Graeme McDowell never expected to be this famous, this quickly. Well known to many who follow the game everything changed for the golfer last June, when he won the US Open at Pebble Beach.
After that he won the point that brought the Ryder Cup back to Europe.
And then, in a magical year, he defeated the legendary Tiger Woods on the final day of the Chevron World Challenge. You'd forgive him if at times it all went to his head.
"The thing that's surprised me about the whole 'fame' thing has been just how widespread it really is," McDowell told The Guardian this week. "America is a big, big place and there are so many sports yet everywhere I go I am shocked just how many people seem to know who I am – especially after the Chevron tournament. Going head-to-head with Tiger that Sunday afternoon probably did more in terms of recognition than the Ryder Cup and the US Open."
But he's not about to let it all go to his head, he vows. That would be a tragedy and it's just not in his nature.
"The first thing you would have to say is that we're immensely privileged to be traveling around the world playing golf for a living and, if you don't recognize that, there is something wrong with you," he says. "And if people say I'm a decent guy who does things the right way, who treats people the right way, then I guess I'd have to thank my mum and dad for bringing me up the right way."
It's his background that keeps his feet on the ground, McDowell says.
"Ours was very much a working-class family. We lived in a rented terraced house which my mum and dad bought when I was in my teens. It was a great upbringing, surrounded by other kids, running around all summer on your bike. Being from Portrush it was inevitable I'd give golf a go," McDowell says.
Now his focus is on his game and he has ambitions he is anxious to meet. Focusing on those goals will be what 2011 is all about, he says.
"At the minute I am going through a normalizing period, trying to adjust to everything that goes with being a top player in the world, from the media to fan interaction," he says. "My priorities are back to playing golf and setting my targets. I'm determined not to be one of those guys who wins one major and then disappears. I want to win more and the Masters would be a good place to start."
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