitely got to try and match him for power and strength this week, because it's going to be a long week. There's definitely contrasting styles. I was going to say, he does his talking with the golf clubs; I hope I do, too, to be honest.
It's going to be great, like I say. Very similar-type seasons, very interesting, great seasons. It's going to be an interesting battle. Sorry, I can't really give you something dramatic. Did my best there. (Smiling).

Q. We got this far without even mentioning that you could earn 1.7 million this week. That sits all right with you, does it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean (scratching head) obviously we are talking about some big numbers this week. I guess we both had great season. I'm sure the money, I wouldn't say the last thing on our minds, of course, but I think the prestige of winning The Race to Dubai is probably the first thing in our minds. We both have had very financially lucrative seasons and our marketing potential going forward is obviously very lucrative, as well. So we are not focussed on the cash this week.
We are very focussed on what it means this week, you know, to join the list of names of The Order Of Merit Champions, The Race to Dubai Champions. I think we all still have a pretty good image of Lee Westwood on the 18th green last year and we both want to be that guy this week. Of course, the financial incentives are very nice.

Q. In these economic times, it still sits all right?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I mean, obviously we feel very fortunate to be in a world where we are obviously playing for a lot of money when you look at what's going on in the world, especially in Ireland for me. The world is a crazy place at the minute.
So we feel very fortunate to be in the position we are in, still playing golf for a lot of money. Of course, we are all very conscious of how important sponsors are in this day and age, and you know, we are all working very hard to obviously give The European Tour something going forward and to commit ourselves to sponsors and give tournaments what they need. We are all very acutely aware of how fragile things are at the minute.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Graeme, thanks very much.

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