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July 27, 2011

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks for joining us. Nice to have the third Irish Major winner this week. Start us off with the golf course this morning. What do you think of the conditions?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, nice to be back at the Irish Open, as always.
Yeah, I think the golf course has improved dramatically since last year. You know, the setup's a lot better, a little bit more rough around the fairways it's a little bit softer than last year, it got a little bit firm and fast and fiery last year and I don't think the golf course really was designed for that. I think the greens are a little bit more receptive this year, and depending on wind conditions, should really be set up for scoring.
I think it's in great condition. A little bit more growth than last year. It's a fun golf course. I mean, there's some strong holes. The two par 3s on the front nine are particularly strong and there's a couple real tough par 4s out there, as well.
So it's a good test. You've got to play well. It seems like the crowds are going to be big, and it's going to be a lot of fun out there so it should be a good buzz.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Give us your thoughts, it's going to be a different week in that respect, maybe 100,000 people coming, it's going to be excellent.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's going to be very, very exciting to have 100,000 people coming to the Irish Open says something about the state of Irish golf perhaps. It's in decent shape I suppose. Amazing to watch Rory obviously win the U.S. Open, and then unfortunately to sit in my couch on the weekend and watch Darren win the Claret Jug, but just an amazing performance from him.
You know, you end up pinching yourself. It is pretty tough to get your head around the fact that three Irishmen have won Majors in the last 13 months. It takes a little bit of, like I say, getting the head around. People are excited about it now, no doubt about it, and that's why they are going to come this week. That's why they are going to come and support the Irish players, and it's going to be very exciting.
And hopefully it will give the tournament the boost that it needs to attract a prospective sponsor to putt this tournament back on the map where it belongs as one of the premiere events on The European Tour.
So I think the strength of Irish golf will help that happen this week, and like I say, the crowds are going to come and it's going to be hopefully -- the sun shines, because this place is pretty spectacular in the sunshine and it would be just an amazing place to hopefully get the rebirth of this tournament.

Q. How painful was the Open experience? (Mobile phone ringing in audience).
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Want to answer that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Disgraceful behaviour.
The Open experience was quite painful for me, yes. I was a bit dejected off the Friday round. Painful because of the way I played and practised more than anything.
I think I had upped my expectation level at The Open because I was hitting it beautiful in practise, and I felt good on the golf course. Everything felt like it was good. It just didn't happen for me. I rescued a round on Thursday.
But I think I really didn't have all aspects of my game in the best possible shape that it could be in. My short game was not the best shape it could be in. I guess my confidence was a little bit thin. I hid a couple of ragged shots on the front nine on Friday and kind of went chasing the golf course, and ended up getting beat up, and I was very, very disappointed, yeah.
There's no doubt -- (mobile phone ringing again in audience) -- I took a nice week off last week just to reflect on things; and see if I can find the vibrate set on Dermot's phone would be nice.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Someone help Dermot. (Laughter).
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the British Open was very painful for me but it shouldn't be that painful I suppose. It's just a golf tournament. It's The Open Championship. Of course it's hugely important to us as golfers; my preparation was too perfect for The Open. I was too ready.

Q. Apart from Dermot's phones and the stress levels, what else did you use as a painkiller afterwards?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, Guinness generally, generally works. Alcohol in general I find generally works as a good painkiller. I just had a nice week at home on the north coast and chilled out, and did a bit of partying with Darren, which was good fun. Worked on my short game a little bit, and probably just set some really good goals for the rest of the season.
I've got a lot to look forward to. And my game is in good shape. I'm not getting anything out of the game at the minute. If anything, it's kicking me a little bit at the minute but I'm actually feeling particularly positive about my game at the minute and I've just got to stay on that track really.
I'm very happy the way I'm hitting the golf ball. I've just got to try and stay patient, you know. Everything last year was pretty easy, and this year, it's a little tougher, and like I say, I'm getting a few kickings from the game, but it is what it is.
I'm feeling -- okay, they hurt at the time of course but I'm feeling good this week, and I'm looking forward to a really great run of events the next couple of months with this week and the US PGA and then the FedEx Playoffs.
So I'm excited about my schedule and I'm quite excited about the way I'm playing on the quiet because you look at my results, and you're not going to think I'm playing very well, but I know in my heart how well I'm playing.

Q. You touched on it, the strength of Irish golf, and we've asked this a hundred times, but what possible link can be an explanation for the success of the three of you guys in such a short space; is it coincidence?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt there's an inspiration, there's a belief factor, whether it be a subconscious level, if Rory looks at me and thinks, if he can do it, so can I; and Darren looks at us both and thinks, well, if they can do it, so can I. There's definitely an acceptance and belief and an inspiration on some kind of level. It's not a very conscious level because you realise that to win major championships -- yeah, I guess in a way, it's contagious, it really is.
That belief is contagious a little bit. There's no doubt what Harrington did, he opened the floodgates for the Europeans to really start contending in the Majors, because in the last four or five years since he's done what he achieved, winning those three Major Championships, the European belief level has increased dramatically. There's guys that have been coming close, and obviously for me to win and for Rory and Darren to follow it right up, like I say, it's some kind of contagiousness, which there's no doubt. It's very tough to measure that, but there's no doubt on a psychological level, guys just believe they can do it.

