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An Interview with: GRAEME McDOWELL
KELLY ELBIN: Making his Ryder Cup debut this week at the 37th Ryder Cup, Graeme McDowell joins us at Valhalla golf club.
Graeme, some sense and thoughts of what it's like as your Ryder Cup career has begun and what you're looking forward to this week.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, things have started out pretty relaxed. We have a pretty good bunch of guys and Faldo keeping us relaxed. Obviously the first look at the golf course yesterday was interesting, and we kind of had a pretty long practice round yesterday just trying to get to know the place and getting a feel for things.
But like I say, I think the anticipation is building and the excitement is really going to build as the week goes on. Yeah, it's been a nice, relaxed day yesterday.
KELLY ELBIN: Any initial impressions on the golf course, key holes perhaps on either side?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think the golf course offers up some interesting stuff. There's no doubt it's been set up to be aggressive off the tee and the greens are really going to be the key. You're really going to have to hit some very accurate irons, and the greens are very small, undulating and some pretty thick rough around them, and there are certainly some key areas where you've got safe zones around the greens to hit the ball to. There are some pretty key holes out there and there's going to be certainly couple of potentially drivable par 4s, No. 4 and 13 which will be drivable, and the par 5s will be key. Three out of the four are pretty reachable. There will be eagles and birdies and all sorts of stuff flying around.
Q. Just want to know, first of all, how much you are enjoying the whole experience and how difficult it is to get some quality practice, because you seemed to be signing as many autographs as you were hitting golf balls out there yesterday.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, certainly we had a pretty busy day from that point of view. We certainly wanted to make the crowds feel like Europe wanted them to be there. That was certainly part of our ethos a little bit was to get the crowd on our side a little bit, no doubt about it.
Yeah, it's difficult to prepare the same way you would normally. It's a little bit like a major but worse perhaps. There's certainly lots of autographs to be signed from tee to green every hole. You've got to try your best to get the job done when you're out there, though.
I think today we are going to be looking at playing nine holes and the guys have the option to do whatever they want as far as chipping, putting, working on their game a little bit, playing another nine holes. So today is going to be much more like a normal preparation day hopefully.
Q. And just wondering what advice Darren Clarke may have given you coming into The Ryder Cup as you make your debut.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, we had a pretty good chat last week in Germany along similar lines. Actually he was very adamant, he said to me, it's going to be a very long, long busy week and make sure you get a chance to get your preparation done and the things that you want to do on your game, make yourself time for those. And really, just go and enjoy myself and have a good time.
And obviously disappointed that he's not here, but I'm sure he's got another couple of Ryder Cups in him.
Q. Paul spoke very well about Nick; "he's pouring out ideas, all of the stuff he's stored up." Can you give us your impressions of him as a captain and what has impressed you most about the way he has gone about being captain?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, you know, obviously I didn't know Nick in his heyday playing career. I only go off of what people say. He was a bit of a closed book, a bit unapproachable from that point of view. Didn't really give much of his own experiences.
I think it's great. I think we all got into the team room, and we're kind of on the edge of our seat a little bit because we are waiting for the next nugget of wisdom that's going to come out of his mouth. He was one of my heroes, six time major champion, and he's got a lot to give. He's got a lot of stuff in his head and he's been thinking about it long and hard and has had a lot of time to digest this golf course and think about his pairings, think about his team.
We get into the team room and his speeches are pretty calculated. He's thought long and hard about things. He's got a lot of great stuff to offer us. He's really involving everyone, caddies, wives, partners, the whole team, everybody is involved. Everyone is a part of this whole experience, and you know, he's very open to any feedback. He really listens to what we've got to say and you really digest the information.
Like I say, I think he's very cool, calm and calculated this week.
Q. Just one example, without giving too much away, can you give one example of one thing that he said?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I think everyone saw the first tee experience that we had yesterday. I thought that was really cool. We all got together as a team, kind of talked a little bit ... what I've learned about him this week, and from our conversations prior to this week, that he really takes the mental game very seriously. He's obviously worked very long and hard on the psychology side of the game. He talks about visualization, imagery, routines, a lot of things like that.
Getting on the first tee yesterday was a visualization experience. We were talking about what it was going to be like Friday morning and really how to stick to our game plans. It was good to get together as a team. We've got so many more guys adding so much more into the melting pot, the Sergios, Westwoods, Harringtons and guys with a lot of experience on their side.
