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May 25, 2011

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good morning, many thanks for joining us at the BMW, a good night last night at the awards dinner.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was a great night. Put on a good show. A lot to celebrate obviously from the last 12 months and nice to be a part of that. It was a great scene.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: And a lot to celebrate for you personally.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's been a great 12 months, and it's hard to believe at this time last year it was just all about to happen for me.
But no, it was a great evening and obviously the Seve tributes and all of The Ryder Cup stuff, there's a lot of emotions flying around last night. So the Tour dinner is always a special occasion, but really a great night. It was very nice to be a big part of it last night. So you know, it was a fun night and a great celebration of The European Tour for the last 12 months.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: And give us your thoughts on the week ahead before we go into some questions.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Wentworth, not a golf course I've performed as well as I'd like to in the past, but the changes certainly fit my eye. Obviously the slight tweaks since last year, he's flattened the 8th green, which needed to happen; the 18th is a slightly more inviting target. I think a lot more guys will go for it this year. It's a bigger target, flatter, obviously lowered it a little bit.
And the bunkers are now a decent leave. Last year I think one of the biggest problems is the bunkers were not inviting, they were too deep, especially the one to the back right of the green was not an inviting target at all. You hit it in there and you were doing well to make par from there. This year the bunkers are a good lead. Hopefully you'll make birdie from those traps.
15 is a big improvement, as well. He's opened up the left side of the fairway which is now, it's letting you be a bit more aggressive off the tee, and the trap is now 330 yards on the left wing. So you can pretty much hit driver, maybe 3-wood depending on the wind. So definitely the tweaks from last year are a huge improvement.
Still difficult when you're on the golf course, you're going into greens, you're still picturing the old greens a little bit, but the changes, I think, suited my game last year. And, you know, I played the golf course on Monday in the Seve day, and obviously in a strong wind which is forecast again for the weekend.
The good thing about this golf course is it remains playable in a strong wind because it is among the trees and you get a little bit of shelter out there. So it's not unplayable in a breeze, but obviously some strong winds forecast tomorrow. It will be quite the test. But you know, the golf course is in great shape as always and got a great field here and should be an exciting weekend.

Q. Just going on from what you've said, because of the trees, it makes club selection very, very tough; is it very important to have a good, reliable man on the bag?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. I mean, I think when you play in the wind in the trees, two or three factors. You've got your wind map where the wind should be, but it very much funnels up around the trees and it can whip in around corners and sometimes you've just got to play by what you feel.
So obviously having a great caddie on the bag, somebody who can really stay on top of where the wind should be can help you analyse: Is that where the wind is, is it funneling, should it be there, is it going to play like that. There's certain golf courses in the world that are extremely difficult to play in the wind, Valderrama comes to mind, as well; this golf course, for sure.
So there's no doubt club selection, flight control, and just trying to pick where this wind is going to be is going to be difficult.

Q. Given the success that you've had and other European Tour players have had at major level in the States of the World Rankings such as they are at the moment, and the fact that all of those guys we're talking about are here, do you sense that this event has been ramped up like never before.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think the feeling last night in the room at the player's awards there, no doubt The European Tour is very excited about the state of the game within our tour.
This is our Flagship Event, and we've got a great field together here. Everyone is excited. Yeah, The European Tour has been through a tough three or four years; the financial crisis has hit sponsors; it's hit everyone.
You know, we now have a strong a product as we've ever had as far as the players playing here on The European Tour, and the sponsors, like BMW and Volvo and Barclays and the big sponsors that have supported this tour, I mean, I think we are in a position to hopefully go out and start to strengthen this tour back up again; bring the events back, the Europeans Opens, the Irish Opens, the Spanish Open, the English Open, the events in Germany, the big strong European events we've lost in the last few years we need back.
We are in such a strong position now. And the guys are supporting the Tour, as well. The guys see that. And obviously there's a lot of big names have sort of nailed their colours to the mast as far as staying here on The European Tour like and not defecting like some of us to the PGA Tour. We do remain very supportive of this tour and I think we are all in a position to do what we can to make sure we get the big events back. So we are in a great position hopefully.