Q. What's it like for Darren now particularly, going into a Major as a Major winner?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, difficult for me to come, because Darren is an extremely experienced player. He's ten years ahead of me in his career. I can only comment on what it was like for me as Major Champion going into Majors as a Major Champion.
Yeah, your belief level is there, your confidence level is there. You know you can do it, and to a certain extent, the pressure gets taken off you a little bit. I can only imagine, without having spoken to Darren much about it, there's got to be a huge weight lifted off his shoulders, and any tag of underachiever or a guy who was too talented to not have won more golf tournaments, you know, that tag's been lifted off him and he's answered all the questions with a major championship.
Because everyone knows how good of a player Darren Clarke is. We've known that for many, many years. Maybe he should have won more. But now he's got that special one in the bag, and that could take the pressure off him and he could gain a huge amount of confidence from that and kick on and maybe have a twilight kind of few years to the end of his career perhaps. I guess it reacts different to every player.
There's no doubt I suffered this year with maybe heightened expectations and wanting it a little bit too badly and maybe played great toward the end of last year because the pressure was off me and I achieved so many great things, maybe the switching off, that pressure valve releasing helped me play well, and this year there's no doubt I'm putting too much pressure on myself. And I need to realise I'm not trying to prove anything to myself or anyone else and I just have to get back to enjoying this game and putting myself in contention.

Q. At the U.S. Open, you would have created a buzz at this event last year, can you feel that's what's happened recently has ramped it up to a much higher level? Is there more pressure on a home winner?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt, it was exciting for people when I won 12 months ago, 13 months ago, whatever it is. It's a whole new level now. I think obviously Rory Mania, we have been talking about how good this kid is for a long time and he's starting to live up to that hype.
And then follow that with Darren, who is just an unbelievably popular winner, you know, he's just had that big, lovable character for many, many years, and like I say, hugely popular winner. That's just multiplied everything. People were excited about Irish golf last year. This year, it's a completely new level. It's exciting. It's probably the reason why I decided to play early in the Pro-Am this morning because I knew what it was going to be like out there. It was pretty nuts out there and I expected it to be nuts again.
It's going to be a phenomenal weekend and I really hope the tournament gets some nice weather. The golf course is certainly in great shape. You know, it's not a world-class field outside of the big names, outside of the Irish players really I suppose, there's not really a world-class field. But hopefully like I say, hopefully we can get a home winner in the sunshine on a beautiful golf course and really get this golf tournament kick-started again and get it back on to The European Tour schedule as a proper tournament, because it deserves that bill.

Q. Can you just characterise the three of you, how you differ; if you're the gritty one, Rory is the natural.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Rory and Darren are very talented. I don't think I was blessed with that same sort of natural talent as maybe they were. I'm maybe the grinder, if you like. I've certainly had to work hard for what I've achieved in the game. Darren and Rory are probably guys who the game comes a hell of a lot more easy to. Darren has always been a phenomenal striker of the golf ball.
Rory, pretty tough to -- you know, he's like a young Darren in many ways. I think their personality traits are very similar in many ways, on and off the golf course. They are both a bit kind of flashy and flamboyant and like the finer things in life, but they are extremely talented players. Certainly all the talent in the world to win the best tournaments in the world.
So like I say, Rory's the young talent and Darren's looked like he was the old, finished talent but great to see guys winning into their 40s, as well, really kind of motivates guys like myself to realise that staying fit and longevity in this game. You never know what's ahead of you ten years in this game, if you can really stay fresh and keep enjoying it and schedule yourself properly. You've got a long time to be winning great golf tournaments in this game, if you can stay fresh.

Q. You're saying last year, it came very easy to you, and this year it's not quite happening. What can you do to kind of move to the next stage? Can you sort of fake it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think I'm just going through a phase right now. I think every career ebbs and flows a little bit. I was flowing last year with what happened at the U.S. Open and The Ryder Cup, and like I say, the pressure was taken off me. I was having a dream season and I was able to just kind of play on free-wheel if you like, just free-wheeling.
And this year, as every new season begins, you turn the corner and you want to achieve new things. And like I say, perhaps I'm trying a little too hard this season. I'm working as hard as ever and my game has continued to get better and better, but the way you approach the game mentally changes. You know, I've certainly got to look at that side of my game and try and re-focus a little bit and just get back to the relaxed guy on the golf course who enjoys the game and who gets out of his own way and gives himself a chance to play without putting so much pressure on him.
That's the guy I've got to become again. Easier said than done, though. Because it is -- it's important. You know, it is important. The Open Championship, it's very important. Of course I want to be as ready as I possibly can and sometimes you can be too ready and sometimes you can put way too much hype on yourself. Sometimes less is more perhaps.

