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March 19, 2014

Graeme McDowell


MARK STEVENS:テつ Like to welcome Graeme McDowell.テつ You just got done playing the course.テつ If you want to talk a little bit about the course conditions, your thoughts coming into this week and then we'll take a few questions.
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, the course is in great condition.テつ I played Sunday morning here.テつ It's a different golf course the last three days.テつ The golf course was very firm on Sunday morning.テつ A bit of rain softened the greens up.テつ They're now taking an iron shot.テつ But obviously they will continue to dry up as the weekend goes on.テつ The course is in magnificent shape.テつ Nice amount of rough.テつ I heard a comment to where Arnie kind of wants it to play as a U.S. Open off the tee.テつ And Augusta‑esque around the greens.テつ And I can see what he's trying to achieve.テつ The greens, like I say on Sunday, the firmness and the speed of the greens was very Augusta‑esque with these new runoff areas that he's created the last few years.テつ The golf course is pretty tight off the tee.テつ Nice amount of rough.
I've always enjoyed the way the golf course sets up for me.テつ I've had a couple of good years here.テつ Basically it's my home event these days.テつ Used to be the Irish Open was my home event, this is home these days.テつ So it's a special tournament for me.
Kind of with the start of my PGA Tour career in 2005, finishing 2nd, and it's always been the tournament that I've enjoyed ever since then.テつ Great conditions, a lot of people out there.テつ The sun's going to shine, I think it's going to be a fun weekend, hoping to compete.

Q.テつ Is slow play more of a problem on the European Tour or the PGA Tour and why, either way?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ It feels like they're stricter on the European Tour with the pace of play policy.テつ I feel like they're a little quicker to put you on the watch over in Europe.テつ Tough to say which Tour is slower, but I do feel like we enforce the pace of play policy a lot faster in Europe than they do here in the PGA Tour.テつ Pace of play is an issue globally.テつ I think the club golfer spends too much time watching us on TV and thinks that you've got to look at the putt from 360 degrees and have eight practice strokes and take your time over every shot you hit.テつ We have very methodical pre‑shot routines.テつ We pay sports psychologists thousands to teach us these methodical pre‑shot routines.
Yeah, pace of play is a problem, no doubt about it.テつ I'm not going to sit here and say I'm one of the faster players on the PGA Tour, because I'm not.テつ I've certainly worked hard to clean my act up the last 3, 4, 5 years.テつ Getting on the clock is an inevitability, because sometimes slow play can be confused with bad play.テつ You can't make double bogeys fast, to be honest‑‑ maybe you can, if you start four whacking around the hole.テつ But let's be honest, you play badly, it takes a long time to play a hole.
Those pace of play regulations are set out probably with par in mind, they're not set out with losing balls‑‑ so what I'm saying, is going on the clock is inevitable.テつ So you have to be ready and prepared to feel comfortable when you're on the clock.
So 45 seconds, 40 seconds, whatever it is, that's a pretty swift‑‑ when you do go on the clock you're aware that 40 seconds is not a long time.テつ You've got to be ready, you must know your number, you must go in there and hit your shot.テつ That's the kind of things I work on to make sure that my routine fits into that window, as much as possible.テつ So that when I'm on the clock I'm comfortable and it's not going to affect my game.テつ Because it is inevitable.
I know obviously we're talking a lot about Robert Garrigus last week in Tampa, he's a pretty fast player.テつ He did play badly those first nine holes, I believe.テつ And like I say, bad play can be construed as slow play.テつ So they were on the clock and obviously when you've got a tough shot, it's pretty tough to execute that shot within 40 seconds when you're talking about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that those guys are playing for on the last group on a Sunday afternoon.
I feel bad for Robert Garrigus obviously getting a bad time when he's such a fast player, but we are trying ‑‑ we are trying to fix this problem, this kind of illness that the game has.テつ It's hard to do.テつ And every now and again a guy is going to get singled out unfairly.テつ But unfortunately we have to look at the problem wholistically as opposed to looking at each individual player.テつ Of course we know who the slow players are, we know who the fast players are.テつ I'm probably in there in the middle somewhere.テつ So it's a tough problem to execute and penalize‑‑ it's tough to single out guys.

Q.テつ You said on the course that you half expected Tiger to pull out this week.
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ No, I didn't, I said I half expected to be playing with Tiger this week.テつ I'm sorry, you must have misheard me.

