An Interview With: GRAEME MCDOWELL
KELLY ELBIN: 2010 U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell joining us at the 94th PGA Championship. This will be Graeme's eighth PGA Championship and his best finish, a tie for 10th in 2009 at Hazeltine. Graeme tied for 12th at the Masters, strong major championship season so far. You must feel pretty good coming into Kiawah this week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, like you say, it's been a strong year in the majors for me. I'm very happy with my performances so far. Excited about the fourth and final major championship of the season. It comes around awfully quick, but you know, I guess I feel fortunate that I managed to get 18 holes in here last Tuesday on the way to Firestone. I played 18 holes here on Monday, as well.
So the last couple of days have been very difficult from a preparation standpoint. The golf course has taken a lot of rain. It seems to drain extremely well, though. It seems to flood quick and it seems to drain very quickly, but there's no doubt, this golf course is a long course, and this little bit of rain is going to make it play a lot longer, and certainly is changing the dynamic of it as we speak.
But looking forward to it. It's going to be a great test, a beautiful part of the world. I love the golf course. I kind of describe it as a links course through the air. When it blows here, the wind is a massive factor, you know, strength and direction, but it certainly does not play linksy along the ground. Aesthetically it looks linksy, but the run?off areas don't give you a huge amount of option. You are either going to chip them out of play completely or you're probably going to hit something very low along them, like a putter. It really doesn't give you the type of imagination that a real links gives you. They are very soft and they don't bump?and?run like a links golf course does.
It's a great setup and very good golf course, and fingers crossed, we'll give a good run at it this week.
Q. Do you look back positively in those last two majors or does any kind of frustration linger with you that you didn't win one of them? How do you square that in your mind?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I do look back very positively on both of my last two major experiences. Yes, I mean, there are certain elements of frustration and negativity in there. I have addressed a couple things that I think I need to do better.
You know, I take the positives away in that it was certainly nothing to do with nervousness or pressure that kind of got to me. If anything, I came out a little bit flat in both first nine holes. So there's a few things I've addressed, just really kind of my routines, my pre?shot routines, just various little things I'm maybe not executing as well in the heat that I do maybe on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, just committing quicker to my shots, just getting in there and reacting a bit better.
Just nice to be back in those positions and know that I can deal with the pressure and the emotion. I just didn't execute my shots well enough.
Olympic, there were probably ?? looking at both days, they were both the toughest days of the week regards conditions and the way the course played. You know, at Olympic, that marine layer had come in and wind was there and the course was playing at its longest and toughest all week; it was tough.
Certainly at Lytham, we played Thursday, Friday, Saturday, were very benign, and Sunday, it was a tough cross?wind and it was tough to adapt to. There was nothing to do ?? it was just a little bit of a lack of good ball?striking really on both days as opposed to anything else. But I take a lot of positives away. You know, it's just building and building and putting myself there more often, knock on the door, and hopefully, some day I'll bust one down again.
Q. In the past when courses have been playing extremely long, you might have felt that you had a bit of a disadvantage. Is that something that you got over because of playing so well at Olympic?
GRAEME McDOWELL: There's no doubt I'm not the longest guy in the field this week. I'm probably middle of the pack, somewhere like that. I'm just about long enough to compete most places these days. I certainly wouldn't describe myself as short.
You know, driving the ball is going to be a premium. There's enough rough out there to keep everyone honest, which I like it from that point of view. But there's no doubt that length is going to be a factor on half a dozen of the holes out there, the par 5s, especially. The two on the front, if you get big drives away there you can attack those greens.
There's no doubt I'm going to have make up in other departments what I'm going to lose to the top 20 drivers of the ball this week. I'm going to have to make up in other departments, I'm going to have to putt better than them, and I'm going to have to be more accurate with my irons.
I'm certainly not seeing length as a massive advantage this week, but it's definitely something good to have in the tank for this type of a golf course setup. There's going to be a lot of drivers hit, and guys ?? the guy who drives it the best this week, because I think accuracy is a premium. There's enough rough out there.
Like I say, I've just got to do some things better than the long guys.
Q. I had a couple of questions about the linksiness of the course. When you played it last week on Tuesday and it was drier, was there any kind of bump?and?run possibilities, because it is links?looking. And then the related question is, do European golfers who have experience maybe with links have an advantage or bring something to it?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I really don't think ?? even when I played here last Tuesday, having said that, they had two inches of rain on the Monday previous to the Tuesday, so it did not play very firm.
But the type of grass, this paspalum grass, has a little bit of grain to it, as well. It kind of grows down the slopes, which means some of these steep banked run?off areas, you can't kind of pitch a 9?iron into the slope and hope that it's going to hop up with some pace. Really the first bounce digs in. It's very soft.
I see a lot of these run?off areas, I think you'll see a lot of guys putting, just to try and get something rolling quick so that it doesn't dig into this grain.
I really don't think it plays linksy from that point of view. The only advantage I see to having a links experience is if this ocean breeze gets up. It's heavier. It affects the ball more. Perhaps why I've performed well on the West Coast, for example, is that breeze coming off the Pacific. It just affects the golf ball quite differently from how an inland U.S., United States wind would affect the golf ball. The ball really travels well through warm winds.
