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June 1, 2011

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good morning. Thanks for joining us. Maybe start us off talking about the Saab Wales Open and defending the title.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, excited to be back here of course a golf course which you could say was pretty kind to me last year, 2010. This is really where the year kick started. I guess I'm arriving here this year probably having a better season, ironically, than I was at this point last year. You know, probably three or four Top 10's, as opposed to maybe one or two at this point last year.
So this is certainly where my season got off and running. A great win here. I played probably some of the best golf I've ever played on the weekend here, 64-63 to win. Took a huge amount of confidence away from this tournament and obviously went strength-to-strength at Pebble Beach and won there. It was certainly the catalyst for 2010, and great to be back here.
Obviously The Ryder Cup was something very special, as well. Great to come into the clubhouse and see some great photos and some great memories of what was an amazing weekend, and you know, of course I'm excited to be back defending a title. A little bit of a practise round maybe for two weeks' time when I'll defend at Congressional. The timing is perfect, and you know, I'm certainly looking forward to this defence first and foremost.

Q. Do you feel any pressure defending?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I maybe did in the past. I think when you defend your first few titles, you probably do, you probably have that extra tension level in yourself, I think I've gone through that process a few times now and thankfully had the opportunity to go through the process a few times having won a few times. I think certainly now my mental attitude is I hand the trophy back first thing tomorrow morning, and it's a wide open field again.
You only defend your title until the Wednesday night really, and at that point then it's up for grabs. So it's not like you have -- it's not like you have a target on your back, come and beat me. Of course, it's just a great 12 months, being The Wales Open Champion, and I'll give the trophy back tomorrow morning.
And this is a golf course I know I can play well on. So just excited to try and win the title back, as opposed to defending it. It's not really mine for them to take away I suppose.
Yeah, I certainly felt pressure in the past but I'm feeling pretty good this week.

Q. When you've hit the heights that you have, is it now harder to get up for lesser events? I'm not saying this is a small event or something like that. But it's not a Major, it's not a Ryder Cup; so do you almost have to force yourself to get up for it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, there's no doubt that some golf tournaments create their own intensity level on the first tee on a Thursday morning. Perhaps others don't, but I think that's the art of scheduling. I guess one of the first things, one of the stipulations I set out when I'm setting my schedule out is I want to be up for every golf tournament I play in. I don't ever want to be at an event saying: I can't really get up for this; I don't really feel it this week; what am I doing here. You never want to ask yourself the question, what am I doing here this week.
It's important; every golf tournament, every golf tournament counts in the World Rankings, it's a divisor. It's important that you turn up every week wanting to play. Thankfully I have a great schedule. Certainly haven't experienced any of that kind of stuff this year so far, and I'm certainly not going to experience that this week. I'm excited to be back here at the Celtic Manor and I'll be right up for it tomorrow morning.
Like I say, that certainly is a trap you never want to fall into, and it's happened in the past. It's very difficult to play, say, the week after The Ryder Cup. If you play golf on adrenaline all of a sudden, adrenaline is gone from your system. You do experience that sort of lack of intensity, but you know I certainly don't think I'm going to experience that this week, but it can be a problem.

Q. I was going to say, you more or less touched on it, in the past, you haven't always got your schedule right; but you're better at it now.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, scheduling is a learning process. We all make mistakes and I think that any -- well, idiots are the ones that repeat the mistakes, so I try not to repeat mistakes as much as I can, and of course, scheduling is very personal. Every player likes little blocks of time off; some guys like to play the week before Majors, some guys don't like to play the week before Majors.
It's nice to be in the position to be as far up in the World Rankings as I am to where I know where I'm going to be playing week-in, week-out. I have opportunities; I have to turn down events, and scheduling is an art that has to be very personal, like I say. Like I said to Mark, you have to be turning up every week wanting to play golf and fit and healthy, and up for it. So that's it the key to scheduling.

Q. You called yourself an adopted Welshman last night in the gala dinner.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Was I drunk? (Laughing).

Q. But you've obviously played at some of the great courses around the world. How do you rank this one in your memories and your thoughts?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, the adopted Welshman thing, I did live here for a couple of years, when I was in a relationship with a young lady in these parts, who I still keep in touch with. I generally roll across to where I used to live for a bit of food at one of my local favourite restaurants with the family and stuff.
Of course I'm very biased towards this golf course now, nowadays. The experiences I had here in 2010 will be great memories that I'll cherish forever. So I'm certainly looking forward to getting on the golf course today and getting out there and playing the course that was so good to me last year.
So of course, I've played The Wales Open nearly every year in my career, and I'm looking forward to getting back into some of the memories. We recreated the putt on 16 the other day which was pretty fun. As we walk around today, I'm sure myself and my caddie will reminisce a little bit as to some of the feelings and some of the shots and some of the great experiences we had on that golf course, both in June and the first week in October. So it's a special place for me, always will be.
The video they showed at the gala dinner last night, it's the second time I've seen that video, and still makes me feel pretty emotional when I watch it. It's a great video. Like I said last night, there's so much emphasis on the guy that holds the winning putt. There's so many shots hits that week. It just boils down to that one match, yeah, but without the great team and great shots everyone hit that week, it's amazing the quality of golf at The Ryder Cup. It was just great to get that opportunity and it will be something I'll remember forever.

Q. What's more demanding or what's more tiring, the mental side or the physical side, and what steps do you take to combat them?
GRAEME McDOWELL: The mental and physical side of what, playing tournament golf?

Q. The last year where you've put all this expectation on yourself, and obviously the public expectation.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Probably more mentally demanding I think. There's so much going on inside your brain that you don't really acknowledge I suppose. I've come out this season trying not to put expectation on myself, but subconsciously it's in there. I'm sure I know that I'm a different player from the point of view of my ranking and my status within the game.
You're always subconsciously trying to back up what you've done and trying to prove yourself all the time. All of the above I suppose, and the demands on your time and having to I suppose keep talking about it and keep remembering it. These are great memories I never want to forget, but sometimes it's very hard to focus on what it is you're trying to do that week.
You maybe get pulled away from your focus and your preparation, and you know as soon as I walk out of here today, I'll be trying to switch back on to the Wales Open, 2011. We're not in 2010 anymore and I'm really trying to focus myself and get ready. I've gone through a lot of processes this year. It's been mostly mentally demanding I think.
Physically demanding? Talking about myself and what happened last year, that's not really too physically demanding thank goodness, but it's been tough. It's been a great learning experience and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Yeah, I've had a frustrating six weeks. Really, sort of the six, seven eight months after the U.S. Open were incredible; the way I played at the end of 2010 was very satisfying, considering what I had gone through.
This year has been a little bit different. It's been tougher. I just haven't swung the club well to be honest with you, and it's very tough to be positive and upbeat and not frustrated when you're not playing your best. So I feel like it's been a great three weeks. The last three weeks my ball-striking has been back to nearly its best and I'm really excited about the summer.
As I said to the boys there on Monday, getting this week out of the way and sort of going to Congressional and doing the whole defending my U.S. Open title, I think once that's out of the way, whatever happens at Congressional, it will be sort of a little bit of a mental weight lifted off my shoulders. And hopefully I'll be the U.S. Open Champion going forward again. But certainly I'll be able to put the last 12 months behind me and learn from them and move on and get on with the rest of my career hopefully.

Q. Despite all the pressures and the demands made on and you people wanting to talk to you all the time, you still manage to keep a smile on your face and you've never blown people away to get away from them. How is that? Is that just your personality generally?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Otters might have a comeback on that one, do you, Otters? I only talk to nice guys, Otters, you know.
I see that's just part of the job for me. It's as much as a part of the job as going out there and trying to play my best. I understand that I have a lot of commitments and things that I don't -- I don't want to fall out with Gibbo, either; he gets a little upset.
Like I say, it's been a great experience. I wouldn't change it for the world. Yeah, it's been tough at times and yeah, it's going to be taking the focus off my golf at times, but I certainly don't want to hand back my silverware that I've got for what I did at Pebble last year, and everything that's gone with it.
You know, 65, 75, 85, of course, life goes on, and I don't mind talking about it. I'd prefer talking about 65s than I do 75s, but I certainly try to honour my commitments as much off the course as I do on the course. So I hope that never changes, and you know I've got plenty of people around me to give me a good clip around the ear if that ever does change. Hopefully I can continue that.

Q. New Orleans you were talking about your game being in a little bit of disarray and you came back at THE PLAYERS Championship and dominated a huge event for three days and were skipping and smiling until the back nine; and you go to Wentworth last week and looked a bit frustrated on the course and missed the cut. So there's a little bit of inconsistency. Wondering how you account for that, and if in your mind you're much more buoyant than you were after New Orleans.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I certainly agree with your assessment, the way I played at THE PLAYERS Championship, I actually struck the ball beautifully, and at Finca Cortesin, the Volvo World Match Play.
Last week at Wentworth was particularly frustrating because the part of the game that let me down is the part that very rarely let's me down, is my putting.
When you're striking the ball well and giving yourself an opportunity to score and you can't do it on the greens, that's the most frustrating way to play golf. You ask any pro on the range, the most frustrating thing is not being able to hole putts, and that's probably why I looked so frustrated. The BMW PGA Championship is a tournament where I wanted to play and compete and do well, and I felt like I got my head around the golf course and I couldn't get to grips with the greens; they broke my heart a little bit. I was extremely frustrated, I was.
I know I'm a great putter and I know I can hold putts. It feels good to be back on some greens that I like the look of this week. The Wentworth greens, they are still just brand new. They take a little bit of time to settle down. You could still sort of nearly see the patches of turf on them that just haven't bedded in yet. They kept the greens a little slower because of the wind conditions Thursday, Friday, and I just putted awful and that drove me insane. That's golf.
I'm still hitting the ball very, very well, and you know, I've still got a lot of work to do. My chipping and pitching is still an area that I'm sort of working very hard on, but I'm upbeat. I'm upbeat about the way I feel. It's my fourth week in a row, but I feel very good. I've got a week off next week to prepare for the U.S. Open, a couple weeks off after that to prepare for a very busy July and August which I'm excited about. So I'm feeling good about my game, I really am.

Q. You said last night that all of the memories started coming flooding back when you drove here at the start of the week. Wonder, was it Ryder Cup memories mostly or Wales Open or a mixture of both? What in particular?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Probably a mixture of both, but I mean, I would say it's got to be 90 per cent Ryder Cup stuff. I did drive over here Monday morning and it was raining in the valley and it did look awfully familiar (laughter).
But yeah, it was just missing 40,000 people and a huge tented village and all the grandstands and all that amazing stuff that goes with The Ryder Cup. Yeah, I did a little Ryder Cup piece there in The European Team room yesterday morning, as well, and just being back in there was kind of cool.
Like I say, all of the memorabilia, all of the stuff on the walls in there, I just remember being in the locker room -- we have got the same lockers, with our name tags on them from the Ryder Cup and just some of the memories from that week are pretty great. It's great to be back at the scene of the crime, if you like, and like I say, if nothing else, I'll certainly garner some great thoughts and inspirations from this week and hopefully -- I'm looking forward to going on the course today, and like I say reliving some of the moments with my caddie and just talking about some good times that we had on the course.

Q. Have you got any piece of memorabilia yourself that you kept from that week that means anything?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I've got my golf bag, of course. My golf shoes probably went in the bin, they were covered in mud to be honest. I'm not really -- I always like -- I've got a signed flag by all the team and my money clip, and a great photo, like a team photo. I always get those framed up. Stuff like that means a lot to me. Like I say, my golf bag and stuff. That's about it really. Got some great stuff, some clothes and some nice stuff that my brothers and my dad steals off me. They get some nice memorabilia, too.

Q. Sorry to have to go back, I had to wait my turn, you say that this tournament was your catalyst, and kick started everything, led to the U.S. Open; must have been something in your game that was a catalyst, as well. Can you explain exactly what changed, please?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I went through a very similar to says to what I've gone through this year. I remember working with Pete at Wentworth last year, and I was frustrated. I was questioning what I was doing with Pete. I remember going back to basics with the golf swing with him at Wentworth, and something clicked a little bit of a feeling. I can't remember what it was.
This game, swing thoughts come and go, and I'm probably a guy who plays with two or three swing thoughts in his head at all times really, and they can change from week-to-week. But you generally want to be on the same theme all the time, the same path, and last year I got myself on a good path about this time last year as far as where I wanted to go in my golf swing, long term.
And we've gone through that same process a bit this year where we have kind of technically got a bit confused, back to the basics and built it back up again and got some good thoughts from there. I remember going to Madrid -- I want to say the schedule, last year, it was at Wentworth, Madrid, Wales. I went to Madrid and played good and finished third or fourth there when Luke won, and felt like I turned the corner, a little bit like I've been the last few weeks and came here. Had a mediocre two rounds but I remember working very hard on the range that week and just something clicked.
And like I say the way I struck the golf ball Saturday, Sunday, was as good a stretch of golf as I've maybe ever played, tee-to-green, putting, I was just on top of my golf swing. So I'm feeling that way again.
It's weird the way players play well at certain times of the year. I think if you look historically, guys go through little -- I would say if you graphed out results, it would look vaguely similar in seasons. And I mean, I certainly have that going a little bit at the start of the season, and I feel like I'm starting to do that a little bit now and starting to feel like I'm playing a little bit better and looking forward to the summer.

Q. You're a big football fan, and another adopted Northern Irishman, Brendan Rodgers, won a promotion to Premier League; are you looking to see Northern Ireland growing and doing well in the Premier League?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's a pretty small little country up there and it's always great to see sporting successes. Yeah, it's going to be great. Away games in Swansea, that should be quite unique. But that's going to be great, obviously great for him. Don't know a huge amount about him to be honest, but I would say we'll be finding out soon.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Good luck this week with your defence.

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