Q.テつ Now that he has pulled out, this sort of recurring back injury, how much do you think that is going to restrict him from going on to win another Major?テつ And how much is the fear amongst all you guys of a niggling injury sort of curtailing your career?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, to answer the second part of your question first, I've worked with physios and chiropractors for the last 6, 7, 8 years, really.テつ And it is about injury prevention.テつ Tiger's workout habits have been well documented.テつ And the guy is a serious athlete who takes physical fitness extremely seriously.テつ And his golf swing is very physical, to the detriment of his body.
Golf is not a sport that is a contact sport. テつAnd from the outside looking in doesn't maybe look like our bodies are going to take a beating.テつ In comparison to the NFL players, here, taking them as an example, our career longevity is a hell of a lot longer than those guys.
But golf can have a wear and tear effect on knees and hips and backs, and those are the kind of things we're taking very seriously.テつ I want to play golf into my 40s, so I've got to keep myself in shape.
But I feel for Tiger what he's gone through.テつ He's a physical player who creates a lot of speed and a lot of power and his body is starting to struggle a little bit, no doubt about it.テつ But I'm sure he'll fix it.
I read an article a few weeks ago, talking about the chronological kind of comparisons between Tiger and Jack, and his search for 19 and beyond, and obviously Jack, the next three or four years, goes on to win, I think, another four Major championships, in that 37 to 40 space.テつ And for Tiger to keep up with that, he's got to win another few.
But we all talk about how good the fields are nowadays and how good everything is.テつ Taking Tiger's fitness and physicality out of it, winning Major championships is, I feel, is getting harder and harder for everyone, including the best player, maybe that's ever lived, in Tiger.テつ He's got more than just his body to be fighting.テつ There's a lot of great players in the world now.テつ Everyone is getting better.テつ It's going to be hard for him to achieve Jack's record, but if anyone can do it, I'm sure he can find a way because we all know how good he is.

Q.テつ Has the toughening up of the Doral course changed the nature of the Florida Swing now with four difficult courses?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, I saw Luke Donald Tweeting the other day, whatever the last three weeks' scoring has been single figures under par, 9, 4 and 6, whatever the numbers are.テつ They are a tough set of golf courses now.テつ And I've never played Tampa.テつ It's a golf course it that I'm trying to make work in my schedule.テつ I'm going to try to make it work next year, I know with the match play moving around it could work for me next year.テつ It's a golf course that appeals to me.
I've played Honda the last five, six years, it's a good test of golf.テつ It suits me well.テつ Bay Hill, like I said earlier, has been a golf tournament I've enjoyed because of how tough it is.テつ I'm a tough golf course player.テつ It appeals to my type of game.テつ Doral, as you say, Doral was extremely difficult this year, and that's been a nice addition, really.テつ Apart from maybe four or five holes which didn't suit me personally regards if you could move it 290, 300 off the tee some of the tee shots at Doral, they made them a lot easier tee shots.テつ I had to kind of lay back short of bunkers, but generally I found Doral a good test of golf for my type of game.テつ It's given a unique spin to this Florida Swing.テつ It's no longer sunshine resort golf courses, it's a tough test of golf.テつ And that's great.テつ You throw THE PLAYERS Championship into that mix and you've got five of the toughest tests maybe in the PGA Tour right now.テつ So obviously when THE PLAYERS is set up tough, nice and firm and fast there.テつ It's fun.テつ I enjoy the Florida Swing, and even more so now because of how tough it is.

Q.テつ You look forward to getting to Augusta for a breather?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah.テつ (Laughter.)テつ Definitely.テつ Definitely.テつ Always look forward getting back to Augusta.テつ But it is a tough stretch of golf.テつ I'll go out to Malaysia and play in the Eurasia Cup and that will be a breather for me, play a little team golf, a little match play, a little fun match against Europe versus Asia.テつ And that really factored into my scheduling.テつ I didn't fancy Houston, I didn't fancy two weeks off either.テつ So Malaysia worked out for me from a scheduling point of view.

Q.テつ What do you think is the greater stumbling block or obstacle for Tiger in 19, his own body or the field?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ That's a good question.テつ I would say the field is probably the biggest issue he's got, maybe 70/30.テつ 70 being field, 30 being body.テつ It's tough to say.テつ He never ceases to amaze us.
We're very fortunate to be playing golf in the Tiger Woods era.テつ He's an amazing player, and you'd never put anything past him.テつ He could prove us all wrong and show up at Augusta, win by ten, and you guys will be back to the keyboards and waxing lyrical and away we go again.テつ Who knows?
It's a great story, though.テつ It keeps people excited because he is‑‑ he does move the needle.テつ And like I say, I have a huge amount of respect for him as a player.テつ And we can certainly only speculate where he's at from a physical point of view.

