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December 8, 2010

Darren Clarke

Graeme McDowell


DAVE SENKO: Darren and Graeme, welcome to the 2010 Shark Shootout. Maybe just get us started. First off, is there any history? Have you guys ever played together before in any events in Europe?
DARREN CLARKE: Not as partners before, but the opportunity came up earlier in the year to play with Graeme, and I said, yes, please, definitely.
So I think this week I'll hit a couple of shots and let him do all the rest in the current form this he's in.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, obviously we've played a lot of golf over the years , myself and Darren. I certainly knew this was going to be the seventh week in the row, and I though, You know what, I want to have someone to have a little fun with as a partner this week.
I figured he's a top player, and I knew he would be right up for it. Looking forward to the opportunity to play alongside with him.
DARREN CLARKE: We could definitely win the prize for spending the longest time in the bar this week, I think.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, if the golf doesn't go well, we'll certainly enjoy ourselves, that's for sure. We're certainly here to try and put ourselves on the leaderboard as well.
DAVE SENKO: Okay. Questions.

Q. For both of you, talk about the way Graeme finished Sunday.
DARREN CLARKE: G-Mack has played fantastic all year. I think if you take a look at the number of world ranking points won this year, is there anybody ahead of Graeme?

Q. (No microphone.)
DARREN CLARKE: So you know that's how well he's played. If you win twice in a season it's good for normal people, and G-Mack's won four times this season. So I've got a very good partner.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, it's been an incredible season. You know, I'm very proud of myself the way I've applied myself, especially the last six weeks, you know. Especially after the Ryder Cup, it would have been very easy just to have said, What a dream season, kicked the feet up, and cruised out the rest of the year.
I've actually been happy the way I've applied myself the last six weeks. It's just been a great way to finish the year.
Q. Darren, what does he do particularly well? Driver? Irons?
DARREN CLARKE: Everything, obviously. You don't win the tournaments that he's won and in the manner in which he's won them unless all aspects of your game are good.
So the more shots I get him to hit this week, I think the better we will do.
Q. Talk a little about the course today, and is it cold enough for you?
DARREN CLARKE: The course today, it was my first time here, first time playing around the golf course. I thought it was really good. G-Mack talked me through a little bit yesterday, and I thought the course was a good test.
It was very cold obviously this morning, but it's much, much more cold back home at the moment. G-Mack hasn't been home for a while, but I was there, and I left six inches of snow in Portrush yesterday morning.
So it's much colder at home. This is nice. This is warm.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, and obviously it's gonna heat up for the weekend. This is my third time here at Tiburón. Golf course is the best shape I've ever seen it. Greens are fantastic, great surface on them. Tough to read, you know. I remember that from the last couple years playing here. They are difficult greens to read.
But I think the golf course sets up well for us. We're both good drivers of the golf ball. The wind has a tendency to blow around here as well, so you really got to play well in the wind around here as well. If we can get the putters hot this week, I think we have a good chance.

Q. Graeme, being here last year, where you were at in your career, and then just this season, so much has changed with winning your first major and all that. How is life different from when you were sitting here last year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. I look back 12 months ago, and I certainly couldn't have dreamed of having a 2010 like I've just had. It's pretty amazing to be 7th in the world right now. I've exceeded all my expectations this year, there's no doubt about it.
It was around this time last year when it was all beginning for me around the Chevron, finishing second there. It's been amazing. Is a little bit busier now. A lot more going on in my world. It's been a long seven weeks. This is my seventh week in a row this week.
But like I say, very proud of the way I've applied myself and way I've played, especially to finish out the season.

Q. Can you talk about your confidence now? And looking back, did winning the U.S. Open help you clinch the Ryder Cup? Did that help you against Tiger? Do these things build?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, my confident level is -- you know, that's really the only thing you can take out of a year like that. My perception of my own game hasn't changed in any shape or form? It's not like it's a magic pill where all of a sudden you don't miss six-footers. I'm still the same player.
The only thing I can take is the confident and the belief from doing it. Darren has won many tournaments around the world, and he knows what it's like. You just pour that little bit of confidence back in your game all the time, and you have that belief in yourself.
When you put yourself in the mix on weekends you start to feel more and more comfortable in those scenarios. They're very uncomfortable scenarios. I felt pretty nervous there on Sunday against Tiger, but you just get used to it so much more.
The Ryder Cup was something pretty special as well. I mean, was amazingly nervous. But, again you just kind of pull on some of the experiences you've had. I've definitely taken a lot of confidence from the year.

