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July 6, 2011

Graeme McDowell


SCOTT CROCKETT: Many thanks, as always, for joining us. Welcome to Castle Stuart and welcome to The Barclays Scottish Open, a tournament you love well, being a former champion. Give us your thoughts being back at not only the tournament but a new venue.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Obviously great to be back here, Scottish Open, an event I always play. Barclays put a great event on and it's one I like to support. Obviously the new venue is great for many reasons. Of course we miss Loch Lomond. It was a fantastic venue, great golf tournament, and you know, just to be here at a links golf course the week before an Open as obvious advantages. Just great for preparation for next week really.
I played St. George's on Monday morning and flew up here and played nine holes here. Of course St. George's is much faster and firey-er around the greens, especially with a bit of rain will soften this course up a little bit. But it will be infinitely better preparation than Loch Lomond was and really nice to switch into that links mode.
I guess I probably switched into links mode last week. I was at home on the north coast, played Portrush a few times and played County Down, and really getting the links vibe back again. So really being looking forward to this week of course, but one eye on St. George's next week as well.
Looking forward to the task. Hopefully the weather will be kinder to us than it looks out there right now, but whatever happens next weekend, it will be great preparation for The Open Championship next week.
SCOTT CROCKETT: The reaction from all of the players we have interviewed have been very positive. What are the good points and what did you enjoy?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Very beautiful golf course, it's got that Kingsbarns look to it, and it's very wide open off the tee which is probably the only disadvantage I suppose sort of going into next week. It's going to be very good for the driving accuracy stats this week. If you miss -- there's a few of those fairway out there that if you miss you them, you should be shot.
The greens are tricky, very undulating, lots of run-off areas and you have to be smart going into the green and of course the weather, wind conditions will be good preparation, but I think the golf course is very nice. I've had one look around it. I like the way it sets up. The greens are tricky, like I say and you have to find the correct parts of them and you have to be very smart going into them.
Like any good links golf course, you're going to have to really use your imagination in and around the greens putting and chipping and bumps and runs and it really asks you all the questions off the greens. Like I say, weak off the tee and strong around the greens, not a lot of rough. St. George's doesn't have a lot of rough either, but the rough here is a long way off the beaten track.
SCOTT CROCKETT: It's a big part of the season, how are you assessing your form going into this part of the year?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I'm excited how I'm playing and how fresh I feel and these two weeks are very important to me, and across to the States till middle of September for the US PGA and the FedEx Playoffs. So excited about the way I'm feeling. My game is in very good shape. Hit the ball well at the U.S. Open, struggled on the greens a little bit. Just really didn't hole a lot of putts. My game simmering nicely, and I feel like I'm on the verge of playing really well, and I need to string four rounds together really. I feel like there's just been that one round of golf the last few month's that's been stopping me from competing really at the real business end but playing nicely.
Q. Are you at the level now in Majors, like your excellent defence of the US Open, that you feel you can win them when you go into them?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I was pleased with my defence for sure. Like I say, my ball-striking tee-to-green was very good, I think it I was second or third greens in relation behind that other fella, whatever course he was playing on, I'm not really sure.
But I was very happy with my ball-striking. I just didn't putt well enough to contend. But you know, 14th at a U.S. Open, it's in my top five Major performances, so no complaints.
Yeah my confidence is growing all the time. When a task gets tougher and tougher, I feel like my game is ready for that and my preparation and my mental approach to the major championships is right there at it. So I mean, I'll have hopefully a lot of opportunities hopefully 40, 50 goes at these Majors before I'm 40 years old, and I feel like I can certainly win more of them.
I really enjoy the challenge of the major championships. Congressional in the end really wasn't my style of golf course. It really wasn't tough enough. I needed it to be a bit firmer and faster and test us a bit more around the greens, but I was happy to contend the way I did. Finishing 14th was a solid week and like I say, my confidence is growing all the time.

Q. Rory hit 62 greens I think, what was your number?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Not sure, 58, something like that. I didn't really look at the number. I just saw I was second or third in the stats. It was a good striking week for me.

Q. Is it harder to win your second Major?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I hope it doesn't make it harder, because it's always asking the question, how hard is your first win to win. I hope the second one is a little easier. I feel like it should be easier, no doubt about it. I certainly didn't feel under massive pressure at the U.S. Open and I'm not feeling under massive pressure going into the British Open next week.
My preparation, my mental approach, getting everything right, maintaining your physical energy, making sure you're ready for a big weekend, I feel like I'm capable of competing.

Q. Your experience must help you now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: For sure. I think being there and experiencing the back nine on a Sunday and knowing that you can do it and knowing that you can control your emotions to the point where you can get the job done, I feel like it gives me confidence and I feel like the second one should be easier. I'd like to find that out for sure though.

Q. Is it an easier preparation for you this year than coming to the Scottish Open as US Open champion?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I remember talking about champagne swings this time last year at Loch Lomond, there's no doubt. Obviously a lot's been made of Rory taking three weeks off and coming straight into The Open next week. I certainly felt like I wasn't ready to be at The Scottish Open last year. But with the JP McManus Invitational the Monday and Tuesday, it was just commitments, really. As a past champion, I felt committed to be here. I certainly wasn't ready, and if I had to do it all over again perhaps I wouldn't play. But it's nice to be here a little fresher in mind and definitely feeling right up for this week, and like I say, with one eye on next week, as well.

