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Ryder Cup 2014: 4 Questions with Graeme McDowell

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After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

Athlon caught up with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, a Ryder cup veteran with a match record of 5-5-2 in three Cups, to get his perspective.

How is the pressure of the Ryder Cup compared to a major championship?

It’s very different. One’s individual pressure. Obviously, I had a chance to experience both things in the space of three or four months of each other (in 2010). Back nine of the U.S. Open and then coming down the stretch against Hunter (Mahan at the Ryder Cup). I can safely say it was ten-fold the pressure at the Ryder Cup. No doubt about it. You’re only letting yourself down by not taking care of it at a major championship. But you feel the fates of all your teammates and everything that goes into the Ryder Cup. And especially how passionate Europe is about the Ryder Cup. We’re certainly very, very into it.

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Describe the experience of playing in a Ryder Cup.

I feel like I’ve experienced everything I can experience at the Ryder Cup. I’ve lost. I’ve won. I hit the last shot, I hit the first shot, I’ve played both sides of the Atlantic. At Gleneagles, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to go and enjoy it. Try to shrug the pressure off a little bit. Play with my eyes open and take it all in and really embrace and enjoy as opposed to getting all tense and feeling like it’s pretty painful at times.

What about Gleneagles as a venue?

I think it will be a good venue. Weather is something we can’t control, and I’m sure it’ll be a talking point. But I think from a crowd’s point of view, Scottish fans are very educated and they love their golf and they will be absolutely fired up. First Ryder Cup (in Scotland) for many, many years. I’m expecting it to be pretty amazing. From a match play standpoint, the course is kind of irrelevant. Take Dove Mountain (former home of the WGC-Match Play Championship). That’s a golf course where you couldn’t play a stroke-play event. It would just be impossible. But it works for match play. The golf course can be irrelevant from a match play standpoint. It’s just ball against ball. Doesn’t matter if there is lots of rough or no rough. Long, short. Doesn’t really matter. Beautiful, not beautiful. Match play, the golf course is less relevant than it is at a major championship. I’m all for the Ryder Cup being at iconic venues. But it’s more about the people and the atmosphere and the experience and the matches.

You’ve played on two winning teams and one losing team. How do you view this one?

It’s something I’m very much looking forward to. A huge honor. I paced myself well this season, coming off good form in the summer, and I think I can be an instrumental part of the team. I’m getting to the veteran stage and I feel like I can definitely be a decent sort of leader for the young guys on the team.