Q. Where do go from here? How did you set your goals?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, 2011, I'm certainly looking forward to getting home for Christmas. I'm sure myself and Darren will have a few pints in Portrush.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Or 10 maybe. And, you know, really reflect on what's been an amazing season and really enjoy it and celebrate it, because it has been amazing.
Looking on to 2011, like I say, I need to pour a lot of the confidence and stuff that I've gained this year back into my game. I know how much better I can get. My game can still get a lot better. There's a lot of the room for improvements.
I'll set myself some new goals for 2011. But to be honest, I haven't really sat down and thought about that. Really just trying to finish this year on off and reflect on it and get ready to go next year.
Obviously as a PGA TOUR member, the FedEx playoffs will be something I'll be looking at. Just continue the consistency and make sure I turn up every week ready to go and ready to win tournaments.

Q. Darren, can you talk about where your game is right now?
DARREN CLARKE: My game is pretty good right now. It's been good for quite sometime from tee to green. I've been having a bit of a slow spell on the greens, to say the least. So the more times I can get him to putt this week, I think the better. (Laughing.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think Darren is gonna show me how to chip this week, and I'm gonna show him how to putt.
DARREN CLARKE: That could be in the evenings as well. (Laughing.) We'll see.
But, no, I'm quite happy with my game. It's a fine line and fine margins, this game. All the players will tell you this: You knock in a couple pots putts and you get a little bit of confidence and everything changes. But from tee to green I've been very pleased with my game. I'm just not converting my chances into good scores, or good enough scores.

Q. Darren, how is your health?
DARREN CLARKE: My health is good, yeah. Physically I'm good. Mentally I'm not so good, but that's nothing new. It's always been the same. (Laughing.) But, no, everything is good. I got no excuses whatsoever. Life is not bad. That's all. It's good to be here this week playing with him, so...

Q. Both of you on Sunday have played with Tiger in your career, and you've both beaten him on a Sunday. Do you have a secret formula?
GRAEME McDOWELL: We're both lucky.
DARREN CLARKE: We're both lucky, yeah. He's not invincible obviously. You know, Tiger is Tiger, but when you do go head-to-head with him and you come out the other side, it does do a lot of great things for your confidence, as we both know.

Q. Did you watch Sunday, and did it bring back memories of what it was like to face Tiger?
DARREN CLARKE: No, not really. The season that G-Mack has had, I don't think it would've made any difference who he was up against on Sunday. His confidence is up there, and the way that he's been playing the game, you know, he was gonna be challenging anybody.
He's a tough man to beat right now? Doesn't make a difference it's Tiger or Lee or anybody. He's been playing that well. That's why he won the U.S. Open and did what he did in the Ryder Cup. That's why he's won four times this year, so...

Q. How much did you guys look forward to playing together? Seems like you'll be a fun group to watch out there.
DARREN CLARKE: I think there's an awful lot riding on Friday's scores as to how the following couple of days are gonna go, so we will see. But we'll have a laugh and we'll certainly enjoy ourselves.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, we get a great draw on Friday. We're playing with Greg and Mark Kuchar. Gonna be great fun out there. This golf course, the format lends itself it having fun really. That's what people come here to see.
We're certainly gonna enjoy ourselves. Of course we're both very competitive and proud men, and we want to go out there and try and get ourselves on the leaderboard.
There's a few pretty strong teams here this week. Probably Dustin and Ian and Bubba there probably the teams to watch, but I think we can be the sleeper pick.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: Well, I'm going to head home next Thursday; golf clubs will probably stay in Orlando. I don't think I'll take them home. No point.
I'm gonna come back out here in the new year, back to Orlando. I'm gonna start in Hawaii. I'm actually going to have a pretty slow start to the season. I'm only gonna play twice probably before Riviera match play.
I'll just use that time to kind of get myself going again. Will I be in the best shape in Hawaii? Who knows. But it's just a week I'll use. I'll go to Abu Dhabi then, and I'll use those weeks to get ready again.
So the golf clubs, I don't think we'll be playing much golf in Portrush when I get home.
DARREN CLARKE: No, no we won't be. Like I said, there's six inches of snow there at the moment, so we're definitely not playing much golf. I'm going to take three weeks off and then I go down to South Africa the 2nd of January. I play in down in East London, Johannesburg, and from there to Abu Dhabi. I'll have a bit of time in the desert over there.

