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May 19, 2013

Graeme McDowell


MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Many congratulations, just start us off with your assessment of the day that's ended with you as Volvo World Match Play Champion.
GRAEME McDOWELL:  Yeah, obviously a nice day, a great trophy.  Talked about it all week really about the prestige of this event and how many great champions, and nice to add my name to that list of legends.
We talked a lot about what Volvo have done with this event, what they have done with golf around the world and coming to Bulgaria this week obviously was a brave move.  But I think it's paid off.
Of course, sitting here with the trophy I'm going to say great things about the place but I think if you talk to all the players, I think everyone enjoyed themselves, everyone enjoyed the golf course.
Yeah, there were a few funky holes out there, but 14, 15 of the holes on the course were fantastic, and I mean, scenery, outstanding and just a great week all around.  Played nice.  Wasn't 100 per cent in control of my golf swing yesterday.  Did some work last night.  Felt a lot better today.  Hit the ball great this morning against Branden.  I don't think I made bogey all day, which was solid, and eight birdies this morning and probably only three or four this afternoon.
It was a little wit more tentative this afternoon.  It was tough.  Tough to keep that level of golf up all weekend.  And the key putts really this afternoon were with the par saves on 9 and 10; they were massive.  I sensed from Thongchai after that that he was starting to fatigue a little bit.  I really sensed a bit of an opening.  I just had to hit the shots and I did that well coming down the stretch.  The mistake he made on 14 and then the birdie I made on 15 was really the telling stuff.
Just unbelievably excited.¬† It's a long week, it could be said that these events are tougher to win than stroke‑play events; and mathematically speaking, they are much easier to win than stroke‑play events.
But somehow beating six guys head‑to‑head, standard of golf required, I don't know, put it this way:¬† I've won stroke‑play events easier than this one's felt.¬† So there's a certain amount of‑‑ there's a certain amount of kind of feel‑good factor in that I kind of got so close yet so far away last year.
Like I say, great to put my name.  I'm looking across, see Montgomerie and Westwood just popping off the trophy at me, great European Tour legends, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, the history of this event, it's fantastic.
That long enough for you?
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  I have no more questions.

Q.  Spoke yesterday about your only concern was 12 through 15 and that was the difference today.  How did you fix that?
GRAEME McDOWELL:  Yeah, I just really knuckled down this morning through those holes.  Played fairways and greens, played a little bit more solidly through them.  To be honest with you, the birdie on 13 this morning was a big from belief factor point of view, because it was the first birdie I had made there.  I had just missed the eagle putt on 12, letting him off the hook and kind of thought, here we go again.
And then I made a putt on 13 which was key.  Then split the fairway on 12 today.  13 I kind of got a bit of a funny bounce off the island there and it kind of came back at me and Thongchai makes the mistake on 14.
So I guess it was nice to play my nemesis holes well today especially.¬† Very just happy with just the way I hung tough this afternoon, after this morning's kind of fireworks.¬† You just have to adapt really.¬† Every game is not going to be an eight‑birdie, ten‑birdie affair.¬† Sometimes you just have to grind it out.¬† After a long week, just to hang tough the way I did today and just feel as strong as I did coming in was very pleasing.

Q.¬† Two victories in five weeks and heading into a tournament next month that you love‑‑
GRAEME McDOWELL:  And two missed cuts.

Q.  Heading to the next major that you love, how does your form this year compare to 2010 when you won at Pebble Beach?
GRAEME McDOWELL:  I feel like I'm a substantially better player than I was three years ago, all around really.
I feel like I've learned a lot from this process that I've gone through the last 2 1/2 years, winning the U.S. Open, getting comfortable with deserving that U.S. Open, getting comfortable with the player that I was trying to become and was at that point, acclimatising myself to being in the Top‑10, Top‑20, Top‑30 in the world, winning tournaments, new equipment.¬† Just really a new status in the game.
You never want to say it's a new status, but you thrust yourself into that kind of upper echelons of major champions and good players, and I sit here, as I think the seventh best players in the world without my U.S. Open in World Ranking points, which is very pleasing.¬† I really felt like I've solidified my place in the Top‑20 in the world with some good play, some good learning experiences with my short game which I'm continuing to trying to improve.
No. 1 scrambler on the PGA Tour this year which has been a telling stat.  Last year I'll be the first to admit that my short game was not good.  Cost me probably the U.S. Open.  I felt like if I had been sharper around the greens I would have had a better chance than I did in the end.  Really, like I say, just feeling more comfortable in my own skin out there winning tournaments.
Hilton Head was probably the best I've ever felt down the stretch in a golf tournament, just believing I can win.¬† Like I said earlier, it's tough to compare this to a 72‑hole stroke‑play event.¬† It's just different.¬† Not the greatest field in the world of golf this week, but 24 solid players who are tough to beat.
So I mean, this feels really, really like a special win.¬† I'm sure Volvo are going to work hard to take this tournament from strength‑to‑strength and get it back as one of the premiere events, one of the special events on The European Tour season, which it needs to be.
So no, I'm just feeling more experienced, I feel like I'm learning all the time.  I'm comfortable on and off the golf course at the minute.  Things are good.  I'm happy with what I'm doing technically.  I'm certainly happy with what's ahead of me this year, getting married and settling down and doing all these good things in life which I feel like adds to a stable mind on and off the golf course which has worked well for me this season.

Q.¬† Just talked about this being such a great win and how good is it to be the first Northern Irishman to win‑‑
GRAEME McDOWELL:¬† Els, Montgomerie, Westwood, Ballesteros, Norman, Lyle, Faldo, Player, Palmer, it's just crazy stuff really.¬† I mean, to thrust yourself into that kind of‑‑ to have your name on a trophy this cool is pretty special.¬† And you know, Irish golf is certainly carving its niche in world golf at the minute and there's a curly‑haired kid who's pretty good.
So any time I can do something before he does it, it's always never a bad thing.  Every time he looks at that U.S. Open trophy, he has to look at my name above it; he has to look at my name above his.
Obviously what Pádraig has done, Darren winning The Open, it's a lot of fun.  I'm more excited to add my name to the list of champions here.  It's a special tournament.  And like I say, I'm certainly fully behind Volvo and trying to make this the best tournament it can be again.  It's a good field this week but it could be better.  This needs to be as special as it is; it's a proper tournament, this, and I'll certainly do all I can do help them put it back on the map.

Q.¬† You talked about the fact that you said Thongchai was tiring at the turn; what did you think when he went 2‑up after four holes?
GRAEME McDOWELL:  I thought to myself, this isn't a script I had read.  He got off to a solid start.  Played lovely.  I hit two decent shot at the first, he's way out of position, hits a great chip; I miss the putt and he knocks it in, and bullets it in from 30 feet on the next.  And I'm like, okay, it's going to be like this, is it, today.
And then what happened‑‑ I didn't get it up‑and‑down on 4.¬† I got off to a slow‑ish start, felt good, but the final, was I trying to make things happen, who knows.
The up‑and‑down on 5 was key to keep me in there, and the saves on 9 and 10 were massive.¬† Looking back, I didn't play them badly.¬† 9 was‑‑ the second shot to 9 was a very difficult shot on this golf course.¬† I had 76 yards straight up a mountain trying to not hit it long, not hit it short.¬† I just spun it a bit too much and got a great save there and 10 I got a little aggressive on my putt and blew it by but managed to sneak it in coming back.
After that, I felt good.¬† I felt like I was in control after the 10th hole, and I sensed that he was weakening and I just sensed an opening and I really‑‑ it was just a case of trying to take it.¬† I hit some solid shots and felt like I put him under pressure and he made the mistake on 14, and I birdied 15 to really stamp my authority.¬† It was nice to do that.
Match play is such an interesting format.  Some days you've got to go make ten birdies to beat a guy, and some days you shoot level par and beat the guy.  You just have to roll with the purges and that was a good match this afternoon.

Q.  You've gone to the top of The Race to Dubai Money List tonight.
GRAEME McDOWELL:  That's nice.

Q.  What would it mean to you to win that this year?  You have a major; you have a Ryder Cup; you have a Match Play.
GRAEME McDOWELL:  Yeah, Money List would be extremely special.  Early days, with three major championships to come and a couple WGCs and some bits and pieces.  But always nice to see your name up on top of that board, you know, looking into Wentworth next week.
I'll drink a couple cold ones tonight and enjoy this.  This is a special moment in my career, no doubt about it.  Wins are super special.  You know, two in five weeks, that's great.  I mean, I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Q.¬† Yes, you've missed those couple of cuts but you've had so many Top‑5s or Top‑10s this year when you have not got through; is it the most consistently you've ever played golf would you say?
GRAEME McDOWELL:  I've missed three cuts, and I've only played ten times this year, 11 times, and missed three cuts.  Could be construed as streaky golf this year.  I miss L.A. by one and Augusta by one and I missed PLAYERS by two.  I was rusty at Riviera a little bit tee to green.  Augusta I didn't play badly.  I walked off that golf course on Friday evening and knew in my heart of hearts that my game was not in bad shape and walked away from the PLAYERS and knew in my heart of hearts that my game was not in bad shape.
So yeah, the consistency, it's been a comfort level on the golf course which has been nice, some solid play.  I'm certainly starting to believe in my game a little bit more, no doubt about it.  I think as players we are always searching for that consistency and that belief.  I'm excited, very excited about the way I'm playing and certainly what the summer holds from here.