Q. I understand you forged a new link with the Crumlin Children's Hospital and your foundation, and hospitals in Belfast, as well, and you paid a visit on Monday and saw the children there. How does that change or alter your perspective or help with your perspective?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think things like that really help the perspective. Answering the question earlier about how much The Open Championship hurt me or disappointed it. When you go to a place like Crumlin Hospital on Monday and just talk to the people there and the work that they are doing over there, and you see the families in the positions they are in sometimes, it puts life in perspective for you. We are extremely fortunate to be doing the job we are doing and have our health and have the opportunity to travel the world making a lot of money playing a great game. It really puts life in perspective for you.
I'm excited about my foundation. The link with Crumlin Hospital is going to be very exciting to be able to see something real happening with the money that I'm going to help hopefully raise. You know, like I say, my foundation is going to be something interesting for me to give me a little perspective in life; when I'm having a rough day on the golf course, to be able to think about the families of people that I've met, and realise that it's not all bad. It's a sport and it's not life or death. It's not life or death. You have to relax and enjoy it sometimes.
It was great, a great few hours we spent over there. It was very eye-opening.

Q. On a -- first of all hit me apologise for those interruptions. On a broader level, how can Ireland as a tourist destination fully exploit the remarkable things that you guys are doing?
GRAEME McDOWELL: That's a great question. I'm not much of a marketing genius, but you know, I know people are excited to come find out what it's all about in Ireland. I'm sure they are wondering how a small island like this can produce the players that it continues to produce.
Being from the north, of course, the troubles in the north, I know how directly that has influenced our tourism up there. There's no doubt about it. When I travel the world and meet people who have travelled to Dublin in the southwest coast, and have never came to the north, it's not hard to know why; it just scares people. Obviously they fear for their safety and whatnot.
I think what myself and Darren and Rory and Pádraig have done is -- really we have helped remove that border from a golf point of view, and sports certainly transcends the country. I think it can only boost things. I was part of the little press launch we did last week up in Portrush talking about a potential event in Northern Ireland which I think will really help promote Northern Ireland as a golf destination, because the south area is a golf destination, no doubt about that. Hopefully it will continue to be as popular as it is, and I'm sure what the guys are doing and what I'm doing will certainly help bring people over here. We do our best to promote it.

Q. Just as a follow, Fáilte Ireland appointed Pádraig Harrington as a sort of international ambassador for them for the promotion of Irish golf. Is there any indication that they might do similarly with you in the north?
GRAEME McDOWELL: No indication of that. You know, it's great, what the three of us have just done in the north of Ireland has -- I feel like the Northern Ireland government and the tourist board feel like they have to do something up there. We have actually kick-started something up there. Because funding for golf up in the north coast, up in the north, was a small portion of what they fund them down here in the south of Ireland. It's completely -- they felt like they completely have to put their hands in their pockets and do something now to really try and build on what we have achieved.
So it's great to be part of, like I say, giving the Northern Ireland tourist board up there a bit of a kick in the arse, and trying to make Northern Ireland a real golf destination because it should be. Like I say, the south does a fantastic job, and they have some beautiful places to go to. And like I say I'm a big promoter and when I speak to people I definitely point them here. But I say: Get yourself up to the north coast and check out Portrush and Portstewart and County Down. Hopefully we can promote it and help do big things.

Q. Was all of your post-Open recovery Guinness induced or was there a bit of Bob Rotella in there? Did you have any chats with him?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I didn't speak to Bob. Because no one knows me better than I know myself and my caddie knows me, I suppose, and my manager and the people close to me I suppose.
It's funny because I've made these mistakes before, but it's just at a much lower level. As you continue to climb the ranks, I told myself a wasn't going to come into 2011 and put myself under pressure and have expectations and try not to replicate 2010. You tell yourself these things and try not to do it, but it's difficult to do.
Of course, I want to win golf tournaments. I want to win major championships and I want to be the best player I can be, but like I say, sometimes you can want that all too much. You've got to sort of reign in that desire a little bit sometimes and just be patient with this game.
And like I say, you can say these things, but saying them and to go them are two different things, and like I say, I don't feel like I've -- my expectation levels have been quite inflated this year, and sometimes I can unduly affect things on the golf course. And there's no doubt, I've had three or four very uncharacteristic rounds of golf this year that have just been born out of wanting it too much, wanting too much, too quickly and not being patient with myself.

Q. You had a win, anyway, on Tuesday. Did you beat Darren Clarke in that pint-drinking competition?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I did. Myself and Rory and Darren (chuckling). I won the Guinness pint-drinking contest. That's my first win of the season.

Q. Was that a Major?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't think there was any World Ranking points unfortunately, but it was very important.

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