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COVER STORY | GRAEME MCDOWELL

The

Ambassador Graeme McDowell, an Audemars Piguet brand ambassador for the past eight years, talks exclusively to Charles McLaughlin about his 2010 US Open victory, his goals for the season ahead and his new life as a married man.

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McDowell, a proud Northern Irishman, seen here in action at this year’s Masters Tournament 46

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make it. It was obviously disappointing to come so close but I took my hat off to Webb, he was fantastic on Sunday and deserved his win. Hopefully I will taste victory again in the future in another Major. What are your targets for 2014 and how do you like your chances at the Masters Tournament, an event in which you haven’t been as successful in as others?  I’m constantly looking to improve my game, to help me to continue to contend in the biggest events on the world stage. One of my big targets for next year is of course to make the Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles. I also want to do well in all of the Majors and I’m exciting about going to Pinehurst for the US Open, Hoylake for the Open and Valhalla for the PGA. Although my game is not naturally suited to Augusta I finished 12th there in 2012 and I feel like I learn a little more every time I play there. It’s a fantastic place, somewhere every golf fan should try to visit if they can.

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You’ve been playing here in China for a while now – and most of our readers will remember you contending at the 2010 Hong Kong Open, which was won by Ian Poulter. Everyone knows golf is booming, but is it booming in the right way and what are your thoughts on Guan Tianlang? Golf is certainly rapidly growing all over Asia. I have been playing in the region for many years now and enjoy the time I spend there. I’ve just

Holding off the challenge of the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, McDowell’s most famous victory to date arrived at the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach (above); with his long-time caddie, Ken Comboy (opposite) 48

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If we can start with your 2010 US Open victory: how clear now are the memories and were you conscious of becoming the first European winner for 40 years? I have very clear memories of that Sunday at Pebble Beach, it was a fantastic day, made even more special as my Dad was there to share it with me on Father’s Day. I don’t think I really thought too much about being the first European winner in 40 years until people said it to me afterwards. It was just an incredible week for me and certainly life changing for my golf career.    How does life change when you win a Major, particularly with regard to the demands on your time and everyone wanting a piece of you? It did take me a while to get to grips with the aftermath of my win and the next year was a little difficult as I got to grips with the offcourse demands that come with the status of Major champion. I think this is something that happens to a lot of players after they win something of this magnitude. I think I will certainly be prepared for my next Major win after this experience.

had another close call at the WGC-HSBC at Sheshan in Shanghai, where I finished third to the winner, Dustin Johnson, and runner-up Ian Poulter. It’s amazing to see so many Asian players coming through, especially the young guys like Guan. I’m sure we will see a change in the top players over the coming years as more young guys from the region start to make an impact in the professional ranks and take on the Europeans and Americans. The interest levels amongst the fans seems to grow every year as well. I always appreciate the support I receive when I play in China. Not many seem to be aware you won the Haskins Award [the prize for the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States] or how big an honour it is. How important was that for your career? It was a big deal for me to go to play college golf in America, something I’m very glad I ended up doing. It happened very much by chance and it was one of the best things that happened to me; it really helped me improve my game playing in the US for a few years. The Haskins Award is given to the top NCAA golfer and it was an honour to win it in 2002, when there were so many great players, many of whom have gone on to play on Tour, vying for it. It was a great honour to win it and the trophy currently sits in the hallway of my parents’ house in Portrush, along with some of the other amateur and professional awards I have picked up along the way.

And what are your thoughts on the Ryder Cup – and the “Miracle at Medinah” in particular? The Ryder Cup is a fantastic competition and one I absolutely love being a part of. Playing in the European Team at Gleneagles next year is certainly a big ambition of mine. Being part of a team is not something we professional golfers get to experience very often and I like that team environment, along with the incredible atmosphere and support we receive from the European spectators.    Being a part of the Miracle at Medinah was very special, even though I didn’t play a big role myself on the final day. Hopefully I will get another opportunity to play in the Ryder Cup next year on home soil, especially after the last time out at Celtic Manor. You came very close at the 2012 US Open. How did that day unfold for you? I had a very good year in all of the Majors in 2012. Of course I came closest to repeating my 2010 victory at the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, where I finished second to Webb Simpson. I had a putt on the 18th hole on Sunday to take it to a play-off but I didn’t HKGOLFER.COM

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Congratulations on your recent marriage! Will Kristin be travelling with you and will married life have any effect on your playing schedule?

One of your sponsors, Audemars Piguet, holds quite a number of golf events annually, including the most recent Audemars Piguet Time with the Masters Golf day at Shanghai Lanhai Golf Club. How much do you enjoy these events and the time playing with their guests?  It’s nice to work with a great sponsor like Audemars Piguet, you get to meet so many of their customers and get to know a bit more about them. It helps to bring the sponsorship to life. It’s always good to spend time with aspiring golfers, especially in emerging markets like China.   As an Audemars Piguet ambassador since 2005, how has the Audemars Piguet brand’s philosophy “To break the rules, you must first master them” inspire you? I’ve been a proud ambassador for Audemars Piguet since 2005. They are a great brand, with great people and I very much enjoy being part of their team.

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McDowell married his girlfriend of several years, Kristin Snape (pictured above at this year’s Masters Tournament), at a small ceremony in the Bahamas in September

When did you start playing and who has been the biggest influence on you? I began playing golf when I was around six or seven. I was lucky to grow up in Portrush, a small town on the north coast of Ireland, which is home to one of the world’s best golf courses. I spent my childhood on the course, playing mostly with my little brother, who ironically was probably a better golfer than me at the time. My Dad was a member of Rathmore Golf Club, who share the course at Royal Portrush. He was a very keen player and still plays as much as he can now. He’s played with me in the Dunhill Links a few times. My uncle Uel was my first real coach and he was a big influence for me as I was growing up. The players I would have watched on television as a kid would have been the likes of Seve [Ballesteros] and Nick Faldo. Of course the only real golf we saw on TV back then was the Masters and The Open, which I watched religiously.

I got married on 28 September in the Bahamas with close friends and family.  It was an amazing few days and Kristin and I are very happy together. I took the guts of a month off afterwards to spend time with my new wife and it was very special.  We have a new home in Lake Nona together and we’re really excited for what the future holds.  Kristin has always been in incredibly supportive of my career and she comes to tournaments when she can.  We definitely want to have children of our own and hopefully we do in the near future. Of course parenting brings with it a fair share of responsibilities and that would naturally have an effect on my tournament schedule. But that is all part of life, part of being a family, and it’s a great problem to have. But overall, from my career perspective, nothing has changed for me since getting married.  Kristin is as supportiveas ever and will always be, and I look forward to my first tournament win as her husband. We couldn’t be happier.   Further congratulations on the opening and success of your restaurant in Florida, Nona Blue. What influenced you to get into the business?  Nona Blue is located near my home at Lake Nona in Orlando. It’s what they call in the US an “upscale tavern”. We’ve been very busy since we opened earlier this year. I was influenced to get into the restaurant business initially by some friends of mine in Portrush who run a fantastic restaurant called The Wine Bar. I’m delighted I had the opportunity to get involved in the business.

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