Q. Martin Kaymer said yesterday that European success was triggered by Pádraig's win in the Majors. Would you agree with that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Absolutely. He made a nice little speech last night when he picked up the Harry Vardon, he said he had to thank Pádraig Harrington for that. As the strength in European Tour, you have to look back to Pádraig maybe being the catalyst for that. There's no doubt that when you see your friends, your colleagues, guys you play with week-in, week-out, going and doing something like he did, winning three Majors in the space of five, you know, it gives us all the belief to go and do it.
There's no doubt that Charl winning the Masters had to be in some shape or form a result of Louis winning the Open. Rory nearly winning the Masters I'm sure had a huge amounts to do with me winning the U.S. Open. Subconsciously these guys get the belief of seeing their colleagues and friends doing it.
There's no doubt, Pádraig, he was the man that opened the floodgates, if you like, for what's happened in the last three or four years, and hopefully what's going to continue to happen. And you know, we are very strong and guys are winning events all over the world now, especially the big events, the WGCs and Majors and that's what it's all about, so hopefully it continues.

Q. Ollie was in here on Monday talking about Seve Trophy and saying how he hopes that all of the European heavyweights play in it obviously this year; the fact that it's the same time as the FedEx, is that realistic?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it is obviously a very unfortunate clash in dates. If I'm not in The Tour Championship, I'll definitely be supporting the event.
Obviously Poulter, Rose, there's a few notables. But I think 75 per cent of the heavyweights will be available and hopefully the Seve Trophy will gain a bit of momentum. It's unfortunate circumstances that isn't going to give it the opportunity to gain momentum but hopefully it will.
I think Seve's legacy, he's left an amazing legacy here on The European Tour. And you know, I know the guys really want to support that, and you know, Ollie, we have so much respect for Ollie. I've gotten to know him a bit over the last few years through Ryder Cups and he's just an amazing person. Every time he speaks, half the room, there's hardly a dry eye around. He's such an emotional guy especially when he starts talking about Seve.
I certainly want to be part of that Ryder Cup Team when he's the captain. It's going to be amazing. But hopefully the guys will get behind the Seve Trophy and like I say, if I'm available, I'll definitely be supporting it.

Q. There will be a stink if people are being seen to play for dollars in America where there's this emotional pull to be back here.
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. It's tough. I guess the reason why I joined the PGA Tour this year was because I wanted to play the FedEx Playoffs. If I get to The Tour Championship it's certainly going to be a serious dilemma, but I guess we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
I know that guys that are available will certainly want to get behind it, and it's got the chance to be really, really a great event and hopefully solidify as a permanent fixture and something that guys want to play in. Hopefully that will work out.

Q. There was a lot of building suspense last night as David Livingston said, 'Here we have Colin and the rest of the team,' and nobody came for three times. Where were you all?
GRAEME McDOWELL: One of our team members got stuck in a little bit of traffic coming out of London. He's staying in the middle of London this week and caught some traffic and was running a little behind schedule. So I think we were kept in the back until he arrived.

Q. So did you give Rory hell for that? (Laughter).
GRAEME McDOWELL: I was going to say he will remain anonymous but he's got quite a curly haircut -- well, it's not so curly anymore. But he got a little bit of stick for that for sure. He kept the boys all waiting in the back. I think it made for a little bit of a stage management error on David Livingston's part but apart from that, it was a great night.

Q. I assume you have a ticket for Saturday night?

Q. What are the logistics if you're in the last group?
GRAEME McDOWELL: What time is kickoff, 8.00? Quarter to 8.00? I'm hoping I'll make it. If I'm last off, that would be a good problem to have. But obviously very excited about the game. I mean, there's a bit of a buzz amongst the lads of who has tickets and who doesn't have tickets. It's proven to be difficult but thankfully I have a super agent to gets me these things. I'm looking forward to it. I'm taking my dad and brother and I have a few friends going. So it should be a great night.

Q. What do you attribute this huge surge of performance amongst the Irish players in recent years?
GRAEME McDOWELL: What do I attribute that? Just talent.

Q. Camaraderie? You have more than one of you.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure, Irish golf has been very strong and it's great to be part of that. You've just got to attribute that to great golf clubs who embrace junior golf and good coaching systems, and really just systems that just nurture the talent and bring them through, and great golf courses.