Q.テつ I'm sure you've given a lot of thought to the Masters.テつ What will you be trying differently this year?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, Augusta of the three major championships is probably my worst from a performance point of view without a shadow of a doubt.
I'm sort of trying to lower my expectation levels going into Augusta this year.テつ I'm kind of trying to sneak up on it if you like.テつ I have a new driver in the bag.テつ It's going to suit me more at Augusta.テつ It's got more flight to it, probably shape it more right‑to‑left.テつ My last couple of years I've been struggling with the driver, not being able to keep it in the air long enough, I'm probably moving a little bit too much the other way.テつ That's going to help me a lot.テつ Couple that with trying to slip in there with some lower expectations, working hard on my short game.
I think to win at Augusta obviously driving the ball is key.テつ And I think you have to chip well.テつ I think the chipping is a little underrated at Augusta, because with the way these greens kind of roll off and run off you really have to work hard on your chipping and your bunker play around there.
Obviously putting, we all know how key putting is.テつ But I think chipping is a bit of an overlooked stat around Augusta.テつ So I'll be working on my chipping hard going in there.
Looking forward to getting back and looking at the subtle nuances they like to change, a pin position here, and obviously a tree, there, at 17.テつ Not sorry to see that one go, but I'm sure they'll replace it with something else.テつ I've been in that tree more times than I care to mention.テつ That's the kind of things I'm thinking about Augusta.テつ I'm trying to stay sharp and I feel like I'm taking some good form the next few weeks in there.

Q.テつ Jack Nicklaus said a few weeks ago that Augusta National was the only golf course that could continue to add length to keep up with the changes in technology, and he felt and Arnold said this morning that they think the USGA is going to think about reining back the golf ball.テつ I wondered if you had an opinion on that.
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, I mean, you know, adding length to golf courses is going to be bad news for me.テつ I'm not really up there in that top‑20 percentile in the PGA Tour and globally, not even probably in the top‑40 percentile.テつ I've got a little‑‑ that's why this new driver, for example, for me, is a big key, really.テつ I'm trying to‑‑ I came out of college fairly long.テつ And somewhere over the last 12 years I've kind of‑‑ I've lost pace with the technology changes.
And obviously I'm not the biggest physically.テつ I don't create the kind of leverage that maybe a Dustin Johnson creates.テつ There's little guys out there hitting it a long ways.テつ I'm not a long guy.テつ What with reining the golf ball back, what would that do for me?テつ I don't know if it would concertina up the field a little bit.テつ Perhaps that would be an advantage for me, who knows.テつ There's no doubt, we're running out of real estate on some of the greatest golf courses on the planet.テつ Adding yardage to the 17th at St. Andrews, blasphemous, nearly.テつ It's tough.テつ Augusta is a long golf course these days.テつ I don't think they need to add too much more to that.テつ We're already going in with a 7‑iron on the downslope on 7.テつ That hole is not designed for a 7‑iron off the downslope.テつ It's tough.
There's no doubt, we've got to keep the balance.テつ We've got to keep the integrity of these phenomenal golf courses that are steeped in tradition and history.テつ We don't want to be turning them into 7800 monsters, it's just taking away from the character and personality of these great tracks.テつ We'll see.テつ We're okay just about right now, but if things keep progressing‑‑ I'm not sure how things can progress anymore, we keep saying that and they keep doing it.

Q.テつ You said earlier that it was a big week for you in 2005.テつ The opportunities had opened up for you in everything.テつ What do you remember about that week and what it meant to you?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ I remember I was sleeping in my buddy's spare room.テつ I remember that week.テつ I remember it was St. Patrick's Day on the Friday night and I had to drag myself out of the bar, in like I've got to go, I've got to play well this weekend.
I remember being in the press center and Vijay hitting it in the water.テつ Like he was in the last group with Kenny Perry, and I was already in, and kind of doing my press conference, finished 3rd, and Vijay hit it in the water to knock me into second, which was significant for me at that level in my career. テつI'd never had a PGA finish before, and been subject to the type of payment structures they have on this great Tour.
I just remember it being a very special week.テつ Because funny enough, I actually bought my first home at Lake Nona the week before.テつ So things happened pretty fast for me, shall we say.テつ I knew I fell in love with Lake Nona back in about 2000 when I was in college.テつ I said one day if I had a few dollars in my pocket I might buy something there.テつ I did it the week before, I finished second here at Bay Hill.テつ And that was nice way to make my sort of debut on the PGA Tour.テつ It was a fun week.テつ I remember just being pretty excited in general.

