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GMac looks back - Graeme McDowell reflects on his US Open win

With his commanding performance at Pebble Beach in June, Graeme McDowell finally ended 40 years of European hurt in the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Golf International was on hand as the new champion relived his historic week on his return from California.

Gi: What were your emotions walking down the final hole?
G-Mac: It was bit like a swan, calm on the outside, chaos underneath! I was pretty nervous on the 18th tee. I pulled out the driver and it's amazing how the brain plays tricks on you and you start thinking about what might happen and all the various different scenarios. I had thought about picking the trophy up during the day but you really try not to let yourself get into thinking that way. The emotions were flying around, it was an amazing, intense afternoon. It still hasn't sunk in.

Gi: Take us through that second shot to the final hole when you had a protracted discussion with your caddie?
GMac: I had some text messages from people saying “I'm glad you listened to your caddie on 18”.Well, it was actually the other way around! He wanted me to hit 2-iron down there. But I didn't want to leave myself with a horrible little pitch across the bunker. I said, “I'm hitting 9-iron to 100 yards. Give me a five and get me out of here, please!” It was a dream come true to have two putts from25 feet to win the US Open. It's something I've dreamed of all my life so It was an amazing experience.

Gi: If Gregory Havret had made his birdie putt at the last would you have played your second shot any differently, or would you have been happy to take your chances in a playoff?
GMac: I would have gone for it with something like a 2-hybrid. I was prepared to hit that shot and it was a good number for me– 231 yards. But then lots of guys went into the [front right] bunker and didn't get up and down.We talked it over as Gregory putted, and although you never pull against a guy I was happy to see him two-putt and take that decision away from me.

Gi: How often did you look at the leaderboard?
GMac: The 11th was the first time I looked at the leaderboard. I'd bogeyed 9 and 10 so I felt I needed to see what was happening and try to compose myself. I looked again on 15 and saw I was two ahead. At that point I was feeling great about my chances even though I knew that the last three were tough. But I really didn't allow myself to think it was mine until I'd cosied it up on the 18th.

Gi: Was there a key shot for you?
GMac: My second shot to the 13th in the final round, when I hit a 7-iron to 8 feet. I missed the putt but at that point I think I realized that I had what it took. I had Phil, Tiger, and Ernie behind me but they weren't really making a move. The golf course was really tricky on Sunday and that's why no one really got it going.

Gi: Was the course fair? Some holes stirred considerable controversy.
GMac: The set up was reasonably fair. Good golf was rewarded, bad golf was punished. Apart from14 and 17 it was fair. 14 was a brute: in the practice rounds I honestly said that I would be happy to take four 6s there. And at 17, I think only seven or eight guys hit the putting surface on Sunday, which is crazy. But I liked the course and thought the USGA did a good job moving a lot of the tees around and keeping you thinking.

Gi: How did you celebrate?
GMac: It started in the players' hospitality area with some food and champagne with family and friends,my caddie and a few other caddies like Billy Foster.We then went to an Irish pub in Carmel called Brophy's Tavern. It was a long night, with a few glasses of champagne and plenty of adrenaline. I was on Cloud Nine. I woke up feeling amazing and saw the trophy there in the corner of the room.

Gi: We hear you were in demand for some celebrity functions before you left California…
GMac: The first 48 hours were a compete blur. I went to LA for The Jay Leno Show where I was a guest along with Dakota Fanning. And then I did a cameo appearance on the set of Entourage [US comedy-drama TV show], which was a blast.

Gi:What sort of response did you get from people in the immediate aftermath?
GMac: It was amazing: calls, text, emails, Twitter –my website crashed on the Sunday afternoon. I had some great messages from people like Monty, Tony Jacklin, and [Northern Ireland actor] Jimmy Nesbitt. Tony emailed saying “Welcome to the club!”

Gi: Was it hard to focus given what was happening to Dustin Johnson?
GMac: You never want to see a guy go through that. I'm trying to beat him but you don't want to see a guy beat himself. He handed me the lead pretty quickly on Sunday and I had a bit of a wait on 3rd tee while he went through his trouble. Those 10 minutes actually gave me a bit of time to get my head screwed on for the day and really focus.

Gi: How important is your relationship with your caddie?
GMac: The caddie-player relationship is crucial. I've got a great one in Ken Comboy. He's been on Tour nearly 20 years and is very experienced. He's great at controlling my emotions and keeping me motivated. Like on Thursday when I made five birdies but only shot level par. Ken really helped me stay calm and patient over the weekend. At the start of the final day he told me not to worry too much about hearing cheers or anything...that they would only be par or bogey putts, that nobody was going to be going round that course and making 10 birdies. That was great thing to say. It just helped me to pay attention only to my own game.

Gi: You must be an inspiration now to other major contenders on this side of the pond?
GMac: I spoke to Rory and he said he was really going to be playing hard now…he didn't want to be the only Irishman on the Ryder Cup team without a major championship! I'm sure a few other guys will feel the same and I'm sure that a lot of them will take a lot of belief from me winning. I certainly took something from other people and the names of Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Trevor Immelman, Y.E. Yang all came in to my head as I walked down 18. It just helps to make you believe that you can do it.

Gi: Can you explain just what it takes to win a major?
GMac: You have very few opportunities to win majors. There are only four a year, they are tough, and it's hard to get yourself in position to win. This was really my first time contending in a major and it was great. I've always been good at getting it done when I'm in contention and I can take a lot away from this week in terms of how I competed and managed to complete the job.

