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March 20, 2013
JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Graeme McDowell into the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. First of all, welcome back to Bay Hill. Couple of runner‑up finishes and five starts here. Just comment on being back at Arnold Palmer's?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I had a great experience there on the range with Mr.Palmer. He's such an icon of our sport very much responsible for the game as we know it today, a high‑profile, global game. And this is an event which probably kicked off my career here in America, really. Me finishing second here in 2005 was a bit of a springboard for me in many ways. I got my PGA TOUR card in 2006, didn't use it very effectively, but used that as a time to acclimatize myself here in the States and made Orlando my home. This is an event that's pretty close to my heart for many, many reasons.
But the golf course is a tough test. A little bit of rain this morning has softened the course a little bit, and making the greens a little more receptive. But we know this course drains quickly, and hopefully we'll be back up to speed in the next couple days.
JOHN BUSH: Take us through last week's opening of Nona Blue, where you also flew in seven families of Ireland for the foundation.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I had a fun week off, pretty busy week off last week. We opened the restaurant in style, and we were slammed this weekend. It was a very busy weekend at Nona Blue, and it was a very successful opening, shall we say.
And like you say my foundation flew in seven families from Ireland for five days, hung out at Disney world, and having the time of their lives. Just some recovering kids born with congenital heart defects. Second time we've had a chance to do that, and it was a lot of fun, so very successful week off in general. Busy one.
Q. What did you learn from being paired with Tiger here Sunday in the final round last year that was valuable?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think as difficult as this golf course played last year on Sunday afternoon, I think I watched Tiger Woods, that's won 14 major championships, I watched a display of discipline. Conservative at times, but firing away from pins, just disciplined golf that, like I say, when the golf course gets tougher, the guy is able to slip into a gear where he plays aggressive golf to conservative targets.
We've all heard the stories about him winning his U.S. Open at Pebble when he didn't even have a pin sheet in his pocket, and he was just playing the zones and the greens. I guess I watched a guy execute a game plan very effectively. It was a difficult golf course to go chasing a guy on. I made double on the first in the middle of the fairway, which put me behind the 8‑ball right away.
But it was just any time I play with him and watch him, even at Doral a couple weeks ago, watching how aggressive, again, aggressive to conservative targets he played with a 4‑shot lead, it's a learning experience when you're playing with one of the best players that's ever lived. You're always learning when you play with a guy like that.
I don't like having to play with him on Sunday afternoons and having to lose to him, but when he's playing well, he's hard to beat. Especially when the golf course is as difficult as this one was last year on Sunday afternoon.
Q. Was there a model back home or indeed anywhere else that uses inspiration for Nona Blue? When did you first have inklings that you wanted to own a restaurant?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, if anyone's been to Portrush in the room, there's a great restaurant in the middle of town called the Wine Bar, right in the harbor area there. The guy that owns that restaurant is probably one of the‑‑ people have told me he's one of the Top 5 restauranteurs in the whole of U.K. So very successful businessman, very successful restaurant in a small town.
Sort of around recessionary times '08‑'09, he approached me and said he might need a little investment to help him out. I got very excited. I just kind of pictured my weeks off and being back there and being behind the bar and being part of something fun and cool away from golf.
I guess the desire has always been there since then. It turned out he didn't need my investment after all. He had a great first half of the year and away we went. But ever since then I had a burning desire inside to maybe do something.
The Lake Nona area, which I live in Orlando here, is quite an underdeveloped part of town. I've been there for eight years on and off. Any time we want a nice glass of wine and a nice steak, we've got to jump in the car and drive 30 minutes. So the area was crying out for something. When I got the opportunity, some good people approached me. I'm just a part owner.
I'm a 40% owner in the restaurant, but I've got a great team who take care of business when I really don't have to do much apart from play golf. Probably have one of the most well‑marketed restaurants in the Orlando area in many, many years thanks to you guys and the networks and Golf Channel and things like that, and the fact that I've managed to play well the last few months as well.