Q.テつ Looking back, when you beat Tiger in 2010 at the Chevron World Challenge, just the way you did it, how much do you think that helped not only yourself belief but everybody's self belief that he wasn't beatable, even when ahead?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ I'm not really sure if what I did that tournament was an example of Tiger being beatable or the fact that guys can hole putts against him.テつ I just happened to hole two miracle 25‑footers in a row to get the job done after he'd hit a Tiger‑esque approach shop at the 72nd hole.
So that was‑‑ I'm not sure if that was just me ‑‑ 2010, me, at the‑‑ not really too worried about what was going on.テつ I'd achieved my dream of winning a Major championship and then holing the winning putt at the Ryder Cup.テつ So come Tiger's event I was just kind of enjoying life I have to say and obviously playing very well.テつ And had a huge amount of belief in myself.
Like I say, I'm not really sure if that one moment was a sign that Tiger was beatable or it was just the fact that the stars seem to be aligning for me a little bit that year and some fun stuff was happening to me.
Like I say, I mean, no doubt he was invincible for a long time there.テつ Is he less invincible or has everyone got more belief and is everyone just better?テつ To me there's so many more Jordan Spieths and Hideki Matsuyamas, and kids coming out in the low 20s and late teens that are ready and ready to get going, ready to take on anyone, it doesn't matter if the bag says Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.テつ I think everyone is getting better, not necessarily that he's getting less invincible.

Q.テつ You talked about working with physiotherapists.テつ Does this recent thing that's happened to Tiger make everybody get more wide eyed, that there is something that can cause a bad problem with people?テつ Has it made people more aware?テつ At your level made people more aware?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ I think guys‑‑ I think Tiger was probably responsible for making guys think long and hard about their physicality generally the last 13, 14 years.テつ I think he certainly raised the bar regards athletes, like really fully fledged Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnsons, really strong athletes like that being able to play the game well.テつ I think there's no doubt Major champions come in all shapes and sizes, over the many years of this game.テつ And more so nowadays.テつ The guys are fitter and stronger and better.
So I think he certainly has moved the needle from that point of view.テつ And we all recognize, it's funny the more highly strung and the fitter you become you feel like nearly‑‑ you are tighter and more susceptible to injury, you know.テつ It's like sometimes this gym stuff is overrated a little bit.テつ Guys hurting themselves in the gym, lifting too much weight and using X, Y and Zed that maybe that their bodies just aren't ready for yet.
We are more aware of being fitter and faster and stronger and trying to keep up with the 300 plus bombers and trying to hit the ball further.テつ With that comes injury.テつ We're swinging the club harder so guys are getting hurt.テつ Unfortunately the two go hand and hand.テつ But generally it's good for the sport that we are becoming better role models physically for young kids than the slightly more rotund version 20 years ago.

Q.テつ With the wrap around schedule now on Tour and a lot of players talking about limiting the number of tournaments they're playing, you play a lot internationally, how do you determine your schedule?テつ How do you balance the events?テつ And do you see that you're going to play more tournaments or less, what's your goal?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ Yeah, I'm in a tough scenario, because I keep a card on both Tours.テつ So I'm‑‑ I've got my 13 in Europe and my 15 on the PGA Tour.テつ My minimum is eight plus five plus another plus another seven, so my minimum is 20.テつ I can't play less than 20 events a year.テつ A Steve Stricker schedule is an impossibility for me.
You've got to balance it without with your devisor in the World Rankings, which we're looking at.テつ I'm trying to squeeze my divisor down from 52 plus plus for a long time.テつ I had my 52 up in a space of like 20 months there for a little while.テつ So I throttled mine back the last couple of years to where I've got it to 51.テつ We're trying to maximize our efficiency on the World Rankings.
And factor that in that I'm trying to compete on both Tours, from a money list point of view and FedEx playoff point of view.テつ Not only am I having to limit what I'm playing, I end up playing a tough schedule.テつ So I've got to play well in the WGCs and the Majors to compete for the Race to Dubai, and I have to play well when I do play on the PGA Tour, to compete in the FedEx playoffs.テつ So you play less, but you've got to work out how to be more competitively sharp when you tee it up and maximize your game when you do tee it up.テつ There's a balancing act.
Kind of say to a guy like Steve Stricker, how do you play ten times a year and turn up and play as well as he does.テつ And live where he lives?テつ Hitting balls in the snow.テつ How do you turn up sharp?テつ He's a complete anomaly.テつ I'm not quite sure how he does it.テつ He's obviously got a very manageable game, he's got a great short game and he's a hell of a putter.
But it's a balancing act for me.テつ I'm a bad example.テつ In an ideal world I'd play a bit more here in the States.テつ And I'm a European Tour member because it's my home Tour and I feel a loyalty to the Tour, but I want to be a Ryder Cup player and I want to support my home events.テつ I'm in a tough scenario, where I'd like to play over here a little bit more often, but it's very hard for me to do.