Q. Tournament of Champions, is that your first one? What would be the other one before Riviera?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Abu Dhabi. I've never been to Hawaii before. It's always been a dream of mine to win an event out here in the States and to go to Hawaii and play in the Tournament of Champions, so I'm going to take that opportunity. You know, it's not given me much of a break, but I'm going to take three weeks off after Abu Dhabi and use that time to rest up and get mentally ready for the season.

Q. Darren, could you speak to the state of the European Tour? Obviously a number of players in the top 10 in the world rankings, all the hardware and trophies won this year, where does it rank?
DARREN CLARKE: Uh-huh. Well, I think it's been an amazing year for European Tour members. I think if you take a look at the current world rankings, you have 7 out of the top 11 in the world are European Tour members. That says an awful a lot about the strength of the European Tour.
You know, G-Mack's win over here at Pebble, and then kicking on from there and winning at the open, and Martin Kaymer winning in the PGA. We've got the No. 1 player in the world as a European Tour player as well. I don't think the European Tour has ever been in as strong a position as it is right now.
GRAEME McDOWELL: And the Ryder Cup as well.
DARREN CLARKE: Exactly, all that sort of stuff. I wasn't going to mention that. I was trying to be polite. But I think it is in a really, really strong position right now.
As Europeans, we all - certainly through my era - we all aspired to play on the PGA TOUR. Now you take a look at it, and we still do have guys that have the opportunity to play on the PGA Tour, but the European Tour is now a very viable option. That just shows how far the European Tour has come.

Q. Graeme, what was it like to do what you did at the Ryder Cup, and also do it with Darren?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the Ryder Cup week was very special. You know, to have a backroom staff like with had with Darren and Sergio and Paul McGinley and Jose who came in at the weekend as well. To have guys like that standing on the sidelines watching is kind of a bit surreal.
When you have guys like this who have won tournaments all over the world and great players, to have them stand on the sidelines watching you is a bit strange. But it was is great week. I mean, the Ryder Cup, Darren's played three or four Ryder Cups.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Five, there you go. It's just such a special, special golf tournament. I mean, I loved it a couple years ago. I was on the losing team in Valhalla, but I loved every second of it. There's something a bit special about the Ryder Cup.
I think we, you know, both of us embrace it when we play on it. It's definitely something we get excited about and it's something I'm heavily into. To have the opportunity to be the 12th man out there and to win the winning point was a special moment in my career.
It's something I'll definitely cherish.

Q. (No microphone.)
DARREN CLARKE: Personally I liked it over three days. Obviously I didn't play. I was there on the merit side this time, but the three day thing -- I think over the four days maybe makes it a little bit easier for the captain because he hasn't got to leave anybody out; whereas the three day thing you've got to be a little bit more -- you know, put a little bit more thought into pairings and orders and things like that.
The three day things as opposed to four is totally different. I'm not quite sure I can say from what's going on. Obviously the financial rewards from the extra day makes a huge difference. It generates a lot more income in regards to the Ryder Cup, which is probably good for the European Tour.
But in terms of what I would like to see, I would like to see it stay at three days.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I probably feel the same way, I think the three-day format. It's a very intense week. We all -- it's such a sprint format. You get out there and you get into it. I love the three-day format. Obviously weather is a huge issue with it being pushed back because of the FedEx playoffs over here.
We saw what the U.K. weather can be like in October. Thankfully we were able to get that Monday afternoon and it ended up being a great tournament. But that Friday morning it was in danger of becoming a little bit of a farce. The weather was so bad. It was horrible out there. It was unfair.
Thankfully we got the job done. And, you know, four year's time we're back in Scotland in October. We know what that can be like. Obviously that's a major issue. But I think the three-day format is definitely the format to stick with.

