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SHELL HOUSTON OPEN


March 28, 2012


Graeme McDowell


HUMBLE, TEXAS

DOUG MILNE:テつ We'd like to welcome Graeme McDowell to the interview room here at the Shell Houston Open.テつ Graeme, thanks for joining us for a few minutes, coming off a big week last week.テつ First things first, Shell Houston Open.テつ You're making your first start here since 2006.テつ I know you're looking forward to that and just some comments on I guess last week was your second Top-10 of the year.テつ Just some comments on how you're playing as you're heading into the week here.
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah, great to be back in Houston.テつ First time at the Shell Houston Open for me since 2006.テつ Decided to shake my preMasters preparation up a lit bit this season.テつ Nice to come in here obviously off back at Bay Hill feeling good about my game.テつ This looks like it's going to be a great week's preparation.テつ Like I was talking to -- with Doug on the way in, just such a great of course golf course set-up here.テつ They really go the extra mile with the details, combing the fairways back against the tee boxes, quarter -- inch and a quarter rough, the firmness and speed of the greens, and, you know, it's a nice test without being too difficult.
You know, I think if it had been another week like Bay Hill last week, which was very difficult, very, you know, probably mentally demanding, you know, I think maybe going into Augusta next week that might have been a little too much, but I think they just got the golf course just right here as far as level of difficulty, and, like I say, just the little details and extra mile to go here at the Shell Houston Open just to make everyone's preparation as good as it could possibly be for the Masters next week.
I think it's a great week.テつ I'm glad to be here and nice -- like I say, shake my preparation up a little bit and hopefully go into Augusta next week competitively sharp.

Q.テつ Do you hear from other players about this course being good preparation for the Masters?テつ What kind of --
テつテつテつテつテつテつ GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah, really sort of word of mouth.テつ I've had a little bit of a relationship with the Houston Open over the years.テつ I actually made my first ever professional start here back in 2001.テつ I won an event in Ireland sponsored by Shell, which got me an invitation to come play as an amateur.
I was still at college at UAB.テつ I remember that experience.テつ I missed the cut, obviously.テつ I was like a fish out of water.テつ It was my one and only amateur start in a professional event.テつ One of my first professional events I had ever been to.テつ That was certainly an eye opener.
I've known Steve Timms, the tournament director here, ever since then.テつ He's got a pretty big presence.テつ I've been trying to get myself back to this tournament ever since 2006.テつ Nice to be back again.テつ Like I said, I guess I have a little bit of a relationship with this tournament.

Q.テつ Charl Schwartzel was just in here and talked a lot about the year after winning a Major.テつ Can you look back on that year after you won and how life changed for you, the game changed for you, and you didn't have as great a season last year?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah, the game certainly didn't change.テつ You know, it's 72 holes, still a golf ball and 18 holes.テつ But, you know, you're busier.テつ You're under the spotlight.テつ You're asked to do things you weren't asked to do before you're a Major champion.
Your work -- I guess the stuff you go out on outside of the ropes off the course increases.テつ It takes a little bit of management to get your head around that and also being in the spotlight and one of the best players in the world.
My six months after winning the U.S. Open couldn't have went much better.テつ The Ryder Cup kind of took the edge off the U.S. Open for a few months, really, because, you know, it was something so different and obviously holing the winning putt kind of took my focus off the U.S. Open for a little while.
As the new year came around and the new season began, I discovered my expectation levels were a little bit higher than they should be and my patience level was a little bit lower.
It took me four, five months last season to get my head around what was going on and why mentally I wasn't really where I should be.テつ And by September of last year, I got my head around it.
To be honest with you, I've had seven months of feeling much, much better about my game, and it's been a constant gradual process of confidence and some great results, you know.
You know, last week was probably my -- probably my sixth Top-10 since last September, something like that, and I've been playing solid.テつ I felt last week coming -- I knew I had been playing well, and it was nice to get a little bit of a reward for the hard work.テつ And, like I say, the stuff I've been doing away from the course and getting ready for a big season.

Q.テつ What is that frustration level when you know you're one of the best players in the world and on Sunday you look at the leaderboard and you're not there?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ The frustration levels are basically Top-10 is not good enough anymore.テつ When you get used to tasting what it's like to pick up a Major Championship trophy, you get used to just kind of the -- everything going in, every 10-footer, every 15-footer going in, which it felt like they did in 2010.
You know, last six, seven months I couldn't do anything wrong.テつ I guess you begin to want that too badly.テつ Like I said, not accepting mistakes and not accepting bad results.テつ I guess not having the patience and sort of get-out-of-your-own-way attitude that you need to have going into a weekend and really, really -- like I say, not putting all that much extra pressure on yourself.
That's really what it is in a nutshell.テつ It's different for everyone.テつ I can't speak for anyone else, but I can only speak for my own experiences, but in many ways 2011 was one of the biggest learning curves in my career.

Q.テつ Graeme, what advantage do you get from playing the week before a Major as opposed to just taking that week off to practice or going to the venue and learning that course the week before?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah.テつ I think the advantage is obviously going in competitively sharp, not having to worry too much about your techniques.テつ Hopefully not having to worry about my technique too much.テつ I'm certainly in here this week, for example, off the back of Bay Hill last week, I'm not really worrying about my golf swing too much.
All I got to do is work on my short game and putting.テつ You'll be ready.テつ You know, probably as opposed to what I've done the last few years, flown into Augusta the Wednesday or Thursday before the tournament.テつ Played 27 holes, which is a lot of fun to do, you know, to play in Augusta anytime and having the course to yourself is amazing.
The course plays a lot slower this week than next week.テつ The greens are a little wetter and slower.テつ So the short game is kind of not realistic to how it's going to be next weekend.テつ In a way you're kind of wasting your time hitting too many chips and putts.
Like I say, I played Augusta enough times now to know what it's going to do.テつ Know how to get around it.テつ Like I say, going in there competitively sharp next week and being able to work on my short game and putting and taking the pressure off the rest of the game really should help me a little bit.