Q.テつ You mentioned early on about being very comfortable here now, and it's your home tournament, Florida works well for you.テつ Conversely, do you have an adjustment to make when you go back to Europe and you play European courses in European weather and does that factor into your mind with Gleneagles in your mind in September?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ There's no doubt the European Tour, one of the great things about that Tour is learning to play in all sorts of conditions and climates and cultures, grasses and‑‑ from Singapore to northern Scotland.テつ I mean really hot and humid to freezing cold and windy.テつ We do play in everything, which to me really kind of rounds you as a player.
There is an element to these guys being a little spoiled over here on the PGA Tour, if the greens drop blow 10 on the Stimp, the heads are off.テつ Or if there's too much sand in the traps or the rough is an inch longer than normal.テつ Literally the conditioning they can achieve over here with the climate is amazing.テつ And it is consistent conditions every week.
So kind of why I think these guys are having the best short games I've ever seen.テつ To me they just get so much practice out of great bunkers and great roughs and perfect greens.テつ They have amazing short games.テつ Whereas, we're trying to adapt to different grasses and different turfs every week, I feel like in Europe.テつ But in a way that kind of makes us more rounded and better players, maybe for the long run.
But like you say, Scotland, Gleneagles this year, at the Ryder Cup, three‑quarters of our team are probably going to be PGA Tour players, who are slowly losing that art form of playing in tough conditions.テつ I mean I'd say I've softened up over the years.テつ I'm not the bad weather golfer I was, I don't feel like.テつ And that can only be kind of cultivated by playing in bad weather.テつ And we don't play in the rain here.テつ I don't think these guys own rain jackets.テつ It's like ‑‑ typically when it rains, it's lightning, so you're called in off the golf course.テつ I took the tag off my rain jacket there a couple of weeks ago for the first time this year.テつ It's like at Thursday Doral.
But it's an interesting one.テつ I feel like the golf between the two teams has kind of lessened because maybe you're European team is not the rounded team we used to be because they're playing more golf in America.テつ The Americans are much more used to Europe, because the top 50 in the world players are becoming much more global players, as well.テつ So they are staring to diversify theirgame.テつ That's good.テつ It's going to be an interesting one.テつ Who knows what Scotland will bring.テつ Hopefully the sun will shine, and it will be a great week.テつ But it will be a great week regardless.

Q.テつ A question about Mr. Palmer.テつ What influence did he have as you were beginning your golf career and throughout, and what would it mean to come up 18 on Sunday and shake his hand?
GRAEME McDOWELL:テつ It's tough to quantify kind of, for me, what kind of‑‑ Mr. Palmer's did for me when I was a young guy.テつ He certainly is responsible for the modern game that we play.テつ I'm very privileged to be making a living playing professional golf.テつ He certainly has helped put the game on the map, raised the profile, raised the financials, The Golf Channel, what it's done for the game, just really growing the game, certainly in the professional ranks and obviously globally.
Getting a chance to walk off 18 here in 2005 and shake his hand and for him to recognize me the following year when I came back.テつ He's a very, very cool individual.テつ He's certainly a legend in our game.テつ I've been trying to make time on my schedule to get over here.テつ Well, obviously to match our schedules up, because he's a very busy man himself and sip a couple of cocktails with him in the locker room in Bay Hill and pick the guy's brain, because he's such an amazing guy.テつ And what he's done for our sport is very tough to measure.テつ It's very large, his impact.テつ He's a special guy.テつ I'd certainly love to be hanging with him a little bit on 18th green late on Sunday afternoon.テつ That would be nice.
MARK STEVENS:テつ Thank you for your time.テつ Good luck this week.

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