We've got a great rapport in the team room and we are having a great time and have some great friends in there and we have some guys adding some great experience in, as well.
Q. Has Padraig been a pretty popular guy the past few days with your teammates trying to rub up against him and trying to figure out how he's been able to transform his game over the past two years?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I think guys are trying to get close to Padraig this week and I'm certainly no different. What the guy has done the last three or four months or the last 15, 16 months, winning three majors, he's probably the best player in the world right now who is fit.
Having him on our side is huge. Lucky enough to play a practice round with him yesterday and get up and close. I find myself watching the guy, especially around the greens, he's unbelievable. He's certainly given our team room strength. He's strengthened the whole team. He's bringing something and he's bringing a whole new level to our team.
Like I said, what he's done is phenomenal. I think there's no doubt guys are keeping an eye on him this week trying to watch what he does and how he takes the golf course apart. Like I say, I'll certainly be trying to get in his way as much as possible here and how to work out what he's done and what he's just accomplished.
Q. Even though it's the official tournament policy, no autographs, you all spent a lot of time signing autographs; is that part of the game plan to win over the crowd? And are you aware that that exact shade of blue you're wearing has great significance to Kentucky and the university down the street that goes by the initials UK?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously a bit of a coincidence that we are the European blue team this week. No doubt ... well, I'm aware, having gone to college here in the States, I'm aware of Kentucky Blue, and University of Kentucky is very similar blue to this obviously.
Wasn't aware of the official policy of the tournament not to sign autographs. It's pretty tough, we have a hundred people waiting for us when we come off the greens. It's something we have always done in the past and we like to give something back to the fans. They come out here to watch us and it's nice to treat them right and give them something back.
Winning over the fans could be a tough thing to do. I fully expect that there will be a huge crowd on the weekend and behind the U.S. Team. We'll certainly have our own support but I don't think we're going do be able to win over the fans with a few autographs. I think if we put some blue on the board over the weekend, that might win the crowd over.
Q. You talked about the veterans and Padraig. Do you anticipate or want to play with an experienced guy early on, or does it really matter to you? Do you think two rookies together would be a good fit?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, it's an interesting one. I think playing with an experienced guy, you might feel a little bit of pressure. Two rookies together might be able to slip under the radar and feed on each other and try to gain the experience themselves.
From my own point of view, I'm not really too bothered I have to say. I think we've got 12 guys playing well, which is a good start. I think both teams have a different shape to them this year, there's no doubt, and our team especially represents a little of the change of guard in Europe. We have a young, passionate team and guys who have really been playing well the last couple of years. There's certainly not a guy on our team I wouldn't want to tee it up with at any point this week. From that point of view, we are all great friends, and like I say, the rapport in the team room is fantastic. It is an interesting one, two rookies, an experienced guy, putting the arm around the shoulder of some of the younger guys.
Not really sure where I stand, but from my own point of view, I wouldn't mind teaming up with anyone.
Q. From Faldo or anyone else, what's the best tip you've had to latch onto about a first tee shot?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Don't miss it.
Obviously a lot has been said about the first tee shot and thankfully we only have to hit it once this week, so that will be over soon, quick. I was happy that it was a driver. I was happy that it requires very little thought.
I like the way they set the course up this week. You can be very aggressive off the tee. Obviously they are trying to play into the whole J.B. Holmes effect maybe this week. Obviously he's pretty much one of the longest hitters in the world right now. I think we have a very long hitting team, as well. I'm not sure if Captain Azinger is aware of the fact that we have some guys on the team that can really get it out there; not speaking about myself obviously there.
The first tee shot, it's a no brainer driver, so I'm pretty happy from that point of view. Like I say, we only have to hit it once, so there's no doubt we are talking a lot about it, and like I say, that little deal we did on the first tee yesterday morning, was certainly a little visualization, trying to acclimatize and trying to see the shot we want to hit. I think the main tip the Captain is hit the shot we want to hit and don't be getting forced into trying to do something extraordinary because you're forced to do it. Hit the shot that you're comfortable hitting and just believe in yourself really.
KELLY ELBIN: Ryder Cup rookie, Graeme McDowell, thank you very much.
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