California dreams for in-demand McDowell

CONSIDERING he’d had less than five hours sleep, the new US Open champion was remarkably sharp.

Then again, that’s no great surprise. Half the golfing world knows by now that Graeme McDowell is one of the sharpest guys on tour. But he’s kept that way by his entourage.

McDowell’s posse is not quite like the cast of Entourage, the hit series produced by Mark Wahlberg that will feature the man from Portrush in its season-ending episode. A speaking part, no less.

He’s talking about people like manager Conor Ridge, swing coach Pete Cowen, caddie Ken Comboy or mind coaches such as Dr Karl Morris and Dr Bob Rotella.

Sipping a coffee as he sits on the edge of a roaring “fireplace” at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, McDowell touches on all the key people, the key moments and the key thoughts that helped him become the first Irish winner of the US Open title.

Before that there’s still time to reflect on the late-night celebrations at Brophy’s Tavern in Carmel, where he was plied with shots until the small hours before being whisked back to the hotel by the man he calls “Jerry Maguire”.

Pádraig Harrington and his wife Caroline were in the pub as well as dozens of caddies and other tour regulars who wanted to wish the US Open champion the best.

At 4.30am, Ridge cleared McDowell’s hotel room of late-night revellers. Come Monday morning, his sponsors Marquis Jet have a private plane fuelled and waiting to take him to Los Angeles for an appearance on the Tonight Show and a cameo role in one of his favourite TV series.

By early afternoon McDowell is laughing it up as he records his interview with Jay Leno in front of a live audience. McDowell cleverly plays up to Leno’s clichéd patter about the hard-drinking Irish.

Holding up a photo of McDowell kissing the trophy, Leno quipped: “The sad thing is, you are in America now. I understand the trophy is now suing you for sexual harassment.”

The Tonight Show is an institution – the longest-running show in the country – and this is massive exposure for McDowell, who is still a relative unknown in the US despite his stirring performance in last year’s Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

Appearing on the show once hosted by Johnny Carson is a major milestone. But getting a cameo on Entourage puts McDowell in the same league as Martin Scorsese, Bono, Phil Mickelson, Lennox Lewis, Hugh Hefner and Dennis Hopper.

“We had great crack with the guys from Entourage and profile wise this is fantastic for him,” said his manager Ridge, who landed the gig quite by accident. “One of guys on the production team is a friend of mine. I got him tickets for Pebble and suggested Graeme come on the show.

“They’re fans of Graeme’s and he loves the show. So we had a hilarious time and we brought the US Open trophy along.

“The cast were all passing the trophy around and they were looking for Graeme’s autograph and he was looking for their autographs.

“He had a small speaking part and they rehearsed it first and then they went off and shot it and had a great time.”

After the filming, the show’s producers put McDowell up in the luxurious Beverly Hills Hotel and even kept the restaurant open late for him as he didn’t arrive until after 9pm.

It’s all new to McDowell, who gambled by changing management companies in 2007 – leaving the established ISM stable of Chubby Chandler and opting for Ridge’s fledgling Horizon Sports Management.

McDowell calls Ridge his “Jerry Maguire” after the character played by Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie on sports agents.

Pointing to Ridge, who was fielding calls from radio and TV stations, he said: “You’ve just got to look at him. He’s a pretty energetic kind of guy. He doesn’t ever stop and having some focus and direction in my career has been extremely important for me the last few years. He is someone who is as focused on my goals and dreams as I am. I think that has been a big part of the process for me.”

McDowell has known tough times in his career and believes that having a top team has helped him reach the top.

Recalling some nightmare weekends in majors over the years, he said: “I certainly hadn’t lost my way in life but when you are in the wilderness in this game, it can be a bleak, dark place.

“The tough times are tough. This game gives you no love back. When you want love, it doesn’t give it to you.

“When you hope something’s going to happen, it never does. The second you start believing in yourself, relaxing and letting it happen, it’s amazing what’s around the corner.”

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