Q. And we also have great youngsters coming up now, very young, and we seem to be focusing more and more on junior golf as well, don't we.
GRAEME McDOWELL: We have great golf clubs and it's the same around the U.K. and Ireland in general. We have lots of great golf clubs who nurture junior golf and encourage kids to play. That's the future of the game.

Q. And then of course the juniors have you and Rory for inspiration.
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. Again I would say it's the Harrington effect.

Q. The best in Europe, golf in Ireland is, wow!
GRAEME McDOWELL: Exactly. Yeah, go, Irish. Thanks, Anne.

Q. Who else aside from you and Rory are going? Are any of the Spaniards going?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I spoke to Pablo Larrazábal yesterday, I guess he's a big Barcelona guy. It's such a good game for the neutral, as well. I suppose there will be a lot of guys going. I really haven't had a chance to see everyone this week, but there will be some good crack I would say.

Q. Has anyone not been able to get a ticket?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not that I know of. I mean, I guess we are very lucky in that we are all pretty well connected and MasterCards and some good sponsors around that we can always tap up for tickets when we need them, so we are pretty lucky in that we get to meet some great people who look after us for tickets. None that I know of. I guess they will come out of the woodwork this week. Obviously SKY Sports hooked me up with a couple of tickets, as well. Pretty lucky we know some people.

Q. Do you pay for any of them?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not in cash. (Laughter) I'm sure I'll play in the future. (Laughter).

Q. If we give your game at Pebble Beach last year a ten out of ten, where would you place it now, where would you have placed it at New Orleans and how close are you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Pebble Beach was -- Wales was probably a ten out of ten ball-striking last year. Probably as good as I've ever played. Pebble was probably a nine and a half out of ten. It was kind of that golf course that didn't allow you to ball-strike it. You had to just control it and be conservative. Where I'm at right now, New Orleans was about a .5 out of ten.
I'm back to playing seven or eight out of ten right now. I'm very happy with my game. The Players Championship, 3 1/2 rounds, I played great golf there.
Last week at the Volvo World Match Play I was very happy the way I struck the golf ball. I'm very excited about this week. But you know when you get to this point, you've got to stay patient, the same way when you're frustrated with your game, you have to stay patient. When it's simmering, you have to stay patient, as well. I'm really, really excited about this week. I get to defend in Wales next week which will be great practise for me for Congressional.
Got a great summer ahead. When I won in Wales last year, I said I hope I can have a big summer and I feel I can have a big summer, and that's where at I'm right now. Really happy with the way my game has turned the corner and I just have to stay patient right now.

Q. What brought to you that point? What brought your game to that point in New Orleans? What have you learned from that? And isn't it remarkable how fast you can lose confidence after such a successful year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think a bit of complacency with my golf swing took me to that point in New Orleans. I think I took my eye off the ball as to the good structures and the good techniques that had got me to the way I was swinging the club at the end of 2010.
The game, certain departments of the game become easy and you maybe start to focus on other areas of your game, and you take your eye off the ball with the good things you've done.
So I guess Pete and I sat down a few weeks ago and we talked about getting some structure back into my practise, some long term thoughts to go with, and you know what, have I learned from that? I've learned that obviously nothing new, but things that you forget, how fickle the game is, how quickly it can turn around and how patient you've got to stay.
Like I said to Derek, there, how patient you have to stay, A, when you're playing great, and B, how patient you've got to stay when you're frustrated. They are always difficult. And I guess also I learned, you've got to enjoy the good times because this game can be very frustrating, as well. Certainly I always try to enjoy my victories, celebrate them as much as I can and enjoy, because you can get some rough days as well.

