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May 13, 2011

Graeme McDowell


\ JOHN BUSH: Graeme McDowell joins us here in the interview room after a 3-under par 69, 8-under par for the tournament. If we can get your opening comments on your round.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, up-and-down day a little bit. Well, didn't play great the first four or five holes. Hung tough with some good par saves. And then kind of got things going a little bit, made some good swings, left a couple of putts out there around the turn, but made the turn 2-under, made a great putt on 10 and birdied 11. And then hit a little bit of a loose tee shot on 12, hit a tree under a bush, chipped it out, chunked it from about 60 yards into the front bunker, made double. It was beautiful.
And really swung the club great coming in. A clumsy three-putt on 14, another clumsy three-putt on 17, but apart from that I was really happy the way I played coming in.
I felt like the greens were a foot quicker today, and I just didn't really adapt well to that speed change. But apart from that I can't complain. I'd have taken 69 going out there.
JOHN BUSH: We talked outside about your lack of patience the last weeks. Touch on that for us.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously coming off the back of a great run of form for 10 months where it felt like everything was going my way, and the game felt very easy. You know, took that four weeks off after Abu Dhabi and really came back, even the Honda -- where I started the World Match Play, didn't strike the ball particularly well at the World Match Play. The Honda I played very averagely; I had a good round to back into a fourth or fifth or whatever I finished there.
And then since then I've been playing awful. Especially New Orleans I probably hit rock bottom. I couldn't hit the golf ball any worse than I hit it there. I had a really good resetting session there last weekend with Pete, my coach, and we really went back to basics with the golf swing and found some good thoughts to going forward with. Rather than the way I've been playing this season where I feel like I'm looking for a new thought every day, I'm going out there with a different swing thought, changing my swing thought mid round. I haven't really had much structure, much direction, and that's why I did well last year. I had a really consistent putter. I knew what I was trying to do.
Really trying to get that back this year, and really feel like I turned the corner last week. Yeah, it's been frustrating, and I certainly have not been very patient. But this game will do that to you.

Q. Yesterday Nick had a 64 with a double, you had a double today and came back from that, David Toms had a couple of bogeys. Does this course force you to really sharpen your concentration and forget about a bad swing maybe quicker than other places just because anything could happen if you don't get your mind back?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I just think that's the nature of this golf course. It's not the longest in the world, so if you can position your ball well off the tee, it gives you a lot of chances.
But there are struggles out there. There's water all over the place; a couple of bad swings and you can make a double or a bogey or worse. But you've really just got to shake it off because you can pretty much birdie any hole on the golf course. It's really not -- if you're controlling your ball, it's not the toughest golf course in the world at all. But there are holes out there that can bite you.
Obviously it was nice and benign this morning compared to what it was yesterday afternoon, and depending on where they put the pins, you really can take advantage of some of the holes on this golf course. 64 with a double is the kind of score you can do around here if you can really get things going, and like I say, it just takes one slightly off swing and you can make a number.

Q. Did you say you felt the greens were a foot faster today?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, a foot to two feet, something like that.

Q. Do you attribute some of the lower scoring possibly to the improvement in the course conditioning this year versus maybe last year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think certainly last year they struggled with the growth in the fairways a bit. There's quite a lot of grain on these fairways, so I mean, it's very tough; to get that real good nip off the turf around the greens is quite tricky. It's tricky to pitch just because of the way the turf is, and it was particularly bad last year because there was no real bottom to the turf. This year the turf is much, much nicer, and the greens are running pretty good. Yeah, the course conditions are definitely a couple shots easier this year than they were last year.

Q. Can you talk about some of the things that you and Pete addressed last weekend, and was that at Nona where you did it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah. It was really -- I knew I had the golf club shut. It was the way I was trying to open it up. If you like I was trying to rotate my forearm basically at the top of my backswing, the back of my right hand was facing to my right, and we worked on really the exact opposite, so I'm really trying to feel like my right palm is facing to the right now. So it was the way I was trying to perceive the loft going onto the club was the wrong way because I was rotating and then you have to shut that back down again, so that's kind of my thoughts on what it was. It's very technical, but basically I had my right hand in 180 degrees wrong position, so I'm really trying to feel like my palm goes out now. So my golf swing probably still looks the same to the eye, but it feels very different, and my ball flight has changed dramatically.

Q. Pete was saying out on the course that you were working on giving you a better understanding of your swing on the course so that if things went wrong you'd be able to fix it up?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Exactly. That's what I said to Pete last Friday. I said, I can't self-fix this year. Last year when he wasn't around I had my basic drills I could go back to, and this year I must have had 30 different swing thoughts. They're all different ways of doing the same thing, but some of them can be wrong. As I say, that's a perception of mine that's actually wrong.
We talked about really going back to the basics. If it breaks down, you go back to these little drills, these little moves, and that's what I had last year. I had great structure in my practice. Every time I went to the practice ground I knew I was working on my left-hand drills, my right-hand drills, I knew what I was trying to achieve, and this year has been very wishy-washy. That's what we started doing again. We know what we're trying to achieve now; we have some drills for the long-term. Rather than trying to get your swing playable that week, we're looking at the long-term, so it was good.

