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McDowell Exults in McIlroy's Success


Though he won't be successfully defending his U.S. Open title at Congressional Country Club, Graeme McDowell may well be enjoying the second-best outcome this year: A victory by fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.

Though there's still plenty of golf left to go in the final two days of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional, McIlroy is in prime position to be the second straight Ulsterman to win America's National Golf Championship.

After opening with a 70 and 74, McDowell carded a 2-under 69 Saturday. He stands at even-par 213 after posting three birdies, three bogeys and an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole on Saturday. Despite his fine effort, all the reporters were interested in during McDowell's post-round interview were his comments on his 22-year-old countryman. Here's what McDowell had to say about McIlroy.

Q. Great round of golf, the eagle and normally even par. You're kind of right in it at the U.S. Open, but you have a countryman out there making it different this year?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, level par going into Sunday at a U.S. Open. Rory is out there making it look incredibly easy. He hasn't put a foot wrong. So I might go back to the house here and put the feet up and watch how it's done, maybe, on the back 9.

Q. When you're still in a competitive mode, can you be a fan of someone out there being so good?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: It was later than Augusta when I was a real fan and able to go out and watch him. I've got to keep my competitive edge. I felt if I could shoot 3, 4, 5-under par, and he made a few mistakes, I could have a chance on Sunday. The putter isn't going good. They don't seem to break the way you see them. I'm going to have a chance to have a good finish tomorrow, and I've got to concentrate the foremost on that. Once I step out on the 18th tomorrow, it's a chance to get a cold beer and watch the wee man do it.

Q. -- what ran through your head when you see what he's at right now?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: You know, what's been running through my head the last couple of days, really. It's just phenomenal. You run out of superlatives to describe what he's doing this week. He's decimating a field. The golf course, you know, I've been a little disappointed with the golf course the last couple of days. It wasn't as firm and fast as I would like to have seen it. The storms on Thursday night really softened the place. A storm overnight last week, the ball was picking up mud in the fairways. It's played longer tee-to-green, and the greens are receptive. So it's not a true U.S. Open test out there, to be honest. There were some tough pins out there, no doubt. I'd like to see it tougher than it was. That's the weather; you can't control that. Taking nothing away from him. Rory is doing a phenomenal job out there. If you can put it in play, you've got a great chance to attack these bowl-shaped greens.

Q. After the second round at Pebble, Rory missed the cut and you said he's a raw talent but he doesn't put a lot of thought into what he does. What's changed, do you think, in the last year for him. Have you seen or talked to him at all?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: I'm not sure that I said it quite like that. I said that his game plan, just the way -- he's just an aggressive player, and he always has been an aggressive player. When you get the certain setups, you have to know when to throttle back and when to do that and when not to do that. I said about the golf course setup, these greens are not like a Pinehurst, they're probably the complete opposite of Pinehurst, upturned saucers. If you can drive the ball in the middle of the fairway, get an iron in your hand, you can attack pins and you can make a ton of birdies.

So I spoke to Mickelson's caddie, bones, this morning, he said that Rory has pretty much hit it at every pin. That's not what you're supposed to do at a U.S. Open, but the way the course has set up this week, it's allowed you to do that. Bones said he's played out there the last few rounds like it's the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He's free swinging it and aiming at every pin like he's supposed to shoot 65. The setup has allowed him to do that. If he remains aggressive, that's phenomenal. I hope he goes on and does it, because I've been waiting for this to happen. He's that good, there's no doubt about it.

Q. He's got more talent in his pinky finger than I have in my own body, almost in awe at the beauty of his swing and just the style of play. When did you first meet him and what have you seen in him that would bring a Tour player to make such comments?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, you know, I played with him his first Dunhill Links when he got his Tour card back in '07, whatever it was, '08. I played a practice round with him at St. Andrews; I shot 68 and lost easily. I thought this kid is pretty good. I first heard about him when he shot 61 at my home course in Portrush. You hear rumors about people. You hear things, and good players come and go, but this kid was something a bit special. I've gotten to know him a lot over the last three or four years and played practice rounds with him. Playing practice rounds with him can be demoralizing, because you walk off feeling down on your own game when you see how he hits it. He's potentially the next Tiger Woods. He's that good. It's great to see him out there fulfilling his potential.

Q. If he does become a dominant player, and there have been dominant players, almost ambassadors for the sport of golf, how good an ambassador for this sport would he be?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: He's phenomenal. The way he's bounced back from Augusta. His maturity level for a 22-year-old. For any kids sitting watching at home right now, he's playing golf the way it should be played, as far as his attitude and just the way he carries himself. He's going to be a great ambassador for the sport. Will he achieve what Tiger was doing around 2000, 15 major championships to date or whatever he's got? Can he be that good? Yeah, potentially. He's got that potential.

Q. Your own game, now, Lee Westwood said yesterday that it was kind of like Pebble, you were playing for second place. Do you feel that going after Y.E. or Freddie Jacobson?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: For sure. I'm going to go back and watch the back nine here and see what Rory does. If I can go have a good day tomorrow and finish top-5, I'll be very happy with the week's performance. I'm happy with the way I hit the golf ball today. Today I was tighter off the tee. I haven't got the putter heated up at all this week. These greens have got me scratching my head a little bit. But the speeds have been a little off as well. They were fast on Thursday, slow and back fast again today. It's been hard to really see them and get a feel for them.

Q. The players were expecting a very challenging course setup and a lot of guys are scoring today. Are they just being generous, do you think?

GRAEME MCDOWELL: No, the place is soaking wet. That's the problem. With another storm here last night, so you're hitting 5- and 6-irons in the green and they're stopping dead. It's not typical U.S. Open stuff. The USGA haven't got the golf course they wanted. You can't do anything about the weather, it is what it is. The SubAirs are -- they're sucking. There's not much evaporation out there, and the greens are soaking wet, and so are the fairways. It's target golf. It's not really a U.S. Open.

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