Q. I recommend the firecracker shrimp?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, very good, agreed, agreed.
Q. On a serious note, when you first came here in 2005, would it be fair to say that you were perhaps intimidated by Tiger? How do you feel now having sort of been in even recent weeks being paired with him in the final group as you were here last year?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: 2005, yeah. I was a very different player. My first ever Bay Hill experience, you guys will have to tell me the year, but Tiger wins as usual around here. Hits in the left rough off the tee. I want to say it was about 2002‑03. He hits in the left rough off the tee. Hits a 6‑iron to about 15 feet and makes the putt.
That was kind of one of the first shots I'd ever seen him hit kind of in the flesh. I want to say it was early 2000. I think I was still an amateur or whatever, and I was just here visiting some friends. We came across the tournament and drank a couple cold beers and watched Tiger hit an amazing shot to the last. That was my first experience.
Then, obviously, in 2005, I didn't play with him in the last round, I don't think. But, yeah, of course, intimidation would be the wrong word. Just kind of nervousness and feeling out of your comfort zone and all the things that go with playing with a guy like him in the last round.
I've spoken the last few weeks about the experiences of playing with him, getting comfortable in that environment. Knowing that I need to get comfortable in that environment because if I want to win more majors and more big events around the world in the next five to ten years, you have to play with guys like Tiger Woods in the last round because they're the guys you have to beat.
So I've gotten to know him. I feel comfortable playing with him now. Tee to green at Doral I played as well‑‑ I played well enough to win. He played well also, but my putter let me down a little bit on the weekend. I'm feeling like my game's good enough, if the situation arises again, to where I can compete.
Q. I think that shot you're talking about, his tee shot actually hit a spectator in the neck to keep it from going out of bounds.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: That's the one. He was way left. It was right over by the fence.
Q. Were you the spectator?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I was not the spectator (laughing).
Q. Just to be clear here on the Wine Bar. Did you actually end up investing or was it just a thought to?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I didn't end up investing. Like I said, the guy had a good first quarter, and he didn't need me, unfortunately. But like I say, I've felt that desire inside ever since.
Q. Lastly, you talked about Arnold Palmer and his importance in the game. How would you address‑‑ and this is kind of a quasi‑Rory question, but not entirely. How do you address wanting to respect Arnold Palmer by playing in his event, but still having to set your own pace getting ready for The Masters? And you could almost equate it to Muirfield Village.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Sure, yeah, exactly. I guess I feel for Rory. If he's not a Bay Hill fan, that's his own personal prerogative. If it doesn't fit his schedule this week, I know Caroline has a week off and he hasn't seen her in six weeks, so, again, that's his prerogative.
Is he disrespecting Arnold by not being here? I don't think he is disrespecting him. Yeah, it's Arnold's tournament and he's an icon of our sport. But we all know what schedules are all about. Guys preparing for major championships, the demand on players' time in general, it's very hard to play every week.
I've never played the Memorial tournament. Am I disrespecting Jack Nicklaus? The guy is one of my golfing idols and heros. Of course, I'm embarrassed that I've never played the tournament. It's just it's always the week after Wentworth. I've had a relationship with the Wales Open for several years. Won there in the Ryder Cup, et cetera. It's always been opposite that week and just never fit my schedule.
It's a golf course I'm dying to play, and I know it would probably suit me. I'm trying to make Tampa work because there is something about that golf course that feels like it would be right for me, but yet I've never played it. So I guess I feel for guys like Rory who are in the spotlight. Obviously, Mr.Palmer comes out and publicly sort of criticizes him for not being here. It's a little unfair. But it's a 50‑50 one. The guys want to be here, and they want to respect the golfing people, the legends and traditions of the sport, but it's hard to play every week.
Q. When you went out to practice to the practice range Sunday afternoon last year, you set up right next to Tiger. It almost felt from afar as if you were sending a message that I'm not intimidated by you. I'm just going to drop the balls right here and hit. Do you remember, was that a conscious decision? What was going on there?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I really don't remember to be honest with you. No, I'll pass on that one. Like I say, I've become much more comfortable playing with him. I've played with him many, many times, Tavistock Cups and majors. And it's just using the word intimidated by, golf's an interesting sport. Your playing partner can't tackle you, and thankfully with some of the guys thankfully that doesn't happen.
