When I walked up to Graeme McDowell on the K. Club practice range early this morning he joked: “What did I do to deserve you in my Pro-Am team?”
We walked off some five hours later after I had remarked to G Mac: “You know, I just spent five hours in your company and I never asked you one question on record”.
G Mac replied, and clearly tongue in cheek: “You know, Bernie this could be the start of a new-found relationship. You and I playing golf together and you not asking me any questions.
By way of background, I had first ‘annoyed’ G Mac on the eve of the 2002 Scandinavian Masters by introducing myself to him, and in only McDowell’s fourth event on the European Tour.
Four days later, McDowell held off South African Trevor Immelman to win his first Tour title and on the Kungsangen GC course he was representing.
Well I can report this ‘new found relationship’ lasted less than one hour but don’t jump to conclusions.
After signing autographs at the side of the ninth hole where we had ended our round, and then being interviewed by BBC Northern Ireland TV, McDowell entered the Media Centre for a pre-Dubai Duty Free Irish Open press conference.
I waited my time to ask G Mac a question, and a question about his goal to qualify for July’s Open Championship given he is not yet exempt into golf’s oldest Major, and also the importance to him to be playing all four Majors in 2016 if he’s to compete in the Ryder Cup.
This had been brought up ‘off the record’ walking down the first fairway, and the 11th hole of our round, earlier today.
Hereunder is how ASAPASports.com reported my question and G Mac’s response:-
Q. You’ve been asked a few times today already about qualifying for The Ryder Cup, but you mentioned out on the course this morning, you still need to qualify for The Open.
GRAEME McDOWELL: I thought that was off the record on the course, Bernie.
Q. I was very nice to you today.
GRAEME McDOWELL: There’s no trust anymore. Trust is gone (laughter).
Q. Question (laughter) how important is it to be playing these four majors in a Ryder Cup year, if you qualify?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Like I keep saying, talking about three majors and The French Open and all these things. Yet I’m not in The Open Championship currently.
So it is important that I am there. Obviously those are where the big points are. Those are where the big World Ranking points are, and that’s going to be my way in, is going to be World Ranking points.
I haven’t missed an Open Championship since 2004. My caddie has not missed an Open Championship since about ’93. So he doesn’t want to miss it. I don’t want to miss it. I think my way in is going to be the FedEx points, and unless I can get myself in the Top-50. Those are the two ways in for me. I think they are going to take the top five not already exempt in the top 20 in the FedExCup points list, sort of after the U.S. Open. That’s going to be a good way in for me perhaps.
Like I say, if I play the way I feel like I can play the next four or five weeks, maybe get myself in the Top-50 anyway. We’ll see. Obviously hoping to be at Troon. That’s a very key part of the summer and wanting to be there, because I want to play France, Scotland and the British, as well. So I’ll be looking to be there.”
His initial response was pure G. Mac and knowing him as well as I think I do, I could not stop laughing nor those present in the room.
But in all seriousness, I have to say G Mac was superb this morning and I admire him, and I congratulate him, in being so giving of his time.
My two playing partners could not put a figure on it but G Mac probably signed a good few hundred autographs over the course of our 18 holes. He also willingly had his photo taken with fans on every tee.
He delighted the entire class of a local primary school who followed him around for a few holes when he sat with them to have a photograph taken on one tee.
G Mac also conducted interviews in between shots with my two playing partners, Peter Finnan of Irish Golfer magazine and Robbie Greenfield representing Middle East Golf Digest.
At the side of the sixth green he was met by Dr. Michael Smurfit, and owner of the K. Club, who confirmed he had afforded McDowell full membership of the K. Club.
All in a day’s work for one of the most affable, approachable yet pure professionals competing in the ancient club-and-ball game.
Thanks G Mac for a super morning and hoping we see you again in the Media Centre late Sunday afternoon!