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December 1, 2010

Graeme McDowell


MARK STEVENS: Graeme McDowell, runner-up last year here, just made a long trip from overseas. If you want to talk about the last couple days and coming from overseas and then we'll take a couple questions.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Perfect, yeah. Been a busy five weeks. Been on -- this is my sixth week on the road now, Spain to Shanghai to Singapore to Hong Kong to Dubai to LA, so pumped a few air miles in the last six weeks. But it's been good. Race to Dubai last week didn't quite go my way, but the game has been in great shape, and great to be back here at the Chevron where I kind of feel like in 2010 it all began.
Feeling good, and the jet lag eases with every day that passes, so it was nice to get out there and see the golf course again. It's in great shape as always and looking forward to the weekend.

Q. Last year if I remember you came from Asia, you were not in Dubai, right? Did you know when you got off the plane that you were a stand-in here, that you were going to play? And you were just going on to Florida if I remember. Could you sort of fill us in again?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Correct. The schedule last year was a bit different. We played the Race to Dubai and then we went to the World Cup of Golf at Mission Hills, so we had just got beaten by a shot by the Molinaris, myself and Rory McIlroy, and I was on my way back to my home in Orlando coming via LA, and we got the call to say that there was potentially going to be a slot for us. You know, obviously the stuff that was going on in Tiger's world had just kind of exploded and we were in touch with Greg McLaughlin, the main man at this event, and he told me to just stay the night in LA on a Sunday night and just kind of hang around and see what was going to happen.
I got the call around noon on Monday that I was in. It was great. Obviously to finish second there that week and move myself up to 38th in the world and kind of solidify my start --

Q. Was that the big push for 2010? You won at Wales and you won at the Open, but did you get it going here?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I know what you're trying to say. It's weird, the small things that happen in your career that kind of shapes a year. There's no doubt, getting the invite from the Tiger Woods Foundation to play here last year really kind of shaped the start of my season this year. I didn't have a great start to 2010, but I played quite consistently, played quite solidly. I finished sixth in Doral, which I probably wouldn't have been in if I hadn't played as well as I did at the Chevron, got to the Masters, and my season had some solidity rather than kind of just messing around and being on the bubble of the top 50 in the world.
In the end when I got into Pebble Beach I was 48th in the world, so I was kind of right on the bubble. If I don't finish second at the Chevron here last year, perhaps I miss the U.S. Open and perhaps I'm not sitting here right now after having a dream season. So it's kind of weird how small things can shape a year, and I feel very fortunate to be here last year.

Q. How much time have you had this year to kind of reflect on all that's happened? I guess post-October have you had much time to sit back and reflect, especially within the context of where you were sitting here last year as the runner-up to where you are now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. I was talking about it with my caddie out there on the golf course today. At some point this month I'll sit down and reflect on what's been -- it's been a life-changing season. You know, I really haven't had a lot of chance, especially since the Ryder Cup, I haven't given myself a second to think about what I've achieved this year. It took me -- post-Pebble Beach it took me five, six weeks to really get my head around that. I took four weeks off after the U.S. PGA and at that point I was able to kind of get to grips with it and look forward, really try and set myself some new goals, which were the Ryder Cup and the Race to Dubai.
I'm looking forward to this weekend, and I'm playing the Shark Shootout next weekend over in Naples, and I'm looking forward to drinking a few cold beers and looking back on a great year. It's been amazing, and it's been a whirlwind ride, you know, and it's been certainly something I'll be trying to reflect on and enjoy and obviously to look to build on it moving into next year.

Q. Can you talk about your decision to join the PGA TOUR next year and how difficult it will be for you to hold dual membership?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, pretty easy decision. Compare me to Lee Westwood or Rory or Martin Kaymer, I'm probably a bit more settled over here in the States than some of the guys may be. I played college golf obviously here for three years, I have a home in Orlando, so perhaps I'm a little bit more U.S. based than some of the guys would be.
But when I look at my schedule for next season, there's very little changes. I'm only going to pick up maybe two to three more events between January and August really here in the States. I mean, it's really not a hugely different schedule.
The major difference is obviously the Playoffs, August, September. Us top 50 in the world players, we get so much access to come across here and play in the best events anyway. The only reason to take your TOUR card is to be part of the TOUR and play the FedExCup Playoffs and be part of the money events.
I can understand where these guys are coming from. It's difficult. As European Tour players we're very global players. We play all over the world, and we travel a ton. The schedule can be quite demanding.
So I mean, I'm sure like Lee Westwood, he's the world's No. 1 player right now, why does he want to go changing things up too much. I've always quite fancied playing the TOUR over here a little bit more. I can understand that guys see their schedule differently. Everyone is different. I want to give it a go next year. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Speaking of Westwood being No. 1, do you expect next year a bunch of guys trading places at No. 1 and do you think that would be good for the game?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think that would be good for the game. It's brought a lot to the European Tour this year, obviously with three major champions and the Ryder Cup win and then obviously Lee going to the world's No. 1. It's been exciting for European golf and certainly British and Irish golf. I think it's great for golf that we have so much -- this last year obviously with Tiger going through his troubles and whatnot, I think it's given the world a chance to view what golf might be like without Tiger, and I think we see that golf is very healthy. We've got some really great, young talent coming through.
But on another note, I mean, obviously getting Tiger Woods back winning golf tournaments, I think golf needs him back, as well. So I'm looking forward to him getting back winning tournaments again next year. I'm sure he'll be pretty motivated to get back, his No. 1 spot back. But it's been great for golf this year to see so many young players coming through and just to see the state of the game and see that it's healthy.
But I think he'll be back to form pretty quickly.

Q. So much of the young talent you referred to is non-American, and I was wondering if you can imagine a scenario in the future where maybe even the top American players would feel compelled to play European Tour -- more European Tour events, where maybe the balance might shift slightly between the PGA TOUR and the European Tour.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, that's an interesting one. You know, I mean, obviously when you compare the two tours, the European Tour versus the PGA TOUR, if you look at purely purse sizes and the financial side of things, I mean, the European Tour can't compete with the PGA TOUR. So from that point of view, it's pretty tough to attract the guys over to our side of the pond to play so many events.
I think it's great to see the game going global. I think it's great that the players here are starting to travel more, playing events in Asia, coming across to Europe a bit more often. I think it's great.
I think the World Rankings should reward global players. I think it's great for guys' games that they travel around the world and adapt to different environments and cultures and golf courses. I believe that's what's made Europe become as strong as it is, because we do travel around and we put our games to the test all over the world.
Obviously being allowed to come across here and play the big events and play against the best players in the world over here also has given us a chance to show how good, how strong European golf is.

Q. Do appearance fees make up the difference in the purses, appearances fees you can garner in Europe maybe make up for the purses not being as high?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. You know, unfortunately or fortunately, whatever way you want to look at it, some players like to travel around the world and obviously get paid a lot of money to do so. Unfortunately that's what we have to do in Europe to get the best players to come across sometimes. The appearance money thing is an interesting debate. I mean, it's sort of the rich events kind of get richer if you like because they're able to bring the best players to those events.
But it's been a tough couple years for the European Tour. Obviously we're losing sponsors, we're losing golf tournaments, and yeah, it's a tough year for global golf in general. It's important for sponsors that we get good fields and get the best players playing them.
It's an interesting one, but like I say, it's great to see so much -- so many great players traveling around the world and playing the big events.

Q. From a fashion standpoint, I got an awful lot of kickback from your wardrobe at the U.S. Open. Now, Poulter has had a very successful run in Europe with his clothes. Can we see anything coming from the Europe end?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm getting very conservative in my old age. I don't think I can pull it off anymore the way you can. I like your cardigan, though.

Q. You've said that this past season has been a life-changing season. I know you haven't had a chance really to sit down and reflect too much, but can you give us some examples of how it's been life-changing for you both good and bad, if any?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, the life changing thing from the bad point of view is just sort of my activities on a week-to-week basis, you guys want to talk to me every week now, which is great. That's good and bad, of course. It's just so many requests coming in for just general activities, and there's no doubt my life is a lot busier nowadays. I've got to be careful, obviously manage my time better and definitely try and control things a little bit.
I've made my manager's job a lot easier, but at the same time I've made it a lot harder, as well, because his phone is red-hot these days. It's a great problem to have, of course, and I'm very happy to be up and playing golf at this level and to be part of certainly a purple patch in European golf and to be excited to be coming to the PGA TOUR next year.
There's no doubt, I mean, being in Asia the last four or five weeks I certainly noticed my notoriety increasing a little bit. Definitely not too many people missed Pebble and not too many people missed the Ryder Cup. It's been pretty amazing to see the response around the world and feeling myself becoming sort of slightly more a better recognized golfer around the world, so that's been nice.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, we haven't had that conversation. Of course it was a very interesting time in his life, and I just felt fortunate that I was able to benefit. It was nice to get that invite. I'm sure it's been -- there's been a few nice stories written about how this event last year certainly shaped what was obviously a great year for me, and without it perhaps I didn't do the things I did. Of course I felt very fortunate to be here last year.

Q. You talked about European players and the rise and a lot of it attributed maybe to being more global golfers. What kind of things specifically, though, in terms of exposure to different cultures and golf courses and different things like that, do you feel strongly that that's something that's making a difference, and do you worry that now being a full-time resident in the United States you might get soft and lose some of that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I've always felt that that's one of the reasons -- I also think golf is very cyclical, as well, as far as we've got some great young talent coming through at the minute. But you've got to look at the Rickie Fowlers and Hunter Mahans and the Dustin Johnsons and the great players that are coming from this side of the pond, as well. I'm not trying to say that we've got all the talent in Europe. There's plenty of strong talent coming out here. It was great to be part of the Ryder Cup this year because I felt there was some great new young blood on the U.S. Team which kind of makes it so much more interesting, the ride up for it and into it and excited about it.
As far as the European Tour goes, I just think conditions, we certainly don't get blessed with the kind of conditions the PGA TOUR are used to week in and week out. We play some crappy enough golf courses to be brutally honest about it, which I think kind of toughens us up a little bit. We're harder and we're maybe not quite as spoiled. We're not flying in and have beautiful Mercedes cars waiting for us at the airport. It's a little tougher. We pump the air miles in. We have to adapt a little bit more to environments, and sometimes just grin and bear some of the golf courses and conditions. And of course we play some great tournaments, as well. But the course conditioning tends to be a little bit more inconsistent back in Europe, which I think makes us tougher.
But there's something to be said for 12 on the stimp greens every week and six-inch rough and perfect bunkers, and I'm looking forward to checking some of it out next year, as well, and sunshine.

Q. I don't expect you to keep track of this, but did more people buy you drinks this year than the previous year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Definitely. I've discovered -- one of the biggest things that's changed since I won the U.S. Open is the size of my hotel room. It's got very big. The average square footage of my hotel room has increased exponentially since the U.S. Open, so that's fun. I'd say I'll get a few pints bought for me over Christmas here when I go home, and I'll certainly look forward to buying a few back. It's been a fun ride. I'm looking forward to going home for Christmas and hanging out with my family and friends and being able to look back. I'm sure I'll get a little choked up when I think about it.

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