Graeme McDowell on his French Open win, the Ryder Cup, and becoming a father

Graeme McDowell on his French Open win, the Ryder Cup, and becoming a father

Graeme McDowell eagled the 18th hole to shoot 67 and finish tied for ninth Sunday in the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Warren Little/R&A recently caught up with Graeme McDowell to talk everything from golf to becoming a father. Life on the PGA Tour might seem cushy, but the 34-year-old McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, has plenty on his plate.

You won the French Open earlier this month and in dramatic fashion. Did you think you had a chance when you started the final round eight shots back?

I’ve got to be honest, standing on the 1st tee I would have given myself probably a 50-to-1 shot. It was such a bad day weather-wise, I thought that perhaps there was a sniff, if I could play really well that there was a chance the leaders could be affected by the weather. I did play very well for the first nine holes, and I was seeing the leader board. I could see Kevin [Stadler] was leaking a bit of oil, but I still thought I’d have to play a very good back nine to have a shot. It was probably after I made the putt on 13, with five holes to go, I thought, You know what? I’ve got a shot here. That 50-to-1 had slipped to about 4-to-1. At that point I thought I had a chance.

Going back a little further, you had a top 10 at the Irish Open. How confident are you feeling with your game right now?

I’m probably playing as well right now as I have all year. My game has certainly been a work-in-progress lately, but golf is always a work-in-progress. I took some time off between Augusta and the U.S. Open. I spent some time with the family and didn’t play much golf. I was conscious that I had to play myself back into some form and some rhythm, so I played Memphis, where I was pretty average, and then the U.S. Open, where I was a little better and then I got to Ireland and I played a lot better. Probably should have won that weekend — I struggled on the greens and left a ton of putts out there. Then I went to France and won, so the game is taking along nicely.

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Obviously right now family is more important than travel and you guys are expecting a baby girl soon. What’s the due date?

Aug. 25, which will be Monday after the Barclays, the first FedEx playoff event.

How does that change things for your fall and your schedule moving forward?

It hasn’t really changed too much. I’ll be spending as much time as I possibly can at home. I typically play a fairly light fall anyway. I’ll play the Volvo World Match Play. I’ll play a couple out in China for the Race to Dubai, and I’ll play the Race to Dubai. Then I’ll be back to Florida for two months before it all begins again.

Has anyone bought you a Wee-Mac onesie yet?

We’ve got some bits and pieces like that. There have been a few people giving me presents, with little cards saying “For baby G-Mac.” It’s been fun. It’s a world that I’m excited to learn about. I just got my first Dad-to-be book from my wife. That was my reading for the British Open.

Either that or Twitter, which you tend to use quite a bit. What do you think of social media in general, and do you have to hold yourself back at times from the haters?

I’d say social media for me is 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative. Within the 80 percent is obviously interaction with your fans and giving them an insight into my life and inside the ropes. I try to be as careful as I can. I don’t want to get my personal life too involved in Twitter — it’s more my professional life and then quirky little insights to the other stuff. Generally I try to keep it as golf-related as possible. Of course, on the positive side, there’s value you can add for sponsors who are running campaigns and referring to them from time to time, without trying to shove it down people’s throats. You don’t want to become that guy with shameless plug after shameless plug, so just trying to get the balance right with that as well. If you’re a guy like me who does scroll through his timeline from time to time, as long as it’s not blowing up, I will read most people’s messages that they send to me. But of course, not all are positive. If I’ve had a bad day on the course, you’ve got to expect a little abuse. You have to be very calculated and careful about what you say and when you say it. At the end of the day, with 140 characters, we are creating our own headlines every time we tweet something. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s out in the public domain and it’s as if we told it to someone in the media. It’s electronically reported for the rest of our lives, so you’ve got to be very careful.

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You’re just outside the automatic qualifying for the Ryder Cup. What do you think it’s going to take for you to qualify for Team Europe?

You know, before I won in France, I was certainly a little bit behind the eight-ball, requiring a big, big summer. France took a little bit of the pressure off, if you’d like, because now I’m within touching distance of the qualifying, which means I need a real solid week somewhere, either in Canada, the WGC [Bridgestone] or the PGA. So I’ve got four big weeks coming up, and I need one or two solid performances, not counting out any very big week. Hopefully I can play my fourth Ryder Cup in a row this September. I certainly want to be part of that team. That was a big goal for the year.

You’ve performed pretty well at Ryder Cups. If you don’t qualify, do you think you deserve to be picked off what you’ve done in past Ryder Cups?

Talking to the captain [Paul McGinley], he’s told me I’m obviously in the frame, but picks are going to be determined on current form. You’re not going to get a pick if you’re not displaying form. There’s no deserving, there’s nothing based on past Ryder Cups —  maybe, unless you’re Ian Poulter. If I’m not playing well and I’m not automatic, then I will not be relying on the pick. But if I’m close and I feel like I’m playing well, of course. At the end of the day, you’d prefer to qualify. There’s a certain added pressure that comes with being a pick as well.

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You’ve played a Ryder Cup at Valhalla, the site of the PGA next month. What do you think of that course and how does it set up for your game?

Obviously it’s going to be a different setup than it was for the Ryder Cup in 2008. Loved being there. Great atmosphere. Great fans. From that point of view, I think it’s going to be a great major championship. There wasn’t much rough in 2008. I’d say we are going to be looking at a slightly different golf course this time around. I believe the greens have been redone a bit as well. The PGA has been setting up their golf courses tougher and tougher the last five years, getting sort of U.S. Open-esque. I’ll be hoping for a nice, tough, U.S Open-esque PGA Championship at Valhalla.

When it comes to majors, although you’ve competed on Sundays, does it weigh on you that you haven’t been able to win one since the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach?

It’s probably not weighing on me as much as it would be if I hadn’t already won one. But there’s no doubt — the desire and will to win another one — it starts to increase again. I think of 2012 especially, with solid performances — 12th at the Masters, finished second to Webb Simpson at Olympic, the last group with Adam Scott on Sunday at Lytham and a solid performance at the PGA when Rory won at Kiawah. That year reinforced to me that I have the game and the belief to win another major. It’s funny; my fifth-place finish at Lytham — probably my best Open Championship performance—was really disappointing for me in the end. Comparing it to the 2014 French Open, I guess I realized — when I was playing alongside Adam Scott that day and he birdied 14 — I thought it was all over. Part of me had a touch of give up. It was like, This is over. I’m not going to win, I’m disappointed. I played the last four holes pretty flat. Little did I realize that standing on the 10th tee, I was a couple ahead of the eventual winner in Ernie Els. He used his experience. He knows anything can happen at a major championship and came back and played that back nine incredibly well and ended up winning it. I guess you have to sort of go through those experiences and maybe that experience at Lytham kept me in good step for the weekend at France, because there is a certain element of anything can happen in this game. You just have to play every round with the same level of intensity and every hole with the same level of intensity, no matter the scenario.

Is it tougher to win the second major than it is to win the first? How does that compare?

Major championships are just tough. It’s probably easier to win your second than it is to win your first because you’ve experienced it and you have that little bit of extra belief there that, whatever comes Sunday afternoon, you’ve been there before and you can do it. Let’s be honest. There are so many great players in the world nowadays, it’s hard to win major championships. It’s hard to win any tournament in any given week because there are so many great players. The courses get so difficult. Majors are such a mentally demanding 72 holes, so much moreso than regular tournaments. The patience and the short game and everything that is required, it really puts you through the mill for 72 holes. Like I said, it’s a minimal difference but it’s probably easier to win your second than it is to win your first, just because of that little added belief that you can pull it off.

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