Gi: How important is the mental approach?
GMac: My mental approach is just to knuckle down and not worry about anyone else. I've been very calm playing golf for a while now. I don't know why. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it. It was the same in Wales where I felt relaxed and in control. I've been working with Pete Cowen for a few years now and I really felt my short game had to improve to have a chance to win. I've practised harder and it's worked.

Gi: Talking of Wales, after taming the 2010 Course at Celtic Manor, any suggestions for Monty on the course set-up for the Ryder Cup?
GMac: Now I know that I'm going to be there, I can start thinking about that. But I think the set up is great and already quite close to the way he wants it. Fairly heavy rough off the fairways which rewards good driving. I think that the European team, typically, are more accurate drivers of the golf ball than the Americans. Also, plenty of runoff areas around the greens and firm links-like putting surfaces.

GRAEME'S GEAR

Gi: You play the Callaway FT-3 driver which is one of the earliest Fusion models. I bet the reps have been trying for years to get you to play one of their newer models?
GMac: Very much so! And I have actually been testing the FT-9 TA which I also like and which is my back-up driver. But driving is one of my strengths and I'm driving so well with the FT-3 – which was one of the reasons I moved to Callaway in the first place. I'm an old school kind of guy, and I like the old-school head shape of both the FT-3 and the X-Tour fairway wood. My ball speed off it is quite fast and until I find something faster and more accurate I'm finding it difficult to change. If it's not broken, don't fix it!

Gi: The Aldila Voodoo shaft in your driver is known for the special X-core construction that's said to make it dramatically more stable. Did you choose it especially for its dispersion?
GMac: I feel that I am more accurate with it, but it's also helped me keep my spin rate down which has also helped with distance.And the lightweight [65 grammes] helps me feel the clubhead more. I've always liked a lightweight shaft in the driver. I've been an Aldila guy for a long time. I went through all the NVS shafts and now the Voodoo, it's a great shaft.

Gi: How much do you rely on launch monitors when testing equipment? Are you a techie who looks regularly at his ballspeed, spin rate and launch angle?
GMac: I do jump on the TrackMan from time to time to make sure that I'm flighting it optimally. My launch angle has always been quite low but I've managed to change that over the years – it's now about 11-12 degrees with my driver. And TrackMan has helped me to monitor that, as well as my spin rate, to get the optimal distance.

Gi: Talking of trajectories, you've moved recently to the Project X Flighted shafts in your Callaway X-forged irons which have a special kick-point profile throughout the set.
GMac: Iron trajectories are especially important to me. The lower kick point in the longer irons improves my generally low trajectory [at this end of the set]. But,with my short irons, I don't like to see high, 'loopy' ball flights. I grew up playing in the wind so I like to play punch and knock down shots. I'd been struggling earlier in the season but the higher kick-point of the Project X Flighted in the short irons helps me get the more piercing flight I want, and with more control over the spin rate.

Gi: Your Odyssey White Hot #7 putter has been in your bag for many years now.
GMac: I've been using putters from the White Hot insert range since I was a young amateur. I've got used to the consistent feel of the insert. I've always been a mallet fan. I used the #5 in college, then I used a 2-Ball for a long time. I picked up the #7 on a putting green about three years ago and it just sat perfectly square for me. I've used it ever since.

Gi: Your wedges seem to have a lot of bounce but also a very distinctive leading edge that has been ground completely square.
GMac: It's partly an alignment thing.When I pick up a typical wedge the blade just looks too rounded, so I ask the Callaway technicians to grind the leading edge straight. But I also have it 'rolled' slightly, adding a bit of bounce on that edge to stop it from digging in too much. But, generally, I like a lot of bounce on my wedges – even on my 58-degree lob wedge. Modern technology seems to have gone the other way with low bounce, but I like a lot. Pete Cowen, my short game coach, is a big fan of bounce – at least for the type of courses we play. Roger Cleveland [Callaway's chief wedge designer] has really helped me, especially with the two new wedges he built me at the TPC.

Gi:Has the new groove rule change made much difference to your game?
GMac: No. It's actually had a very negligible effect. Callaway has done a great job with the wedges. I talked with Roger Cleveland and a few other staff players last week and we all agreed that the spin rates we are getting off the new wedges are still very good. I don't feel as if I've lost any spin.

IN THE US OPEN CHAMPION'S BAG

Driver: Callaway FT-3 Driver 9.5 degrees;Aldila Voodoo SVS6 shaft
Fairway Wood: Callaway X-Tour 4-wood 15 degrees;Aldila RIP Beta 60 shaft
Hybrids: Adams Idea Pro 17 degrees;Aldila NVS 85 shaft; and 21 degrees with Aldila VooDoo XVS8 shaft
Irons (4-9): Callaway X-Forged Project X 6.5 Flighted Taper shafts
Wedges: Callaway X-Forged Vintage 48, 52 and 58 degrees, Project X 6.5 Flighted Taper
Putter: OdysseyWhite Hot #7
Ball: Callaway Tour ix
Footwear: Stuburt (with Softspikes BlackWidow cleats)

[Footnote: McDowell did switch to the Callaway Fusion FT Tour driver (almost identical to the FT-9 TA), with an extra long 46.5-inch shaft, for the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.]

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 





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