Game Changer: TSJ Interviews Pro Golfer Graeme McDowell


It’s my first time meeting a real, live golfer. I’m at the Glen Club, way out in Chicago’s greened-over ‘burbs, eating mouthfuls of skewered meats, feeling dorky in my the-closest-I-can-get-to-wearing-golf-apparel duds.

Northern Irish pro golfer, Graeme McDowell, knows exactly how to wear golf clothes that look like normal clothes, and he’s looking dapper in a the-best-of-Tom-Cruise way. He’s sitting back in a boardroom, drinking a couple of glasses of Guinness’  new Black Lager beer (“a refreshing lager for the warmer months”),  after, appropriately enough, a day at the Guinness Black Lager Challenge that capped with him hitting glow-in-the-dark orange balls impressively past some sitting ducks (literally — right over their heads) and into whatever patch of green surrounded by glow-in-the-dark sticks they were supposed to nestle in.

He’s getting prepped for the 2012 US vs. Europe Ryder Cup, which is also being held in Chicago, this year.

So maybe I open with something clever like, “Golf takes all day to play, eh.”

McDowell sympathizes, and he tells me the entire game might actually be getting an overhaul. The game’s revamp has, unfortunately, nothing to do with Frisbees — golf of the future is going the normal kind, with the balls, only faster-paced, McDowell says. It’s going to wrap up in a matter of couple of hours. People are working on this, he tells me in his lilting cadence. ”People are spending millions trying to make sure, golf in various fields can be shortened,” he says.

“For real?” I ask. It sounds dubious.

“Oh, yeah, I’m serious,” he says.

I have to trust the pro. What do I know golf. I just took my first swing today. My first several swings. And I missed the ball every time except the last time, when it putted abismally four feet ahead of me. ”So how fast do people want the game to be, in the golf future?” I ask. I’m thinking fifteen minutes or so would do it.

“It’ll be over in a couple of hours,” he answers.

Promising. But – ”wouldn’t the hardcore golfers and fans hate that?”

“True,” McDowell concedes. “Purists are never going to like that. But it’s going to make it more spectator-friendly, more TV-friendly.”

It would definitely make golf more TV-friendly. Those camera pans on pocked a ball rolling, rolling, rolling on the green… I’d rather watch some lady’s hips get all messed up from some kind of jiggaloo plastic surgery procedure. But that’s just me. ”What about the non-pros,” I ask, “the regular people who like to country club it on the weekends? Are they going to be into golf 2.o?”

“Even the amateur golfer who wants to go to their local, municipal golf course, they don’t want to spend six hours out there. They want to spend two or three hours,” McDowell explains. But it’s a very pure game and it’s tough to shorten it, I guess.”

I guess it is.


Graeme McDowell, born in 1979, doesn’t need any shortcuts — he plays the game just fine the way it is, the way his uncle taught him to play when he was a kid.

McDowell, a professional golfer from Northern Ireland who plays the European and PGA tours, is possibly best known for winning the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. McDowell has also represented Ireland at the World Cup, and he’s a recurring member of the Ryder Cup team.

McDowell was the first European in 40 years to snag the U.S. Open. And his win created a cascade of Northern Irish golf successes. ”It’s the belief level,” McDowell explains. “The European tour as an entirety really gained an amazing amount of belief from the 2010 win, and it’s amazing how the floodgates kind of opened. We’ve probably won close to a thousand major championships since then. I think it has a huge amount to do with what I call the purple patch in European golf,” he says.

“Purple patch?” I ask.

“Purple patch,” he answers.

“What does that mean, the purple patch?”

“It means a real special, hot period of golf. And that’s happened in Northern Irish golf. Myself, Rory [McIlroy], Darren [Clarke], Rory again — I mean Rory’s been a phenomenon. He really has. He will continue to be a phenomenon.

“For me, to win the U.S. Open the way I did was a surprise — I wanted to achieve that in my career for sure, but I didn’t think it would come that fast. It’s been a special few years.”


Watch Graeme McDowell play at this week’s Ryder Cup:


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