Graeme McDowell turned 40 last summer and this year sees it being a decade since his sole Major triumph at Pebble Beach.
It was apt that G-Mac was victorious in the US Open in 2010 as the United States has been fundamental in the continued development and consistency of his golf game, after initial foundations were laid in the Irish junior structure.
McDowell accepted an invitation from a coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) early in his golfing life, and it turned out to be one arguably his smartest move in the game. As he told us, wind the clock back a few years and his ability to excel was already measured by one key factor: practice, practice, practice.
RSNG You’ve spoken about the monotony of practice in the past but how it’s always come back to time spent away from tournaments? GRAEME MCDOWELL, G-MAC ‘Unless you put the time in, you get nowhere. That’s no secret. It’s not a revelation I’ve come up with and I won’t take any credit for it, but with any sport, any profession, any interest, it’s the dull hours that really are the ones that pay back.’
‘I know there are many naturally talented sportsmen and women whose careers haven’t been fulfilled because they’ve not put the hours in… and by the same token there are those who have excelled to great heights despite not being as talented as those around, because they have invested time. Perhaps I’m one of those – I’ll let you decide!’
RSNG How did you end up choosing golf as a career? GM ‘My dad and my uncle got me involved in the sport as a young kid and they had only really become properly interested in golf and started playing it themselves in their mid-to-late 30s. It wasn’t as if it went back generations, so there’s not some long line of heritage I can thank for it.’
‘However, when you grow up in a place like Ireland in Portrush – where the Open Championship was staged in 2019 – it’s hard to get away from a sport like golf. It’s a hugely popular sport in Ireland and also; there are a great number of excellent courses to play at.’
‘When I used to go along with my dad and uncle, I would be pulling the golf trolley along for them itching to play and hit a ball at least just once. When I was old enough at about nine, my dad gave me the chance to start hitting golf balls; that was me for life. It really was.’
RSNG How influential was the coaching and guidance you received in the early days? GM ‘When I first started out hitting golf balls at that early age, before I was even a teenager, that’s all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t really care much about coaching or technique – I just wanted to play. But to get better you need firstly to practice and secondly practice well and with process – that’s the way to get better, with every shot. So every day I went to the range with my younger brother.’
‘When you choose something like golf as a profession, that’s an individual sport and there’s no-one else who is going to improve your game for you, but you. You can have all the best coaching in the world, and they do help, of course. But they can’t play the game for you.’
‘When I was growing up, I played in the junior tournaments and the Ulster coach when I was there was a guy called Don Patterson, who was great.’
Ricky Elliott – who is now Brooks Koepka’s caddie – had a huge influence on my decision to go down the route of collegiate golf
RSNG? You decided to go over to the United States and play collegiate golf for the University of Alabama. What made your mind up to do that? GM ‘Well, I would say that a guy called Ricky Elliott – who is now Brooks Koepka’s caddie – had a huge influence on my decision to go down that route of collegiate golf. He’s also from Portrush – the same as me.’
The crowd being quiet can have a massive effect on deciding the outcome of a Ryder Cup
RSNG The Ryder Cup has had a huge impact on your career and helped to make you a household name. What is so special about it? GM ‘It’s completely different to tour events in the fact that it just feels so much bigger. When you’re in a team environment, the togetherness not just of the players and captains and everyone else on your team, but also the fans and their support… it just enhances everything.’
‘Everyone talks about the noise of the crowd when things are going well with the Ryder Cup, but for me some of the most telling moments are when you’ve silenced the crowd when you’re surrounded by Americans.’
‘That’s a huge statement and a big moment – when they are silent you get the feeling you’re winning the battle because they’re beginning to give up.
‘The crowd being quiet can have a massive effect on deciding the outcome of a Ryder Cup. Take Medinah in 2012, for example - the American fans weren’t making a huge amount of noise, the Europeans noticed it and capitalised on it.’
‘It galvanised us, because there have been Ryder Cup events in the USA, such as in Kentucky in 2008 when we lost, when the home fans were great for their players. It helped them and had a positive impact on their win.
‘If you take that advantage away, it’s a big thing.’
WHAT NEXT? Find out why you’re breathing wrong for golf.
Then watch as McDowell lends a surprise helping hand to an amateur on the range.