The golf course is the competitor. It's just about feeling comfortable in the other guy's presence and feeling comfortable with what he brings to the table in regards to the public spotlight, crowds, media, all that attention. That is what you have to become comfortable with. Being intimidated by a golfer is not like staring down a linebacker or someone who is carrying a rugby ball coming after you, 250 pounds. That's intimidating. Standing on the tee box alongside a guy playing the game of golf is not really intimidating.
But Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golfer and maybe the best player that's ever lived. It's fun to play with him. I enjoy playing with him. I'd like to beat him a little more often on Sunday afternoon. Give me some more opportunities and who knows.
Q. On Saturday, Graeme, when you three‑putted the 10th and missed that birdie putt and there was a pretty hard slap of the knee and some muttering in Irish under the breath and everything else. It seemed like that affected you for at least the next couple of holes. Is that true? If it did, is that an issue that you dealt with before or did it just crop up that day?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think that's a fair description. My weekend turned on that three‑putt. I felt it. I kind of felt it for four or five holes afterwards. Yeah, it's something I work on is trying to deal with frustration and disappointment on the golf course. Trying to leave out disappointment and get on with what I'm trying to accomplish. I went on a four to five‑hole wobble after that. Probably had a daft pitch over the back of 14. Probably one of the only bad pitches I hit all week.
Yeah, I think typically over a 72‑hole event, you deal with a five, six hole crisis at some point. And that was my crisis that weekend. And I didn't deal with it very well. It's something I'm always working on is trying to react well to disappointment and bad shots that are inevitable. Mistakes are going to happen. Bounces, three‑putts, something's going to happen. You've got to deal with it and move on. I didn't do it that well that day, to be honest. And definitely it's a work in progress.
I feel like my routines on the greens, especially, the last two rounds at Doral got slow and tentative. As the speed of the greens got faster, I felt a little uncomfortably on the greens. My pace got a little weak, and I just didn't make anything. So I had a few issues that weekend that I took away, and stuff I'll be working on going forward.
Q. Back to your business interests for a change. You have the restaurant. You have a lot of charity work that you do, and recently you debuted a line of clothing. How did you come up with that? Arnold Palmer has had clothing. Jack has had clothing. Ian Poulter has had clothing. What made you decide to do this and what is your thinking behind the designs that you have?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I've always been interested in clothing and style. Felt like I've always had my own individual style. I've never really been with a clothing company before. I got approached by the Irish brand Kartel back in the middle of 2011, and they wanted to get together with me and collaborate and come up with a range of clothing. So it's been a lot of fun. Just trying to stay in that contemporary classic kind of style. It's been a lot of fun.
We'll see where it goes. I like to wear nice things on the golf course. I like to feel like I'm well put together, and that's just all part of the fun things I have going off the golf course at the minute.
Business interests, like you say, probably stuff three, four, five years ago I wouldn't have been ready for mentally more than anything. I feel like I've caught a nice balance to life with a lot going on. I feel like it's settling me nicely. I'm a much happier player on the golf course nowadays with just, like I said, a nice balanced life going on. It's fun.
Q. Do they do the designs for you?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: They've come up with a lot of the designs, and we've collaborated and talked. I give thumbs up or thumbs down to things that I like. They've very much built the clothes to my specifications and what I want to see in materials and shape and fit. So it's been a lot of fun.
Q. Given Tiger's overall record at Augusta, are you surprised he hasn't won there in eight years? Do you think in any way it has to do with the changes they've made to the course over the years could that have made it harder for him what they've done there with rough or putting in trees, what have you?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Augusta is a very unique major championship. I'm probably not the most schooled individual to be sitting here and talking about Augusta. It's not really my favorite hunting ground. I still feel like I'm learning something every time I go back there.
It's an interesting measure. They really have changed a lot over the years. They got really tough there for three or four years and I feel like they've throttled back on it a little bit. I felt like the first couple of years I've played it, it was very difficult. They shaved runoff areas, and the ball was really coming back off the front of pins, for example.
I feel like the last couple of years, the front of ten has only come back five to ten yards. Whereas when I first started playing at Augusta, that thing would come back to the base of the slope. So I feel like they've kept grass in certain areas to make the golf course‑‑ to let you play a bit more aggressively. Therefore, the scoring kind of gets a little bit more‑‑ the guys go low.
