Tuesday 24 April 2018

McDowell gets in on act

Major triumph sees Portrush star the toast of Tinseltown

Graeme McDowell kisses the US Open trophy in front of the final scoreboard at Pebble Beach. Photo: AP
Graeme McDowell kisses the US Open trophy in front of the final scoreboard at Pebble Beach. Photo: AP

Karl MacGinty in San Francisco

FROM the fairways to the airwaves, Graeme McDowell is adjusting well to his life in the spotlight as a Major champion.

Invited on to 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' following his triumph in the US Open, McDowell looked every bit as calm and relaxed in the hot seat on NBC as he had marching up the 18th last Sunday.

At Pebble Beach, the 30-year-old Ulsterman took a couple of seconds out from winning the tournament to extend Happy Father's Day greetings to the watching world.

After fighting all the way down the back nine to his first Major victory on Sunday, surely seven minutes with Leno in front of a live audience in a TV studio would be a breeze -- and that's exactly how it looked.

Then he and the US Open trophy were whisked across Los Angeles, with a police escort no less, to Beverley Hills and the set of the hit TV show 'Entourage'.

Along with meeting the cast and crew of his favourite TV show, McDowell also got to do a little acting himself, speaking a couple of lines as he made a cameo appearance in the final episode of the series.

The Irishman brought a few 18th-hole flags with him as gifts, signing them: "Thanks for letting my entourage meet your Entourage -- Graeme McDowell."

In between rehearsals and takes, they exchanged autographs and posed for pictures with the trophy.

"It was great craic, hilarious. Everyone at the shoot was as delighted to meet Graeme as he was to meet them," said McDowell's agent Conor Ridge, founder of Dublin sports management company Horizon, who'd set up the 'Entourage' appearance with a friend on the show's production staff.

"Profile-wise, this is really great for Graeme," added Ridge.

Put up for the night at the exclusive Beverley Hills Hotel, staff kept the restaurant open late so McDowell, his father Kenny and Ridge could have dinner. As they sat at the table, alone in each other's company for the first time since Sunday afternoon, McDowell simply shook his head and said "wow".

"You know, I think that was the first time he'd had an opportunity to let all that's happened sink in. This really is fantastic," said Ridge.

McDowell, who flies to Belfast today, revealed that beneath his calm exterior during Sunday's march to victory, he'd found the experience so nerve-wracking he couldn't wait for it to end.

"It was a hard day," he explained. "I said to Kenny (Comboy, his caddie) at one point when I was walking up 13, 'Is it bad counting down the holes because I want this to be over?'.

"And Kenny said, 'I've been doing the same thing for the past nine holes.' You dream of one day being in that position. But when you're actually in that position, it's scary and you want it to be over."

McDowell is proud that he hit his best golf shots of the week amid the emotional whirl of those final few holes.

The first time he had looked at a leaderboard in the last round was on 11, "because I'd just bogeyed nine and 10 and was feeling like I needed something to spark me", he said.

"I saw I was two clear and just drove myself at that point to really dig in and give it a run for the money.

"You can't get ahead of yourself. You think about picking the trophy up, you dream about picking that trophy up, but you've got to stay right in the present out there because there are so many tough shots to come.


"There were so many names popping into my head," McDowell added. "I thought of Padraig Harrington. I thought of Zach Johnson, YE Yang and Lucas Glover, Trevor Immelman, all these guys who won Majors for the first time. I thought, 'they could do it, so can I'.

"I was drawing inspiration from them and I was proud of myself for the way I played on the back nine. I hit some of my best shots of the week on the back nine on Sunday."

McDowell's confidence in his ability to handle the pressure of those feverish final holes was well placed.

"I knew if I had a chance to contend in a Major on Sunday afternoon, that I'd be ready for it and I was," he said.

The Portrush man revealed he had been in "a cool, quiet and calm place" with his golf game recently, which had been reinforced by his victory at the Welsh Open a fortnight earlier.

"I wish I could bottle up the way I felt on Sunday and the way I've been feeling for the past couple of months," he said.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport