We caught up with long-term Orreco client Graeme McDowell at the Italian Open in Brescia. The 2010 US Open Champion and four-time Ryder Cup player gave us his thoughts on the upcoming US Open at Shinnecock Hills, his own preparation for the tournament and the importance of data, sleep and nutrition in his routine. Graeme also spoke about his work with Orreco and the recent announcement that he will be a European Ryder Cup team Vice Captain in Paris, albeit with hopes to still make the team as a playing member.
What is it about the US Open that captures the imagination of golfers and golf fans everywhere?
The US Open has always been billed as “Golf’s Toughest Test” and it normally does not let us down. Narrow fairways and heavy rough, coupled with firm fast greens, makes for a test which is both physically and mentally demanding for the player. I am slightly biased having had the chance to win a US Open, but this Major has always been most suited to my game, with a premium on accuracy and scrambling.
Obviously being a previous major-winner, you are no stranger to success and preparing for events like this. What does your preparation look like, say, two to three weeks out?
This year my prep for the US Open has involved playing quite a lot of tournament golf coming into the event, so I will be taking the week before the event off, using that time to practice and recover from travel. I will be on-site at Shinnecock the Saturday before the start of play and spending some extra time on the golf course plotting my way round. It’s a course I’ve never played and back to one of the real “classic” US Open venues which will require a lot of strategy.
Do you have a particular sleep/nutrition/training regime that gets you in the optimum shape? Any pro-tips you want to share with us?
Sleep is one part of prep I have never had a problem with, until I had kids!!! The importance of sleep for recovery is something I’m more aware of than ever, especially before a demanding event like the US Open. Typically, I train on my off weeks with emphasis on strength and power and then switch to a more cardio and stretch based program on tournament weeks. To match my nutrition to that, I will typically train low carb on off weeks, and then refuel with a more high carb diet on playing weeks. A good breakfast is a big key for the day since we typically skip a real lunch when competing, so oatmeal and eggs are always on the menu!
Actionable data is becoming ever-more important and fundamental to an elite golfer in terms of being ready – and improving the chances of success – how does data play a role in your prep?
Data is becoming a huge part of the game of golf, more than ever. From ball flight numbers, scoring stats, to performance output in the gym and blood biomarkers, navigating these numbers becomes a very difficult task for the player. I have always relied on Orreco to help me interpret all the data and simplify it down to the small things that will help me improve on a week to week basis. Numbers are meaningless unless you have high-level interpretation, leading to an executable plan for improvement.
You’ve spoken before about Orreco’s input to your performance schedule in terms of traffic light signals. For example ‘amber’ – knowing when to pull back if things don’t feel right. How important is this input in spotting and analysing the signals from your body?
As golfers, we are very aware of minute changes in the way we feel. It’s amazing how the swing can feel so smooth and powerful one day, and be slightly off the very next day for absolutely no reason. With the help of Orreco, keeping tabs on daily questionnaires, HRV variations, nutrition intake and regular blood draws, I can start to apply some science to the nuances of how we feel. Typically, the word that pops up on a regular basis with me is “under-recovered”. We have a heavy travel and playing schedule, with not much off-season any more, so respecting the recovery phases of the year becomes very important by dialing in rest, nutrition and supplementation.
It’s a big summer for golf, culminating with the Ryder Cup in Paris. As a past winner of the French Open are you excited about the possibility of taking part in a Ryder Cup at Golf National?
Being announced as one of the Vice Captains for this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris was both a huge honour for me and very motivating. Starting to talk about the schedule for the players that week, visualizing how it will all play out, is very inspiring and made me more aware of how much I love that tournament. My four Ryder Cups have been the greatest experiences of my career and have forged memories that will stay with me forever. I will be working hard to be there as a player, but in the meantime, I will be giving Captain Bjorn as much help as I can in the run-up to Paris to help Team Europe win back the Ryder Cup from a rampant and talented US team.