Q.テつ Do you like going into next week under the radar, or is it somewhat worrisome that Tiger, Rory, and Phil, who are all proven Augusta specialists, are all three playing so well?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah.テつ I mean, there's no doubt it's a little worrying when you got that much talent.テつ You know, like you say, guys who know their way around Augusta pretty well, Tiger and Phil, especially.テつ Rory certainly showed for three and a half rounds last year that he knows his way around.テつ So many good players in the world.
It's very competitive.テつ There's a lot of top, top players.テつ Augusta no doubt has a certain amount of local knowledge.テつ And proven winners around there tend to repeat.テつ Certainly Tiger and Phil obviously multiple winners around there and -- I like being under the radar.テつ No doubt about that.テつ I'm very happy going in there next week as, yeah, a favorite, but maybe one of the outside favorites.テつ And, you know, it's not a golf course I play well on historically.テつ So I'm going in there very much with an open mind next week.テつ No one will expect me to play well next week, but I'll certainly be expecting to compete, you know, if I can chip and putt well.
I did hit the ball well there, very well last year.テつ I think I was in the Top-5 in greens in regulation through Friday, but was going home Friday night because I didn't putt very well.テつ Like I say, no one will expect me to come compete there next week.テつ Inside, I know I can.

Q.テつ Graeme, Ernie Els has to win here or he's going to miss the Masters for the first time since '94.テつ He pretty much resigned himself he's not going to be there after 17, 18 years.テつ Thoughts about him not being at the Majors for the first time in a long time?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ When a guy like Ernie Els misses a Major, it's obviously disappointing.テつ He was one of my heroes in the '90s when he was winning his U.S. Opens, and he's a quality player and he's given it such a great run the last couple weeks.テつ We were talking even a few weeks ago, did he deserve an invitation, special exemption, because I know the committee at Augusta do do that.テつ Ryo Ishikawa had one from outside the world's Top 50.テつ The Master's Committee are well within their rights to do so.テつ I just think a guy like Ernie Els has to be a strong candidate.テつ Surely the green jackets have discussed him at length and decided that for whatever reason, he doesn't deserve an invitation.
But I think if you took a poll among the players as to guys who deserve the invite, he would be top of the list for sure.テつ Disappointing, obviously a blow to the field.テつ I was going to say let's hope he wins this week.テつ I'll be hoping to compete myself this week (laughter).テつ Be great the see Ernie Els at Augusta next week.テつ It's a strange one, interesting one.

Q.テつ You played so well last week until Sunday at least.テつ Then you come here.テつ How does this course set-up for you and, like you say, you should be a contender.
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Yeah.テつ I was happy the way I played last week.テつ Bay Hill was a tough test, very major risk at times.テつ I love the way this golf course sets up for me.テつ Most of the troubles on the left side of this golf course, which kind of suits me.テつ I feel like I really -- I'm not hitting -- I don't have that left miss in my bag.テつ I really feel good off the tee around here.
Like I say, I just love the way the course sets up.テつ I think it's an emphasis on middle and short irons, precision coming into these slopely greens.テつ I like it a lot.テつ And, like I say, whatever happens, you know, I really feel like I'll be going into next week well prepared.

Q.テつ Do you think Augusta should be a good place for you?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ You know, the traditional view is that you must draw the ball and hit the ball very long off the tee to play well at Augusta.テつ Why does Rory McElroy, why is he tailor-make to play Augusta well?テつ Because he bombs it 320 with a large right to left shape.テつ I don't do that.テつ So theoretically no, I shouldn't be able to compete at Augusta.テつ You're only talking three, four tee shots that it helps to do that on.テつ The rest of the time, it's about iron play, it's a second shot golf course, Augusta.テつ You really got to play with precision iron play.
So perhaps I'll have to play with a couple more clubs in my hand than these other guys will, but there's no reason why my iron play is not on next week like it was last week at Bay Hill that I can't compete.テつ Like I say, it's a little bit of a -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- bit of a stereotype that you must hit a 320-yard draw to win at Augusta.
I've been talking with my caddy.テつ We toyed with the idea of putting a Cleveland driver with a little bit more draw bias like Phil did two years ago, two drivers, one went left and one went right.テつ We toyed with the idea of trying to create a draw bias driver.テつ There's no need to do that.テつ 9, 10, 13, that's really it.テつ The rest of the time, a straight ball works just fine.

Q.テつ Little out of box here, when you come to a place like this and you haven't been to in six years, how do you approach the city and what kind of things do you try to do in your time in a place that you're not very familiar with?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ I'm staying at the Houstonian this week.テつ We're getting very nicely taken care of.テつ Of course, I got here yesterday and had a good look at the golf course.テつ I like to prepare well when it's a course I haven't seen much of.テつ But, you know, I won't really have a lot of time to sightsee this week, unfortunately.テつ I'm off at 7:30 tomorrow morning.テつ I might be able to go to something tomorrow night.

Q.テつ Won't be searching for Irish pubs?
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Hopefully I'll need one Sunday night for a cold beer, perhaps.
No.テつ This week really is business.テつ I'll be working hard off the course this week.テつ Taking nothing away from the Shell Houston Open.テつ I want to compete and win here.テつ Of course, we'll have kind of one eye on next week as well.テつ So it will be plenty of work off the course this week so that I can ease my workload for next week.
DOUG MILNE:テつ Graeme, as always we appreciate your time.
GRAEME MCDOWELL:テつ Thanks, guys.テつ Thanks Doug.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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