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US Open Defending Champ Graeme McDowell. Playing the Course of Presidents. Tips on the Long Drive. Number One Woman Golfer Yani Tseng.

Aired June 2, 2011 - 06:30:00   ET


MONITA RAJPAL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Monita Rajpal at CNN London. Here are the headlines this hour.

The World Health Organization says Europe's E. coli disease outbreak has spread to 10 countries. Scientists haven't been able to pin down the source of the outbreak. They admit initial reports that it came from Spanish cucumbers were wrong. Russia on Thursday banned imports of fresh vegetables from the EU.

There's fierce fighting in the Yemeni capital Sanaa between pro- and anti-government forces. Local police -- local people say loud explosions went on all night, and they report seeing around 1,000 armed men marching on Sanaa Thursday morning claiming to be supporters of an opposition tribal leader.

China says any accusation it was responsible for large-scale hacking of Google e-mail users is baseless. Google says hundreds of users were tricked into giving out their password because Chinese hackers targeted senior US officials, military personnel, journalists, and Chinese political activists.

Russian state media say a man has been charged with the murder of the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She was shot dead outside her home in Moscow in 2006. Rustam Makhmudov was reportedly arrested at his parents' home in Chechnya.

Those are the headlines. I'm Monita Rajpal in London. LIVING GOLF starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: LIVING GOLF, in time with Rolex.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: Two US Opens. A man who made history. A club of presidents. America's hottest young talent. And the best female player on the planet. Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

On this edition of LIVING GOLF, we go behind the scenes with the man preparing to defend the US Open, Graeme McDowell.


O'DONOGHUE: This is your crib.



O'DONOGHUE: Playing the course of presidents, the unique history and challenges of Congressional.

And we meet Yani Tseng, the woman with just one tournament between her and undisputed dominance.


YANI TSENG, TAIWAN, WORLD NUMBER ONE: I know if I don't get this year, I still have next year. I still have a long way to go.



O'DONOGHUE: Well, there's definitely a golfer living around here, all the golf buggies, some very nice cars. Some very nice cars. So, we think we're in the right place to meet the reining US Open champion.


O'DONOGHUE: But is he at home?

He is at home. Graeme.

MCDOWELL: How are you?

O'DONOGHUE: Shane O'Donoghue, how are you?

MCDOWELL: Shane, how are you doing?

O'DONOGHUE: This is your crib.

MCDOWELL: This is it.

I'll give you a little tour of the place. Obviously, we've got our big TV. Obviously, a lot of watching sport, movies, the week off. You see that little groove in the couch, there? That's kind of where I like to lay on my weeks off, you know?


MCDOWELL: Got the range -- driving range is about 50 yards that way, so when I get too comfy on the couch, the range calls me.

This is my bedroom, please excuse the mess. Clothes lying everywhere, like every man does.

O'DONOGHUE: Walk-in wardrobe. That's just beyond the walk-in bathroom.

MCDOWELL: Yes, exactly. Closet, this is my --

O'DONOGHUE: What is this?

MCDOWELL: This is my ice bath. When I'm playing or training in the gym a little bit, just fill the bath full of cold water, and this thing takes the temperature down to like seven or eight degrees Celsius.

O'DONOGHUE: The old case, there, for the US Open trophy?

MCDOWELL: That's one of my replicas sitting up right there. And that's a 90 percent replica, it's not the full size, but it's a pretty nice little piece to have laying around the house.

O'DONOGHUE: And the garage is kind of where you hoard everything.

MCDOWELL: This is -- this is kind of my little golf shop back here, you know? You'll see a lot of gloves and hats and shoes and just some stuff that I've used over the years. And I've got to give this place a really good clear-out.

O'DONOGHUE: There's your old college bag.

MCDOWELL: My old college bag right there.


MCDOWELL: I like to see -- I like to use that when I -- the odd time when I carry my own clubs now and again, you know?

O'DONOGHUE: I see this over here, which is a lovely locker. Obviously, this identifies you as the 2010 US Open champion. That's not from Pebble Beach.

MCDOWELL: No, that's from the Grand Slam of Golf, when the four major championships -- four major champions get together over in Bermuda.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Until last summer, Graeme McDowell was a successful and well-respected tour player, but he wasn't really a star.

That all changed one windy Sunday afternoon at Pebble Beach last June when he became the first European in 40 years to lift the US Open trophy.

MCDOWELL: I remember being in the press center on the Friday afternoon and being up there, I was leading by two, and they asked me, could I -- did I remember any past champions, US Open champions at Pebble?

And I remember, I was in the lights and I kind of drew a massive blank. I could only come up with Tiger. But I felt kind of stupid when I walked off the stage and someone said, Jack, Tom, Tom Watson, Tom Kite.

It was amazing that my name -- obviously, I still don't really feel like it belongs there with legends of the game.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Can you take us back to those few moments before you actually teed off in the final round, because I understand that Kenny Comboy, your caddie -- you were engaged in this sort of banter about what would it be like to win a major championship?

MCDOWELL: I remember Kenny said to me as we headed out there, "Listen, you now, obviously Tiger, Phil, and Ernie are a few groups in front of you. You're going to hear some noises out on this golf course, you're going to hear some cheers going up. Just remember, this is the US Open. They're probably for pars, those cheers.

Yes, I was nervous, and my mind was wandering, and I remember, I bogeyed nine and ten, and I remember looking at this leader board for the first time on the 11th tee box and I saw I was two ahead. I really needed to refocus myself at that point.

And I remember thinking about guys that won for the first time, like the Lucas Glovers and the Trevor Immelmans and Padraig Harrington, when he won his first one, I was thinking, I remember telling myself that these guys have done it, this can happen. I can win today.

O'DONOGHUE: Eighteen. Can you talk us through those crucial, final few moments?

MCDOWELL: I'm standing there watching Gregory Havret splash his trap shot out and miss the putt, and all the sudden coming to the realization that five will win me the US Open. So, what do we do?

I remember my caddie in the beginning, Kenny wanted me to go for it. He wanted me just to hit it out by the green and chip it on and get out of there. But I just didn't like the shot. The lie was kind of in between in the sandy, and I thought, there's too much could go wrong with that shot.

So, we very quickly get into the layout kind of process, and I remember I left myself 97 yards to the flag. And I had a pretty decent little wedge shot right into the top of the pin. And had a horrible 30- footer, but that putt that every boy dreams of, two putts to win a major championship, two putts to win the US Open, and my aim's to cozy it down there to where I couldn't miss it, and it was a beautiful thing.


O'DONOGHUE: Everything became hectic after that, I'm sure, but bringing the trophy home to Rathmore where you learned the game under the watchful eye of your dad and playing golf with your brothers, that must have been incredibly special.

MCDOWELL: Yes, that was a -- that was an amazing day. I couldn't quite get my head around what was waiting for me when I pulled into the golf club that day. A police escort from the airport, and that was just an incredible experience.

Like you said, to be able to bring a trophy like that one right there to a small golf club where I grew up on the north coat of Ireland. It was a proud moment for me and definitely it's a very special one to be surrounded with by family and friends that day.

O'DONOGHUE: Finally, Congressional is the venue. They haven't had too many US Opens. You've experienced the club before?

MCDOWELL: I've never been to Congressional. I'll get in there probably the Saturday or Sunday before the tournament again. And like I said I did at Pebble, spent plenty of time out on the golf course, feeling my way around it, just really -- just really getting my game plan set up.

I feel like, between myself and my caddie, Kenny, we're really good at picking strategies. We're really good at finding our way around golf courses, and the US Open offers up one of the toughest challenges in the world, so I think we'll be there, and by the time the gun goes off Thursday, I should be as ready as anyone.

2010 had given me the belief and the knowledge that my game is good enough, and any given week, if I put myself under the pressure, if I put myself there, there are bouts that I can win, and I can win big events and more major championships, of course.

I'm very -- I'm very driven, I'm very determined, and I feel like I've got a few years of decent golf left in me yet, so major championships are a big target.


O'DONOGHUE: Next on LIVING GOLF, past, present, and future, here at the home of this year's US Open, Congressional.

And a lesson from Rickie Fowler.



O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Congressional.


O'DONOGHUE: A club of commanders-in-chief.