So there will certainly be a transition there. Why has Tiger not won there in eight years? I don't know. I guess the style in which guys play nowadays, guys are long and aggressive, and it's not like Tiger back in '97 when he dominated people with his length. He was playing a completely different golf course from everyone else. I think there are so many guys now who can decimate a golf course like that when it's playing benign and scoring, go low.
It's an interesting measure, because it's probably one of the few measures that gets probably easier on the Sunday, whereas the rest of them get tougher. I feel like they get some chances there in the back nine.
Charles Schwartzel birdies the last four or five holes or whatever to win his. You can play aggressively there and you've got to go low.
What I was talking about the start what I saw from Tiger last year and his last run at Bay Hill, why he's won 14 majors, is his aggressive to conservative targets and playing that disciplined golf that not everyone knows how to do or execute well. Everyone knows how to fire at pins and do it week‑in and week‑out. I don't know, just speculating. It's a tough question to answer. I'm not really an Augusta expert yet. I'd like a green jacket though.
Q. Back on the subject of intimidation, are there any holes or courses that intimidate you? If there are, can you talk about them a little bit?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, Augusta used to intimidate me. I spoke the first couple years I played that golf course, it scared me. I felt like I was playing with the hand brake on all day. really trying to fire away from flags. Missed greens, go up there and not trying to get the ball up‑and‑down. I'm just trying not to make double. Just completely in the wrong mindset. So, yeah, that golf course has always kind of scared me a little bit.
Over the years, I guess I've tried to understand when I can be aggressive to certain pins, where you're supposed to miss greens and what do you do when you miss the green in those certain places, chipping it up slopes, using slopes and using the contours of the golf course to your advantage rather than to your disadvantage.
I guess I kind of worked it out a bit. In the last three rounds last year I played very well. Played the best I played there consistently for the last three rounds. I'm excited to go back there this year. I feel like I'm getting better all the time and understanding my game and what makes me tick and what makes me score.
I'm excited to go back to Augusta. That golf course used to scare me. Any other golf courses that scare me? Not really. I guess I enjoy the tougher golf courses. Like Bay Hill here last year, I like tough tests. I like to challenge myself to play the type of golf that I talk about Tiger playing here last year. I feel like I'm that type of player as well.
Q. Obviously, conditions change from day‑to‑day at Augusta. But typically what is the scariest shot on that golf course for you?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I always find the second shot on 1 tough for some reason. It's the first green of the day. One is a tough hole. That hole, especially when the fairways are wet, that's a long hole. Going in there with 5, 4‑irons to that kind of up‑turned saucer green, just trying not to miss it in the wrong place.
I always find the second shot on 1, kind of intimidating. It unsettles you right away. It sets the tone of unsettledness for the rest of the day. 2 kind of is a little bit of a respite, but 1, right off the bat unsettles me on that golf course. It's definitely one of the toughest second shots on the course to me.
Q. Is there one aspect of the Wine Bar that you would like to see take root in Nona Blue?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Just, I don't know, the food. The menu to me is always going to evolve. I'd like to see a few more tastes of home on that menu. I'm certainly going to have a little bit of input. It's just a case of getting this thing off the ground and having some fun with it in the next three to four weeks. But the menu will evolve and get better.
We're working on our special Irish coffee recipe. I want the Irish coffee to be the most authentic Irish coffee that you can get here in the United States, so watch the space on that one. But I'm having a lot of fun with it.
Like I say, my business kind of input into the place is fairly minimal. I let the boys take care of that stuff. I play the golf and hopefully get plenty of exposure from you guys.
Q. How do you make Irish coffee?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Exactly.
Irish coffee, quick recipe, ounce and a half of Bushmills whiskey, some nice strong coffee.
Q. There is coffee?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah. It's got to be strong, because the taste of the whiskey and coffee don't want to overpower each other. They have to be balanced. Little brown sugar in there for sweetness, and the key element is it has to be hand whipped, real whipping cream, and you layer that on top of the coffee. It's awesome. Dangerous.
Q. How old were you when you poured your first pint? Not drank, poured?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I didn't drink it. I just poured it. I was of age. That's a loaded question there, if I ever heard one.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports