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July 16, 2013
MIKE WOODCOCK: We'll get started. Just like to thank
Graeme McDowell for coming in and joining us this afternoon.
You've had quite a run recently, I think three wins in the last
seven tournaments. Must give you a lot of confidence coming into
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah. Always great to be back at the
Open Championship, especially when the sun is shining. I'll try
not to talk about the weather too much today. We'll enjoy it
while we have it.
Great golf course here, completes my set of Open golf
courses this week. Muirfield was the only one in the rotation I
had never played before, and got a chance to come here early last
week and play it in beautiful conditions. And it's, as everyone
has seen, it's in magnificent condition. It's a fantastic golf
course. And really, really excited to be here and ready to go,
like you say.
Some good confidence coming off the back of a win two
weeks ago in France. A golf course which is not dissimilar in
style to a golf course like this one, where fairways and greens
are a real premium, and very much so this week, where fairways are
a must. You really can't play this golf course from the rough.
You must keep it in the short grass to have a chance and out of
the bunkers. It's a really, really great of golf. I'm excited
about the way things are setting up.
Q. There was obviously some feedback last week in Scotland
towards comments that you made regarding the Scottish Open and you
were moved to speak to the organizers. I wanted to ask how you
felt when you heard some of that stuff coming back at you. Has
that affected the reaction you've had this week? You're quite
popular in Scotland and I was wondering if there's been any
negativity toward you because of that.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I read a few of the quotes from some of
the guys last week and, you know, first and foremost, of course,
my comments were certainly construed a lot more negatively than I
was trying to -- what I was trying to say, really. I was talking
more about schedule and strengthening the important parts of our
schedule in and around Wentworth and around The Open Championship.
Unfortunately managed to single out the Scottish Open as a
weakened field in the last three or four years, and kind of
inadvertently criticized Castle Stuart as a venue. It wasn't
really my intention. It was kind of just one of those things
after I said it, I realized it wasn't a very good thing to be
saying. And that's prompted me to contact Martin Gilbert from
Aberdeen Asset Management and apologize firstly for singling out
the Scottish Open, an event which I love. I won it in 2008. It's
close to my heart. And certainly I was disappointed in myself as
to the way things read and the negative connotation to what I
Certainly it was great to see the guys enjoying the golf
course as much as everybody did last week, and get a great weeks'
weather. And obviously a fantastic champion.
Like I say, it wasn't really where I was trying to go. I
was really trying to talk about getting the Scottish Open back to
a world-class event and a world-class field. And like I say, it
really didn't kind of go the way I was trying to let it go.
Like I said, I apologized to Martin Gilbert and obviously
the people at Castle Stuart. There's been no negativity --
obviously I received a little negativity on my social network
accounts from upset Scotchmen and people globally. That's one of
those things, like I say, I was disappointed myself, the way it
came out. And that kind of thing can happen from time to time. I
do talk a lot, like I'm doing right now (laughter). And sometimes
you can talk yourself into a little tizzy, that when you read it
on a piece of paper you go, I didn't really want to say that.
But I love playing golf in Scotland, like I say. I won
the Scottish Open in 2008. I'm very proud of that. One of my
most proud victories. And I was simply trying to say that the
Scottish Open deserves to have a world-class field and I'm looking
forward to that happening very soon. I'm hoping that I can get
that into my schedule next year.
The people this week have given me a good reception so
far, I'm hoping there wouldn't be too much negativity and we can
put all that stuff behind us.
Q. You mentioned the victory in France. Does golf lend
itself to sort of momentum from one week to the next and can it
carry over? And the second question is, how do you think your
friend, Rory, is handling pressures and expectations that sort of
have been placed upon him in recent months?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: For sure, I think the game of golf,
certain players, get on runs, can use confidence and momentum.
They say, winning is a habit. It's a contagious habit. It's
certainly a habit we like to get into. You can say my season this
year has not really kind of been that way. I haven't fed off my
victories maybe the way I needed to the last few months.
Obviously I've won three times in the last eight events, but
missed five cuts in the last eight events.
I think my season has not felt as inconsistent as perhaps
it's read. Those missed cuts, if you look at them, I missed by
one at Augusta, missed by a couple at Players, missed by one at
the Irish, missed by a couple at Wentworth, missed by a couple
hundred at the U.S. Open.
It hasn't really been as bad as it's read. I felt fairly
decent with my game most of the year. I went through a period of
four of five weeks around the U.S. Open where I was bit
under-golfed actually. The Volvo World Match Play, take that out
of the equation, because it's not a 72-hole stroke event. I
missed the cut at the Players, I missed the cut at Wentworth, two
weeks off. I'm going into the U.S. Open probably a little
underprepared and a little under-golfed, and I kind of put that
performance down to that more than anything.
The second part of your question, I think Rory has
handled things incredibly well. He's obviously struggled with his
form a little bit this season for his extremely high standards,
the high standards he sets himself and the high standards we
expect from him, because he is a phenomenal player, a phenomenal
talent. And the way he's handled things the last few years has
been incredible. He's, I'm sure, put a lot of pressure on himself
this year to prove to everyone that he can make a switch the way
he has and continue to perform.
The game of golf is very difficult. It's very fickle. I
want to say this time 12 months ago Rory McIlroy's form wasn't
very good either, and proceeded to have an incredible last six
months of the season. So I don't think anyone in this room would
be shocked if he won this week, and would continue to have a
phenomenal rest of the year. We always say form is temporary and
class is permanent. And he's a class player, and I expect to see
him back very soon.
Q. You've been paired with Tiger Woods in the opening round,
given the spotlight that's on him, how much of a hindrance or help
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I've played enough golf with
Tiger Woods to know what to expect on Thursday and Friday. He's
always a great guy to play with, very complimentary. He's the
best player in the world and maybe the best player ever. So he's
the kind of guy you want to play with, especially on a week like
this week, which I think will appeal to his tactical side of his
I think back to Hoylake in 2006 maybe as a firm, fast
Open like this one. He certainly dismantled that course that
week. And we'll be watching with interest his game plan Thursday
and Friday. I've got my own game plan which I'll be sticking to.
He's a kind of guy if you can finish one ahead of this week, you
might not be that far away. So I'm looking forward to that.
Louis Oosthuizen, one of my very good friends, I tweeted
early in the week, that Tiger and Louis' golf swings are probably
two of my favorite swings in the world. So that's never bad to
play beside two guys with the rhythm and golf swings like they
have. I'll be very excited about that pairing and the obvious
natural intensity that that brings and I'll be using that to my
Q. You said you never completed The Open set, where does
this one rank on the Open set? And what do you think are the
strong points about it?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: It's right up there for me. I'd
probably say Birkdale, Turnberry, Lytham and this one, in no
particular order, that's my four favorite Open golf courses, Open
venues. St. Andrews takes a lot of beating from me as a venue.
But golf courses I really enjoy this one.
Strengths, it doesn't have a lot of weaknesses, let's be
honest. It doesn't feel long. But let's be honest, when a links
golf course is playing this firm and fast, it doesn't have to be
long. I think it's well bunkered. A lot of the bunkers around
the greens are very playable and very fair. The bunkers in the
fairways are hack-out material, like they should be. I think
they've done a great job with the rough this week. It's nicely
graded. It's thick in the areas it should be thick, and gives you
half a chance to get club on ball in areas sort of where you
deserve to have a chance.
And I love the flight entrances into a lot of greens,
like the 10th hole behind us, here. To me I see that hole as not
a lot of club off the tee, as it must find fairway, but then
you've got quite a big target to hit into. So you can kind of go
into these greens with a bit more club in your hand. Be
conservative off the tee and a bit more aggressive into the
The par-3s are probably a key to this golf course. All
four of them are very difficult. All upslope short of the green,
and you've got to really sort of beat the first seven or eight
yards of the green and heavily bunkered. Par-3s are key. The two
par-5s are certainly chances, for sure, in the prevailing wind.
It's got a really nice balance. I think it's very fair.
I think bad golf gets punished and good golf gets rewarded. I
think it's a very fair golf course. I like it a lot.
Q. If we could go back top the scheduling thing for a
moment. You're an RBC guy now, which presumably you're in the
Canadian Open next week?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Correct, yeah.
Q. What made you kind of add that to your schedule? If you
do play the Scottish Open next year, it would almost be three
national Opens in three weeks, is that too much, just right?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: This is a busy part of the season.
I've scheduled myself accordingly, you know. I said I was a
little under-golfed going into the U.S. Open. Obviously I wanted
to be prepared for the U.S. Open, but my lack of golf kind of
around that period was sort of in anticipation of a very busy
I think as European golfers we certainly, from the U.S.
Open through the PGA, we play a lot of golf. I like to come home
and play the Irish Open and the French Open, the Scottish Open,
and the British, of course, and then straight back to up the
States for Firestone and the PGA, historically. And of course
this year, as an RBC ambassador, I'll be playing the Canadian
So there's a lot of golf. It's a busy schedule. And
with the FedEx playoffs right afterwards. It kind of is what it
is. I'm looking forward to getting across to the Canadian next
week. Schedules are tough. We set those out a long time in
advance. Like I say, I typically play a lot of golf at this time
of the year. And thankfully I've managed to pace myself well
coming into this summer.
So I'm feeling fresh and looking forward to this stint,
and hoping to make an impact this weekend first and foremost, and
see where we're going from here, really.
It is tough. It's tough to play on both sides of the
Atlantic, effectively. Unfortunately there are times when you
have to put a few air miles in and travel a little bit. But I
think on the European Tour we're pretty used to that, traveling
and time zones and adapting to different conditions. So I'm
looking forward to the challenge this week, first and foremost,
Q. Is that why you missed all those cuts, to stay fresh for
GRAEME MCDOWELL: That's it.
Q. We've had 18 winners in the last 20 Majors. And during
that five-year period there's been none for Tiger. Is there a
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Certainly a connection, if it's 18
winners in 20. The two repeats would be Rory and who?
Harrington, how could I forget him?
Yeah, there's certainly a connection between so many
different winners, and Tiger not winning one, because we all know
when he gets in the mood, he likes to win a few.
I think sort of in a period when Tiger kind of went
missing for a couple of years there, it gave a lot of players a
chance to step up to the plate and show how healthy the game of
golf is, and get their confidence up and win the big ones and
really get a bit of belief in themselves.
But I think Tiger has been responsible for raising the
bar, raising the level of golf, the talent level, the strength
level, the athletic nature of the game. I think he certainly has
set the standard for how good guys can be. I think everyone has
kind of stepped up to the mark. I think young players are coming
out better and tougher and ready to win, much, much more than they
were 10, 15 years ago. Does technology kind of level the playing
field? I don't know, I just think guys are getting better. And
are ready to step up on the big stage and win Major championships.
Can someone do what Tiger was doing early 2000s, winning Majors
with a regularity he was doing? It was pretty superhuman golf he
was playing then. And I'm not sure if that's possible anymore,
like I say, where everyone feels like they've stepped up a level
Q. I'm sure you've seen the list of winners here over the
years, going way back, it's almost all Hall of Famers. Any
theories as to why this place produces such great winners? Is it
a coincidence or is there something to the fact that the guys at
those times are the ones emerging as the winners?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think because it's a fair test. I've
pictured some of the Open rotation golf courses, they can be quite
severe from a terrain point of view. And you've really -- it's
kind of a bunch here or a bunch there, it's depending on which
side of the slope you hit can be the difference between birdie and
bogey. I think this golf course is extremely fair. It's got a
lot of, like I talked about, a lot of flat entrances into greens,
where good shots are getting rewarded more often than not here.
This golf course is all right there in front of you,
there's no hidden tricks to it. Like I say, good quality golf
gets rewarded. When a links golf course starts to play firm and
fast, and some of the fairways can be quite undulating and lots of
humps and hollows. That's just the nature of links golf. If you
catch the wrong side of a slope or downslope or upslope, it can be
construed as quite unfair.
I don't think there is anything like that on this course.
This course is just all there in front of you. You hit the shots,
they'll be where you expect them to be. It gives you half a
chance around the greens. It's very penal off the tee, about half
a chance around the greens, gives you a chance to pitch and hit
bunker shots, and doesn't kind of unduly punish you too much. Of
course you're going to find yourself up against the lip of a few
traps here and there. Nine out of ten times this golf course will
reward good golf, and like I say, punish you off the tee, but give
yourself opportunities up and around the greens. I think it's a
fair golf course which rewards great players and great golf,
probably why we have so many great champions at this venue.
Q. Having reached the level where you're considered among
the favorites when a Major rolls around, which is harder for you
to manage, your own expectations or the outside expectations?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think I've became quite good at
managing external expectations. I've sort of been through that a
lot in my career and learned how to deal with that and block it
out and just kind of -- things like this, coming to the Media
Centre on Tuesday of a Major championship used to be a very
exciting thing for me, not that I'm not happy to see everybody
here, but it's something I welcome. When I walk into up the Media
Centre, it's normally because you've done something good.
Hopefully you're not here because you've done something bad; that
would not be good.
But generally it's a good thing to be in here. And I use
that really as something to feed on, I suppose. It used to be I
kind of got excited and intimidated, and like, wow, this is a
Major, I'm in the Media Centre. It's amazing. It's somewhere
where I want to be. I hope I'll be here Friday, Saturday, Sunday
of this week, that's where I want to be.
Learning to deal with the small things with going with
being kind of one of the favorites and things like that, my own
expectations are the more dangerous ones, for sure. U.S. Open was
probably -- I've probably never gone into the Major feeling as
tipped up and as heavily billed as I was going into Merion. I
didn't produce the goods. Certainly has nothing to do with
expectation levels from externals. It was probably, like I talked
about earlier, it was a lack of golf and under-golfed and it
certainly wasn't my own expectations; I just didn't play very
I've been around long enough to kind of know how to
approach a week like this one. It's a golf course which hopefully
should set up well for me, premium and accuracy off the tee. And
good iron play coming into the greens, and a lot of pace putting.
I think this week is going to be very difficult to get close to
these pin positions with it being so firm. You're going to have
to pace putt well and chip and putt well.
So I'll be ready to go Thursday, and have my expectations
in check, hopefully.
Q. Given your performance for the majority of the Open last
year, and the fact that two of your victories this year in
Bulgaria and France have come on links-style courses, does that
put good memories in the bank to draw upon, or is this a
completely different challenge?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: No, I think growing up on a links golf
course, if I was to say which one of the four Major championships,
if I was to win one, you know, again, what would my best chance
come, it would certainly come at a U.S. Open or British Open. I
think the links style golf is in my blood and I always feel like I
revert back well to it. I'm naturally and instinctually can play
well in the wind. The short game I have a fairly good instinct
for the short game, and I'm say very good pace putter, the things
I've learned growing up, I suppose.
Like you say, the golf course in Bulgaria, to an extent
and certainly the golf course at the French Open, in many ways was
very, very good preparation for a week like this. I'm sure Castle
Stuart last week was good prep for a lot of reasons, firm and
fast, and pace putting, et cetera. I think French Open from a
point of view of hitting fairways, long fescue when you get off
the beaten track, firm and fiery conditions, playing quite
conservatively off the tee and aggressive into the greens, I've
always felt that that was a good course for me, because it was
quite linksy. So that was good prep. And hopefully I'll be
trying to use my links skills to good effect this week.
This is a bit like Lytham last year. I liked it when I
saw it, as far as a golf course that sets up for me in The Open
rotation. A golf course like St. Andrews probably really wouldn't
be my cup of tee, because guys that can fly it 300, 320 yards, can
bomb trouble out of play at St. Andrews, but they can't blow it
out of play here because it's well bunkered bunkers, plenty of
rough. There's going to be a lot of similar-type plays off tees
that you're not going to be able to over-par this golf course, I
think. It sets up well.
Q. Given the three wins that you've had this year have come
in similar sets, how do you go about creating a master plan this
week? Do you take the place apart on paper or in your head or
working the greens backwards? What way do you go about planning?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Really just by hitting shots. And even
from a week ago, when my caddie and I were here, Monday afternoon,
evening, and Tuesday morning last week, the golf course has sped
up again. Shots that were maybe 3-irons last week, are sort of
becoming 4- and 5-irons. It's really getting firmer and faster.
You really kind of have to be ready for any contingency, I
suppose. If the wind switches, a hole can play entirely
different. A bunker that you're trying to take out of play with a
3- or 4-iron, might be a hole you can all of a sudden take on. I
picture a hole on the back nine -- I think it's 12. Kind of
downhill, par-4. It's playing back into the wind today. It's
kinds of a 3-iron and an 8-iron. If it's weren't downwind, guys
can blow it on that green.
So you have to be looking at stuff like that. But like I
say this golf course forces you into certain areas in the fairway.
Holes like 18, there's very little you can do there, except hit it
into the area about the size of this room that they kind of have
bunker right, two bunkers kind of left, heavy rough left and
short, and they're trying to get you to position it in this area
to go into the green with a 4, 5, 6-iron. So I think that's the
characteristic of the golf course in that it forces you into
certain areas. There's a few holes that give you opportunities to
kind of blow up past trouble and go in with less club. But that's
kind of what I'm doing. I suppose I'm picturing different wind
directions and how my game plan might change. And I feel like
between myself and my caddie we're fairly good at that stuff.
Q. Gary Player told me that it was a pity that so many
players will not be using driver this week from the tee. What is
your view on that? And do you have a score in mind that might
take it to win it this week?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Looking at winning score, if the wind
forecast is what they expect, which is fairly light, 8 to 10 miles
an hour, switching to the east on the weekend, tough -- I think it
might be 10, 12-under.
It really just depends. It can get fairly evil with pin
positions, The R&A, I have to say. They can get a little bit
evil. These greens, there are some little corners on them that
they can find. Obviously weather is always going to play a
massive factor. Let's pray for a great, sunny, breezy weekend.
That would be fantastic.
As far as Mr. Player on the drivers, I'm not really sure
what he means. He's an athletic, fit guy. Loves the dynamic kind
of nature of the game of golf. And I'm sure he just wants to see
guys out there ripping it and using their athletic ability. I
like a bit of variety on a golf course. If I ever design a
course, it will be a lot of different clubs off tees, and irons
and woods, and something that kind of gets the brain working a
little bit. This is certainly a game of chess this week, where
you have to position your pieces and keep them in play. A little
bit of reverse in that you've got to play a bit conservative off
the tee and maybe a bit more aggressive into the greens.
So certainly there won't be a lot of drivers. I don't
see my hitting much more than five or six drivers out here. It's
a great tactician golf course.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Graeme, good luck this week.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Thank you.
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