This past Monday I had the opportunity to sit down -- and play a little golf -- with Graeme McDowell at The Glen Club, a Fazio-designed course in Glenview, Ill. We discussed a number of topics, most notably his immediate plans following the FedEx Cup Playoffs and his preparation for the 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago.
Graeme and I were participating in an event hosted by Guinness Black Lager, the newest offering from our friends over at Guinness Brewing in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to golf, Graeme participated in a brief 'Q&A' session with fans at the club hosted by NBC Sports' Mark Rolfing, where questions about "what do they put in the water in Northern Ireland," "why is Rory McIlory winning so much," and the like were fielded by McDowell with his typical professionalism.
We all then headed out to the course to play a unique round of golf, finishing the final two holes in the dark. Luckily, our fairway was lined with green glow-sticks and the flag was illuminated like a freakin' Christmas tree, much to Graeme's delight. Glow-in-the-dark golf balls were our ammunition for the final two holes, which McDowell managed to stick to three feet on the par-3 No. 17 hole. Such a show off. Hey, at least I can drink beer!
Following golf, we managed to sneak away from dinner to have a brief chat in the clubhouse's media room.
When asked about his thoughts on playing at Medinah Country Club for the Ryder Cup later this month, McDowell seemed excited and anxious to get the event underway.
"I'm looking forward to it. I played at Valhalla four years ago and loved that experience, possibly more than when I played [at the Ryder Cup] at Celtic Manor two years later. The American crowds are great.
"It's kind of interesting; it almost seems that the American fans love the European players as much as the American players. Some of [team Europe's] pairings are going to be as marquee in terms of fans enjoying them as well, which is always nice to see. I feel that we are well-received here in the U.S. as European players. But, I'm sure Americans will be pulling for their guys, and we're not gonna blame [Americans] for that."
McDowell went on to describe his admiration of Chicago's fanbase, even going so far as comparing them to what he remembered from Brookline, MA.
"I know Chicago is 110 percent behind the Ryder Cup, and the crowd will be great. 'Hostile' is the wrong word I think. Brookline in '99 was a hostile crowd. But I don't think we're going to see that this time around because of Europe's exposure playing in the States. Crowds are much more welcoming and used to us."
Following a disappointing final round 78 in last week's BMW Championship, McDowell's FedEx Cup Playoffs came to an early end. When asked what his plans are now in preparation of the Ryder Cup, he acknowledged that he'll take advantage of some much needed time off.
"FedEx Playoffs are done for me, so I can trim the playoff beard now. But this may be a blessing in disquise. I have some time now to recharge the batteries as I was really running on empty there toward the end at the BMW. I'll take two weeks off from playing, then have the Ryder Cup, and then follow that with three more weeks off. Which is a beautiful thing.
But right now I'll be in Orlando the next two weeks, working out, resting, just getting ready for Medinah. [European Team Captain Jose Olazabal] got us together as a team at Kiawah Island [prior to the PGA Championship] and he said he wanted one thing from us: to be fit and ready to play."
The 2012 Ryder Cup matches begin on Sept. 28 from Medinah Country Club near Chicago.