Q. How important was it learning more about time management and sort of how to spread yourself around more evenly, and has your physical training been affected by all of the commitments? I noticed you said on the last day at Sawgrass you ran out of steam.
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt that I have to approach my tournament weeks a little differently. You know, for example, I stayed away from the golf course nearly entirely yesterday. A week like Wentworth, there's just so much going on and so many people pulling you in five, six different ways.
I've had to approach my practise a little bit differently and try and sort of get out there on the golf course early and just try and stay away from the sort of hustle and bustle of it all. You know, back maybe a few years ago when I was able to slip under the radar and do my own thing -- it doesn't really work that way anymore.
I've definitely had to adjust my priorities and time management at tournaments and try and really get as much stuff out of the way early in the week as I can so that I can then free myself up. Because I'm a meticulous preparer. I like to do a lot of things before Thursday morning. I like to tick a lot of boxes in regards to my preparation and my game, the course, the course strategies, and just general just physically resting up for the week.
So there's been two or three examples in the last sort of four or five months where I have not felt like I've got to the first tee on Thursday ready to go and I can't really forgive myself for that. I'm the kind of guy that if I feel 100 per cent prepared then I can accept whatever happens, good or bad.
But if you don't feel well enough prepared, you feel like you've spent the last two or three days running around like an idiot and you don't play well, then you can't really accept that. Time management has been a big key, and you know, we have really tried to strip it all out and do the minimum really as far as off-course commitments, because you can do a lot of things and I've really had to try and minimise that and stick to what I do, and that's play golf. I don't really want to get too distracted by the other stuff.

Q. You mentioned a little stick to Rory last night, but was there any after last week, because on TV it looked pretty muted?
GRAEME McDOWELL: It was definitely a pretty frosty 18 holes or 16 holes, whatever it was. It had to be that way, you know, because we are very good friends, and I guess there's two degrees, you can really spend the day having a crack with him and enjoying it between shots, and sort of shooting the breeze, if you like. But the other end of the spectrum was just completely, I think he went with the tactic of not engaging in any conversation, and I had that tactic as well, and it ended up being a reasonably frosty 16 holes. But it had to be that way because we both had to focus on our games and trying to beat each other.
Afterwards, we ended up flying home together, his he was supposed to fly home at four o'clock. His plane had a technical fault so he had to sit in the airport and wait for a new one coming it, and meantime I was out coming having been beat, and by the time I got to the airport we ended up sharing the flight home, had a couple of cold beers and talked about the round.
That's golf. That's the great thing about this sport, you can go on to the golf course have a great tussle and really be competitive and have a beer about it and laugh about it afterwards. It's one of the great things about this sport.

Q. Were surprised by some of the putts he asked you to make and did he say sorry afterwards?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No. I'm never surprised in match play. It's a good tactic sometimes. You can wind your opponent up, if he's that way inclined and I've seen him hole enough to maybe me a couple of them, but no problems at all. I've never any problems getting a marker out of any pockets in match play, and, in fact, I always like to mark the ball before a guy can say gimmie it sometimes, to say, you know what if you want me to knock it in, I'll knock it in for you. It was a great game of golf. Maybe he didn't hole the putts he would have liked to held but I played pretty well and ended up using all my putts up on Saturday morning. Ran out on Saturday afternoon.

Q. What was the shortest you asked him?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, it's difficult, you don't really play enough match play there's nothing worse than trying to eye a putt up and going, am I being stingy there, am I being tight. Sometimes I asked my caddie, "Should I have asked him that?"
They always say inside the leather. Two feet is probably the threshold point where you're probably likely, or won't I -- it depends on scenario as well. Sometimes you want to make a guy win a hole. Sometimes you want to make a guy feel like he's the one that scrambles for the half maybe if you've been out of position and got it up-and-down and he has to putt for the hole and he drills it two feet by. Sometimes I like to make him brush that in to make him feel that he's the one scrambling for the halve. I don't really remember asking him too many short ones.

Q. You said the night before in practise, he beats the crap out of you and he expects to win; that's gamesmanship -- it's not gamesmanship but in the nicest sense of the way you're saying well he thinks he's going to beat me and he's complacent. Did you think he was complacent?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I certainly don't think he was complacent. Yeah, of course, there was a bit of crack in that. I know Rory reads most of the media so I was maybe planting a few seeds for him to read there (laughter) as do I. But none of us were complacent.
Like I say the game was -- had a frosty edge to it, which it needed. It was a great game and Rory didn't look 100 per cent on his game. He hit the ball pretty well and didn't make a lot of putts. I played particularly well, which I knew I had to do to beat him.
So it's nice to get one up on him regards competitive matches and like I said afterwards, he's going to win a lot of events in the next ten to 15, 20 years and I want to sort of be there on a Sunday afternoon sometime to give him a bit of a run for his money perhaps. Nice to get one up.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks for joining us.

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