Q.¬† Kenny said about the U.S. Open, the over‑expectation is the only thing that could get to you, as it were.¬† Could you talk about that, how you'll have to manage that going into it?
GRAEME McDOWELL:¬† For sure, talking to Alastair about what I've learned and what's making me better as a player, certainly expectation levels and understanding what they are all about.¬† They are dangerous, no doubt about it.¬† I've got one event now before the U.S. Open.¬† Could say I'm in the form of my life going into an event which is‑‑ an event which certainly my record kind of speaks for itself.
But yeah, I mean, you kind of get ahead of yourself in this game ever, ever, ever.  The second that you think you've got it nailed, it kicks you, hard.  I guess I'm starting too realise that, and I've learned to have no more major expectations, and I think that's why I'm feeling so comfortable on the golf course. 
Hilton Head going into the last round there with my expectations in check enjoying my golf, putting myself in position believing I deserve to be there.  Winning is difficult, no doubt about it, but I'm certainly going to enjoy these.  I'll prepare my best for Wentworth and prepare my best for the U.S. Open and get ready for a great summer hopefully.
But this game, any time you think you deserve something or you think you're owed something it typically doesn't give it to you.  But no, I'll be making sure I'm in check over the summer.
Talking to my caddie, you'll understand that he's a very smart caddie and he's been there and he's done it.¬† He's caddied for great players before and he's watched them go into major championships and over‑prepare and over‑expect and under‑deliver.¬† He's a great asset to my team.¬† He's been on the bag seven years in June for a reason because he's a great caddie, and I believe a lot in him.

Q.  You spoke about how you feel much the better golfer than the guy who won the U.S. Open in 2010, but they were after 99 holes still as sharp as ever coming down the stretch.  How much have you concentrated on physically strengthening, and how does that affect your ability to hang on when the heat is really on on the Sunday afternoon.
GRAEME McDOWELL:¬† I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm some kind of gym rat and I'm a specimen; far from it, as you know.¬† There's no doubt I've looked at myself the last couple years and I've been making an attempt to be fitter and be stronger, eat better and get myself into the kind of shape that's going to carry me through a 36‑holer.
Yesterday I felt fantastic coming down the stretch, I really did.  Today, I was starting to feel it a little bit but I looked across at my opponent and I saw that he was feeling it more than I was and I fed off that.  I walked away from Augusta knowing that I felt fatigued the last three or four holes the last two days, and that kind of cost me the cut going into the weekend there.
I've kind of re‑analysed a few of my fitness things the last three or four weeks, strengthen my legs back up a bit and get them a little bit more powerful.¬† It's a work‑in‑progress and gives me a lot of encouragement to feel as good as I have this weekend.¬† Yeah, this is a tough walk but a lot of cart rides; it's hot, a lot of pressure, 99 holes.
I'll be tired tomorrow but I was proud of myself these few days to feel like I was as tough and up for it as I was coming down the stretch.  It's big; we need that.  It's a long season, and like I say it's not an athletic pastime, but it's tough.
It's a long year, a lot of shots, a lot of golf, a lot of pressure and a lot of mental stress and you've got to pace yourself.  I've done that well this year.  I think pacing myself has been key.
The missed the cut‑‑ it's weird the way things construe themselves.¬† The missed the cut at Augusta; I have no doubt in my mind allowed me to go and win at Hilton Head because I was better ready, I was mentally and physically more prepared.¬† If I had beat myself up for two more rounds around there finished 15th, would I have a have been as ready?¬† Probably not.
Jacksonville, probably not so much so at the weekend; but two more nights at my own bed and prepared myself to come here for these two weeks and be as ready as I possibly could, and it worked out this week.¬† It's weird how things construe themselves.¬† Physical fitness is a work‑in‑progress for me and something that I'm not going to call myself a Rory McIlroy in the game, but it's something I've got my eye on and trying to be better.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Many congratulations once again.

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