Q. A little bit of a debate between Monty and Pádraig about whether Rory should have played here before going to the Open next week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt, I mean, there's probably two sides to the argument. He could have come this week and got a lot of the euphoria out of the way, I suppose, the media, the spectators, and the players.
That was the thing that hit me last year when I got to this week, and even The Open, was just the response from inside the ropes and outside the ropes, so many people patting your back and shaking your hand. It really is hard to focus on that given week, like I say. I've talked about spending my last three or four months living in 2010. It's going to be very hard for Rory when he turns up next week to be concentrating on The Open Championship. He'll still be living three or four weeks ago at Congressional.
At the same time, being at home, he's had two weeks to get the celebrating out of the system I suppose, and I know he's had a pretty good time and I'm sure this week will be sort of getting the business head screwed back on again. And I know he's going to go down there I think Thursday, Friday, spend a couple of days down at St. George's and I think he'll be reasonably ready to go. It's just a matter of how he deals with the mental stuff, with, like I say, the attention, of course, from everyone. That was the bit that was difficult for me. I found that very hard. It's great, of course, but it's overwhelming.

Q. You always used to think the Open was your best chance of a Major before you won the US Open - what do you think now?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I was quoted as saying years ago, I mentioned the U.S. Open is one I felt I had a chance, and I mentioned The Open Championship. Those were the two of the four I felt I had my best chance. I've been in the mix a couple of times at The Open Championship, led early at Hoylake. I was there or thereabouts at Birkdale going into Saturday and didn't play well on Saturday, and sort of finished 11th one year. I've had some decent form at The Open, so I feel like it is one that I have a chance at, no doubt about it.
But yeah, I grew up playing links golf, but we don't play much links golf anymore, so it's amazing how quickly it gets out of your system. You learn your different skill-sets that you need for other golf courses around the world, and I feel like I adapt quicker to the link environment than maybe some other guys do because of my upbringing.
Like I say, I've really been in that mode since last week practising a lot at home and I've really enjoyed the last couple of days playing up here. Like I said I had a great 27 holes Monday with 18 at St. George's and flew up here and played nine. So it's been fun slipping back into that mode. It's a very different sort of skill-set that you need.

Q. Has Rory asked you for any advice or have you offered any?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No, I mean, we had dinner there last Sunday night, the Sunday night at the end of his first week afterward. He came down to Portrush and had some food and talked about what he had been up to.
I remember a year ago having a similar conversation in that I was maybe trying to seek out a few major champions and ask them questions as to how to deal with it but I quickly realised that no one can tell you how you're going to feel and how you're going to react. It's such an individual thing. I think sometimes you've just got to go for it and sort of make your own mistakes and learn from them, I suppose.
It would be very difficult for me to tell Rory what to expect really. I guess I feel like Rory is probably a different entity in that he's been kind of groomed for this a little bit. He's been groomed to be a superstar since he was four or five years old, you know what I mean. I certainly wasn't that way. I was a bit of a late bloomer I suppose and like I say, Rory should be able to handle this pretty well I think. This is what he's been born to do I suppose.

Q. Has he celebrated to excess like you did?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Hope so. Hope so. Sounds like he has. I haven't actually -- I didn't get a chance to go to any parties. I was in Orlando having a restful week off myself, so I missed the carnage. I think he had a couple of great nights back home in Belfast, so I hope he celebrated to excess for sure. The dinner I had with him on the Sunday night was a very quiet affair. I was having a few beers but he had driven from Belfast and so he was driving back, and he was partied out, I think to be fair.

Q. Is Royal St George's firm enough for you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I heard it was fiery and softened up a little bit, but it was plenty firm. We've heard about it's lack of rough and I didn't think it was an issue. I thought the course was fast enough where fairways were still a premium, you couldn't control the ball from the rough getting flyers.
The greens are shaped that it's difficult to get up to the flags where you are coming up from the rough. I liked the way it was set up. I didn't think it needed hugely heavy rough, the bunkers are penal, well positioned, and I thought it was firm enough. Obviously I think the R&A are a little bit worried about rain this week, if it does get soft, that it could be a bit of a bloodbath next week, but I hope it stays firm because it will be a really good links test.

Q. Thoughts about Tiger withdrawing from The Open?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Of course, it's a huge loss to any golf tournament not having Tiger. He's the main man in golf globally. He brings so much to an event from a spectator point of view, buzz point of view, TV point of view. Disappointed not having him of course and we wish him back to health quickly.

Q. You mentioned at Congressional that your U.S. Open duties were over, do you feel like you have drawn a line under that part of your career and are ready to start again so to speak?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah I'm definitely feeling as driven and motivated as I've ever been. I think the only negative impact the U.S. Open last year had on me was kind of like acting as a little bit of a weight, dragging me back really, stopping me from looking forward and stopping me from setting new goals and motivating myself to be the best player I can be. It was like a little bit of -- it was a great thing dragging me back but something I wanted to move on from and it was never really going to happen until I got to Congressional.
Yes, I had a decent 12 months, I played well, I played very well sort of six or eight months afterwards, and can I had a sluggish three or four months, but I think that was inevitable and I'm very happy with my 12 months as U.S. Open Champion. I'm very happy that that weight has been removed and I'm looking forward to moving on and achieving more things in the game. Tasting that kind of success, you want more of it, you know, so I'm excited. I'm feeling good.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Many thanks, as always. Good luck this week.

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