But the ocean breeze can still affect the ball heavily. I even noticed that yesterday in my practice round ?? sorry, on Monday, when I turned, those last five or six holes into a bit of a crosswind. It's amazing how long it was playing. That's the only advantage I see really for the links effect, if you like.
Q. Webb Simpson was in earlier and he was saying he already started practicing with a short putter in anticipation of a possible rule change. Is there a feeling amongst the players that that change is coming, and presumably it's something you would welcome given what you've said in the past?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think reading between the lines from what the R&A and the USGA are saying, I would say the change is coming. How imminent that change is is obviously a different question. I don't think it's something that's going to take immediate effect. The players have got to have a little time to adapt. The equipment manufacturers have got to have a little time to kind of adapt their things that they are doing.
You know, do I welcome that change? I think ?? there's no doubt, I mean, I think talking to Mike Davis and the USGA, they feel like their research has shown that putting under pressure down the stretch on the back nine on Sunday, when you can anchor the putter to a part of your body, that just takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke; that putting under pressure with that type of putter is easier. It's just kind of a physical fact that if you can just take one element of movement and motion out of the stroke that holing putts will become easier.
But having said that, if it was so easy, everyone would be using one, you know. They have their advantages and their disadvantages. It just so happens that a lot of very good players in the world now are using long putters, and you know, it's tough to ignore the timing of the decision, if one gets made, that the major champions in the last 12 to 18 months have wielded the long putter. It's not an issue, because of guys using it effectively.
It wasn't such a big issue two, three, four years ago, when perhaps they weren't quite in the spotlight and winning major events. But The Open Championship, what was it, one, two and three used long putters, Ernie, Adam Scott ?? I thought there was a third in there somewhere. But there's no doubt, I mean, I welcome it. I think the game of golf, putting is such a big part of the game that, you know, let's level the playing field again. Let's get everyone with a short putter back in the bag as the game is meant to be played.
Q. At Lytham at the end, an American journalist, who knows golf but didn't necessarily know all of the competitors as well as some of us here, looked around and he said, "Why is it that Graeme McDowell is the only one that looks as though he's got a smile on his face?" Firstly, your reaction to that; do you find it easier to deal with situations that other people might feel nervous in? And if so, why and how?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I can't really speak for anybody else. But I guess part of my psyche, if you like, going into the tough situations is to try and enjoy it. I mean, I know from past experience that it's very difficult to enjoy it. Probably some of my most painful stretches of golf holes as far as enjoyment levels would be the last 12 holes at Pebble, you know, the last eight holes at The Ryder Cup. Painful is probably the wrong word; they are very difficult to enjoy.
We practice, we dream all our lives and we hit golf balls for hours and hours and hours all our lives to put ourselves in those scenarios, but they are uncomfortable, they are not enjoyable, you are very scared, mainly of kind of messing it up. I guess one of the techniques I use is keeping my body language positive, trying to keep my chin up, both of them (laughter), and trying to smile and try to have a bit of craic with my caddie. And then obviously trying to get in and do the business part of the job well and execute my shots as well as I can.
Like I say, that's all part of the things that I work on under pressure to try and give myself the best opportunity. You know, like I say, sometimes I'm smiling, but I'm probably hurting under the surface. It's just my way of trying to deal with that. Other players have their own techniques.
Q. Just curious, on the week, what it's been like getting ready for the major with so many stops and starts and not such agreeable weather.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's been quite a quiet, surreal, kind of un?major?like kind of buildup so far. You know, taking nothing away from this event; it's a fantastic major championship. I was going to say I would give my left arm, but that wouldn't be much good to me. I would give a lot to win a Wannamaker Trophy, no doubt about it.
It's tough; where does this major rank among the four? There's no doubt it's firmly the fourth major, unfortunately. It's tough, I guess it's right in the middle of such a busy stretch of the season. We've just come off the U.S. and the British and looking towards the FedEx and The Ryder Cup and there's a lot of golf going on. Somehow the buildup to this one seems a bit surreal with the weather and the stop/start nature of it.
Like I said at the start, thankfully I have some rounds under my belt so I'm ready for this golf course. When the gun goes off tomorrow, everyone will be ready and fizzed up and ready to go and perhaps not as ready and prepared as they would like to be for a major championship.
As I say, a bit surreal, a bit weird, and come Sunday afternoon, late on Sunday, hopefully it will be the last round of the championship and someone will have a chance to win and it will not be surreal anymore.
It's tough. It's no doubt it's difficult. It's going to be a busy afternoon this afternoon. I want to go and play the back nine for the third time and be ready for tomorrow, but guys are scrambling around to get their preparation done. Thankfully I feel like I have done enough so far.
Q. Do you typically try it play late on a Wednesday afternoon?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I do. The last couple of majors now, I've played nine holes late on Wednesday. I try to play early and I try to play late; early Tuesday, late Wednesday, typically, just to see the golf course up to speed. And it's also quieter. I like to try and get out there when there's not too many guys out there and just give myself some time to hit some chips and putts.
I don't think this afternoon is going to be a typical afternoon at a major championship where the guys typically have the work done and are going home to put the feet up and recharge and get ready for a big weekend. This Wednesday afternoon, as I say, it's going to be pretty busy out there. That typically is my strategy. I'm hoping to play nine holes this afternoon, weather depending.
KELLY ELBIN: Graeme McDowell, thanks very much.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...