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McDowell Basking in Hawaii


To the winner go the spoils, according to the old adage. And no golfer in 2010 had a more impressive year than Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

After capturing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, the Portrush native went on to notch two victories on the European Tour and closed out his season in fine fashion, overcoming a four-stroke lead by Tiger Woods and beating the tournament host at Sherwood Country Club to win the elite-field Chevron World Challenge.

Oh yes, McDowell also secured the winning point for the European team in the October's Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales.

McDowell's outstanding season led him to a lofty No. 6 position in the last year's final World Golf Rankings as well as assorted other honors, including the Male Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America, the European Tour Player of the Year (shared with Martin Kaymer) and the AIB Irish Golf Writers' Award (IGWA).

This week the 31-year-old is back in action for the season-opening Tournament of Champions. Along with other winners from 2010, McDowell will resume competitive play in the $5.6 million event Thursday at Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui.

On Tuesday, McDowell sat down with reporters to discuss his fabulous 2010 as well as how he spent his holidays and the chances for picking up where he left off. Here's what the unassuming Irishman had to say during that interview session.

MODERATOR: We welcome U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell joining us for a few minutes this morning. Tell us what you've been working on on the off-season and how you're feeling as you get ready for your first start here.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously it was a great way to end the year. You know, I was very proud of myself that I could finish as strongly as I did last year. I mean, it was a pretty hectic travelling schedule. The golf clubs stayed in Orlando over Christmas; they didn't even come home. There was snow on the ground back home, so definitely I made the right decision. Had a nice little break. A couple more weeks off would have been nice but great to be here. This is an event I've always wanted to come and play. My first time in Hawai'i, and an event I've watched on TV many, many times.

Great to be here. So I'm going to play in here and I'm going to play in Abu Dhabi in three weeks' time and then I'm actually going to have three weeks off after Abu Dhabi, which is really going to be my official break and sort of my preparation for the season for real. This is a great place to come, play four rounds, play some golf with the wind here, and really get some positive energy going for the year.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I believe in Srixon, a company I've had a relationship with for many years. I played Cleveland stuff in college. I had a good relationship with a guy there called Mike Dunfey, who was the ex-coach of UAB, and I've continued to have a great relationship with him over my professional career. My Callaway contract was up, and you know, it just so happened that I just happened to get in contact with a guy at Cleveland/Srixon.

Of course I've had a great few years with Callaway but they have been great with me. I've had a great relationship with them and I've maintained a great relationship with them going forward. But sometimes things come to end and I feel really good about the start of a new era with some fresh energy coming at me from some new guys. And the golf ball is probably one of the things that attracted me most, the Srixon ball is pretty impressive. I was messing around with it at the end of last season and I realized I felt like it was a golf ball I could get to the next level with.

Like I say it's a company with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and I company that will have me as one of their top players, and allowing me to be a big part of their research, development and club development going forward. It's got a lot of positives. I'm sure people are scratching their head but like I say, things change and I always like to have some good energy coming up.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, that's a good point, the next level. Yeah, you know, fifth in the world this week, which is personally very satisfying and I'm feeling that there's great things -- I guess I'm not a guy who pays a lot of attention to the World Rankings, but I realize that my World Ranking right now is very much based on my last seven months' performance and it's a World Ranking that I want to maintain now. That's the key, really, going forward. I'm taking my PGA Tour card this year. I had it in '06 but I was injured in '06 and I probably wasn't ready for the PGA Tour. I'm viewing this is as my sort of rookie season if you like with the PGA Tour. I have a lot of things I want to achieve in this game and just got to keep doing what I'm doing and keep achieving great things in the game. And like I say, I felt like I'm in a period now where I want to maintain this world ranking and prove that I'm a world-class player. So the next level, obviously -- really sent what I mean as much as trying to keep doing what I'm doing really. It's going to be a pretty tough season to replicate, to win a major championship and to hole the winning putt at the Ryder Cup is dream stuff, really.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think it's going to be harder to do what I did last year really to, maintain World Rankings and obviously it's a challenge to be one of the best players in the world. You know, I think I'm in a position to do that. You know, my schedule this year, 2011, it's not a massively changed schedule from last season. I'm going to add a couple more events here state side, and obviously the FedEx Playoffs. Apart from that, I'm playing a very similar-type schedule. So there's no big change there; and playing golf courses and golf tournaments that I do know. So I know I've got to play well, to maintain your World Ranking and challenge the top players, you've got to play well and consistency is something I'm striving for. Unlikely that I will display heroics maybe like I did in 2010 but anything sort of within the vicinity of the year like 2010 would do quite nicely.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: This golf course, does it feel like Ireland? The wind certainly felt like Ireland yesterday. I played about 15, 16 holes on the golf course yesterday, and it's probably some of the strongest winds I've played in in quite a while. You know, playing golf in the wind is one of my strengths, and we don't get an opportunity to play golf in wind strengths like this very often. The golf course is very unique, very beautiful, a lot of undulation change; I wouldn't fancy walking it on a hike out there. But no, it's a great golf course and the scenery is spectacular. Like I said, my first time on the islands in Hawai'i and looking forward to checking it all out really. But it's going to be a good test. The golf course is going to be a good test with the wind.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: The only thing like Ireland -- it's green, very green. Temperatures are a little hotter and apart from that -- serve beer in bars, and that's probably about the only similarities, really; a lot of ocean around.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: Seven weeks on the spin and 32,000 air miles is not conducive for staying physically and mentally fresh during the season. 2011 for me is going to be about not getting in a situation where I play too much golf. I'm going to have a good sitdown with the schedule this week. One of the keys for me is I don't want to be -- I don't want to restrict myself -- not so much where I am in playing here on the PGA Tour. I don't want to be in a situation where I don't make the last couple of Playoff events that I'm going to have a problem making my 15. That's a scenario I'm not going to get myself into this year. I'm going to make sure I have plenty of room for scope there. And of course The European Tour remains a big part of my career, as well. I'll be playing the end of the season, really.

Again, I will probably play quite a lot of golf. The World Cup of Golf is back this year, which I'm excited about. And obviously our Dubai World Championship, which I think is opposite Chevron, going to be a bit of a bummer. But you know, it's definitely going to be a busy year and like I say, I'm going to have a good sit-down with the schedule this year and make sure I pace myself and make sure I don't get into a situation where I play too much golf. There's certainly a lot of opportunities around the world nowadays to go and play golf, and you've got to keep it quality rather than quantity.

Q. (No mic.)

GRAEME McDOWELL: The week before? Oh, you're right, so opposite the Hong Kong Open. So if I was to play the Chevron this year I would be playing the World Cup of Golf in China, back to L.A. and back to Dubai. Geographical nightmare. We'll see. A little bit up in the air at the end of the year. I have a really good relationship with UBS and Hong Kong Open, an event I normally go play. So a few question marks in the end of the season unfortunately. It's just unfortunate we have so many great events in the space of three weeks, the World Cup, Sun City, Chevron, UBS and the Dubai World Championship. There's a lot of golf going on. Thanks a lot.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.