Q. Graeme, a Tiger question. In year's past, we have seen Tiger so formidable closing tournaments, and everyone expects him to do something great at the end. Playing alongside him with what he's gone through the last year, were you battling any thoughts about what Tiger might do? Because he's still Tiger.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, that shot he hit into the 72nd hole was pretty Tiger-esque. I mean, he's the greatest player that's ever lived. You know, he's had a rough 12 months, but I think his game is very close being 100% back. He had a bad day on the greens on Sunday. Simple as that.
You don't get an opportunity from four shots back to take down a top player like that unless they don't putt well. He actually struck the ball well. He drove the ball very well. He kept it in play most of the weekend.
Like I say, the putter just got mega cold on Sunday under. You expect him to hit shots like he did on the 72nd hole. It took a couple miraculous putts from me to eventually beat him.
But, you know, he's certainly getting the game back. He looks mentally sharp. His short game is phenomenal. He's just a phenomenal player. I expect him to be back winning majors next year.

Q. How did your mentality change from going from last week to a week like this?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think it's nice to come to a week like this and actually relax and drink a couple beers in the evening. The format lends itself to having some fun out there. It's just a great way to end the year. We both played long seasons and we're both pretty tired and ready for some time off.
The Shark Shootout it's just a really fun format. It's my third year playing here, and I know Darren is gonna love the weekend. It's a fun format.
DARREN CLARKE: You know, like G-Mack's just said, it's all about having a bit of fun this week. Obviously we're trying to win the tournament. We wouldn't be here otherwise. But No. 1 is to win the tournament, and No. 2 is to have a bit of fun. If the case arises, we may just turn that around and we'll have more fun instead of winning the tournament. We'll see.

Q. Graeme, you mentioned having a little case of nerves against Tiger on Sunday. How did that compare with the final day of the Ryder Cup as far as nerves?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, the Ryder Cup is the most nervous I've ever been on a golf course, no doubt about it, you know, those last seven, eight holes when I realized that things were going to be tight. When all your teammates are kind of starting to flow back to watch you do it -- I mean, golf is a very individual sport. When you're out there, you're controlling your own destiny.
It's not very nice controlling the destiny of your 11 teammates as well, and your captain your vice captains and the whole of the European Tour really. The Ryder Cup was nerves times 100, you know.
Sunday afternoon against Tiger, yeah, I was a little nervous. When you're playing against the best player that's ever played, it's something a bit special and different about it. You get to the point where you want to be nervous because it means something to you and means you're in the mix.
It's uncomfortable, though. I don't think anyone enjoys it. It's not fun when you're under pressure. You want it, but when you actually get there it's not a lot of fun. It's uncomfortable.
But that's what it's all about really. It's great to succeed when you're feeling like that and uncomfortable. It's definitely something that -- I look back, and it seemed like fun when I look back. It was pretty cool to do it. When you're actually in the middle of it, it hurts a little bit.
DARREN CLARKE: If you don't want to put yourself in the position where you feel nervous, you're in the wrong job. That's the bottom line. That's the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, like Darren said earlier, it's been an incredible year for European golf. I mean, Louis is obviously not European, but he's a European Tour member. It's just been unbelievable. It's been a crazy year when you think about what we've achieved as European Tour players with Rory and Lee and guys winning over here on American soil.
Throwing three majors in there, throw in the Ryder Cup in there. You know, look at the world rankings with the word No. 1 player in there. It's just been a crazy year. It's just been a crazy year. I mean, feel great to be part of that and one of the reasons why the European Tour is so strong right now. It will continue hopefully.

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