Q. This time last year you were trying to establish yourself in the top 50 and you were 50 this week last year. Is there more pressure at No. 5 in that you feel in your own mind you want to justify to yourself you're worthy of that ranking?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I've sort of been there this year with the expectations and the pressure and the frustration and all that stuff, and I feel like I've experienced everything there is to experience as a top player in the world this year. I've had the good finishes, I've had the missed cuts, I've had the 80 at Bay Hill, so I've kind of went through the wringer a little bit.
To be honest with you, I'm really going into this weekend with no expectations because I came here with a new swing if you like. It's a small variation on the old one, but I was really here just trying to get some confidence, trying to make some good swings, and I'm just so happy the way I've played the last couple days. To be honest with you I feel under less pressure than I did probably this time last year.
The World Rankings are -- they're very nice. I'd love to be the No. 1 player in the world at some point, I really would. But at the end of the day it makes no difference out there this weekend what number in the world a guy is I'm playing with. If he shoots 66 I've got to go try and shoot 65. I feel good. I have to say, my mind feels a hell of a lot more clear than it's been. There's no doubt I've been putting myself under some pressure this year, but I've made some mistakes and I'm ready to start being a little bit more positive again.

Q. You're used to the heat now I guess because you went to college in Birmingham. How much of a factor is that for you on this surface, and do you know anybody there that's affected by the tornadoes?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'm probably used to the heat because I played plenty of golf in Singapore and Malaysia and all those good things. To be honest with you, I didn't spend much time in the Alabama summers. But I certainly learned how to play golf in the heat. It was something that used to bother me five, maybe ten years ago. I used to get pretty bad headaches from dehydration, but I've got the hang of that a little bit now.
Yeah, I mean, the tornado went through a part of Birmingham we used to play a lot of golf in. I know some people in that area. But thankfully no one I know had anyone hurt or obviously lost anybody. So it was pretty bad, of course. It was the Tuesday night of New Orleans, and I was in contact with -- actually my college coach was with me in New Orleans that Wednesday, so at least I knew he was okay.

Q. Just going back to sort of why you think you fell out of that structure in just the last ten months, were you sort of unprepared for that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, why did I fall out of the structure? Because things felt too easy, and I think sometimes you forget the reasons why you're there. You forget the reasons, the things you worked on to get you to the point in your golf swing where it feels easy, so you take your eye off certain departments of your game. I'm not trying to say I haven't been working hard this year. No, I've been working very hard this year, but I've been working on the wrong things. I've had zero structure in my practice. I didn't really know what I was trying to achieve to be honest with you. I've spent the last six weeks beating more golf balls maybe than I've ever hit, just searching, searching for something, and I've really not been able to find it.
Like I say, took my eye off the ball as to why I was swinging it as well as I was last year, so getting back to understanding why you hit certain shots and getting back to understanding what I'm trying to achieve in my game long-term. I guess that's where the structure comes in.

Q. It must be nice for you to be in contention this weekend after the period you've just been through and having sort of had that uncertainty and lacking confidence and direction. Good memories from last year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. I said to my caddie yesterday, I said, I miss being in contention. I miss the pressure. Let's try and get ourselves in the mix this weekend. Yeah, I mean, you go through a spell like I've just gone through, you know, where I just couldn't piece anything together, you have crazy thoughts like you know, will I ever win again, will I ever be in contention again? Am I done? Am I finished? It's just the craziness of this sport; you never really know what's around the corner. There's no doubt my technique has been off the mark the last four or five weeks, and I really -- sports psychologists say don't wait for the golf ball to make you happy; try and go out there and be happy. But the way my golf ball has been flying, it's been pretty tough to be happy. Sometimes you can be as positive and upbeat as you like on the golf course; if you can't hit it, there's no amount of positive thinking that can get you around the golf course.
So I realize my technique has been the biggest problem. I really have been swinging it badly. It feels good to go out there this week and make some swings, see the shots, execute them, and it gives me confidence.

Q. Did you really think, am I done? Did you actually think that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't think I gave that thought any seriousness, but it flashes through your mind. I think everything flashes through my mind. I sacked everyone, rehired them, probably sacked them again. When you're out there for five and a half hours and having a rough day, it's amazing all the time you do have to think about stuff and self-reflect. Like I said, I've got a great team of people around me who keep me positive and they've helped me try to stay patient. It's tough, though.
That's why we love this game. It's why we love it, it's why we hate it, and it's why it keeps us coming back for more. But it feels good. It feels really good this week. I was worked as hard as I have the last five or six days on this slightly new version of my swing, and it feels good to be going out there and executing shots under pressure and looking forward to being in the mix this weekend. Like I say, if nothing else happens this week, I'll be taking some positives away from here and into a great schedule this summer.
JOHN BUSH: We appreciate your time. Play well this weekend.

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