MICHAEL LEEMHULS, CEO/GM, CONGRESSIONAL GOLF CLUB: You have five of the presidents of the United States actually being founding members of this club.

O'DONOGHUE: Instituted by the very rich, powerful, and famous, opened just outside Washington in 1924. And although a bit more of a family club these days, still with links to the White House.

LEEMHULS: You can imagine that we have a lot of high-powered members who are very influential in politics in and around Washington, DC, so finding somebody to bring the president out or having the president out is not difficult to do.

O'DONOGHUE: This will be Congressional's third US Open. In 1964, Ken Venturi nearly collapsed with heat stroke before claiming the title. Thirty-three years later, it was Ernie Els who triumphed.

ERNIE ELS, 1997 US OPEN CHAMPION: The golf course is a truly unique US Open venue. You have to be very accurate with your driving. It's quite a long golf course, and the par threes are very demanding.

O'DONOGHUE: Venturi and Els actually played slightly different course layouts. So, what can the players expect this time around?

When we first visited early in spring, we found that, yes, they've been making a few changes again.

MIKE GIUFFRE, DIRECTOR OF GOLF COURSE MAINTENANCE, CONGRESSIONAL GOLF CLUB: If you look down the fairway, we've added two bunkers on the left- hand side, and then the third bunker on the right-hand side was added to be more in the players' landing area.

Right off the fairway, we'll have another intermediate rough, and this'll be a one-inch cut. And then, once you get outside of that one-inch cut, this area out here, you're going to have a rough cut of about four inches.

And then we'll go to more of a five-inch kind of cut, which adds another inch, and then, even further out, they may go to six inches, or we just may stop mowing the rough altogether.

We've basically taken the rough out of this area. It used to be tall, and we replaced it with bent grass that'll be mowed at fairway height of cut. And now, if the ball trickles off the green, it's going to trickle on down into the pine straw bed that you see over there to the right of the green.

And then, in the back, they could roll of into rough, which takes them into a whole other club.

Make sure those edges are nice and crisp.

O'DONOGHUE: Time to find out for myself just how tough Congressional is. And for two of the key holes, I was joined by a man who knows the blue course very well, indeed.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): This next hole, the 10th, it's a very long par three.

JOHN LYBERGER, DIRECTOR OF GOLF, CONGRESSIONAL GOLF CLUB: This will be their first hole. Every player will play it, either Thursday or Friday. This is not a shot you want to hit as your first tee ball.

Let's show your viewers what it looks like if one of the players hits the ball a little long and ends up in one of these bunkers. They're going to be faced with a shot where the bunker's well below the green surface, but headed back towards the water.

The green slopes towards the water, and it's going to be firm and fast. Very difficult bunker shot. Want to try and execute it?

O'DONOGHUE: I will give it a try, certainly, yes.

I was trying to be soft with it.

LYBERGER: Beautiful shot.

O'DONOGHUE: We're on the 18th hole, now. It used to be the 17th.

LYBERGER: If you remember, in 1997, we had some challenges here.


LYBERGER: Tom Lehman, he had that ball tracking right on the flag stick. The crowd stood up. It got exciting. But when the ball landed, it slowly trickled down that bank and into the water.

Carl Montgomery, he hit it to the right side of this green after seeing Tom's shot, and he proceeded to three putt.

ELS: It was very intense, and I felt quite nervous, but I was quite positive. Because I knew everybody else was probably feeling what I was feeling, and I had thrown my career shot. It's kind of where it all happened.

O'DONOGHUE: So, this was number 17 back in 1997, but it's going to be an incredible-looking 18th hole for the US Open in 2011. And this shot -- I don't know, does fortune favor the brave?

LYBERGER: If they're left with a putt from this area, it's going to play quick to that ridge. It's going to trickle over the ridge. It should turn a little bit right, away from the water. If they hit it a little hard and it gets beyond the hole, you can see how it wants to run off to the left.

See how it's coming back? Oh!

This bank will be shaved. If balls have a little too much face and get over to the edge and start to continue to carry, who knows what might happen?

O'DONOGHUE: It's going to be so exciting. I know it's very exciting for you.


O'DONOGHUE: Continued success, and have a great event when the major does come here in June.

LYBERGER: Shane, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

O'DONOGHUE: Pleasure meeting you, John.

LYBERGER: Nice meeting you.

O'DONOGHUE: Thank you.

LYBERGER: Thank you.


O'DONOGHUE: Well, you know, it's bound to be a tough test, however the world leader approaches. And as it happens, we've been spending time with one of the leading young stars of American golf, Rickie Fowler, so we asked him to show us one of those shots that he reckons he's going to need here at the blue course at Congressional.


O'DONOGHUE: Oh, to be able to hit long, straight drives and hit the fairway consistently. It's the dream of every average club golfer, myself included. Rickie, what are the keys to mastering the drive?

RICKIE FOWLER, 2010 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Solid contact. Being able to hit the driver solid helps you kind of figure out where the ball's going to go every time.

My driving average right now, this year and last year, was just over 290. So, above average on the PGA tour, and definitely something I don't need to push to get any longer.

O'DONOGHUE: Perhaps you'd show us what your routine is when it comes to doing the drive.

FOWLER: All right. Ball's probably going to be teed a little bit lower, just to help control ball flight and keep it from moving too far out of the way.

But for the most part, thought process is making sure that I'm set up over the ball. Well, making sure that all my lines are correct, I've picked out a target that I want to hit, and from there, I want to make a good, aggressive swing.

O'DONOGHUE: Let's see you hit a fade off the tee.

FOWLER: A little cut, let's see. With the body staying moving, you're going to see everything be out in front of the ball. Hopefully.

If I was going to sit back and hit a normal ball, it's going to be a little more right here at the ball impact versus getting -- staying ahead of it.

O'DONOGHUE: How much movement do you like?

FOWLER: Five to ten yards. Hopefully I don't have to move it much more than that off the tee.

Let's see what we've got.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh, that's beautiful.

I think it could be 16 yards to the right there. But it's in the zone, Rickie.


O'DONOGHUE: It's in the zone.

FOWLER: Well, we'll worry about it out there.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you like to stand on the left-hand side of the tee box, aim down the left, and then it's just a question of where your feet position is, or -- ?

FOWLER: It depends on what the hole presents. Depending on where bunkers are, trees, or water or something like that. I like to hit cuts off the right side of the tee box a lot of times.

Staying aggressive through the ball, I think, is key. When you start trying to guide the ball off the tee and trying to position it, that's going to result in hitting all over the place, I have a feeling.

When you stay aggressive through the ball and stay committed to what you're trying to do, I feel that you're going to hit more solid drives and the ball's going to stay a lot straighter.

O'DONOGHUE: Perhaps you'll just have a quick look at where I'm going wrong.

FOWLER: All right.

O'DONOGHUE: Go time.

Ooh! Good hit!


FOWLER: From here to here, I want to see you go ahead and just get through one.


FOWLER: Wow. I like that one.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh! I felt that, Rickie. See, I'm not as young as you.

FOWLER: That one's out there. I think the end of the range over there is at least 300, so.

O'DONOGHUE: Put her there, brother.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, we meet Yani Tseng, the woman on the verge of a career grand slam.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. We've now flown down from Maryland to the heat of Orlando, Florida, and the exclusive Lake Nona Club. It's the home of a woman who could create her own piece of history.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): World number one Yani Tseng. At just 22, she only needs next month's US Open for a career grand slam.

Today, she's warming up with a slightly easier match.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): How good was that?

YANI TSENG, TAIWAN, WORLD NUMBER ONE: I think you hit through Ian's house.

O'DONOGHUE: That's Ian Poulter's house, is it?


O'DONOGHUE: So, I'm in his back garden, am I?

TSENG: I think so. But you get some more again.

O'DONOGHUE: Yes, I hit a provisional.

TSENG: Yes, that's fine.

O'DONOGHUE: I just don't want to lose money.

TSENG: Five dollars.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): By the age of 12, she had the swing of a potential champion, and an idol in Annika Sorenstam, who was to become a mentor.

TSENG: She helped me a lot. When I was young, I looked at her, and I said, "Oh, one day I want to play with her."

O'DONOGHUE: In fact, Yani actually bought Annika's old house here at Lake Nona and is finding it helps to be surrounded by many of the world's top players.

TSENG: They're so friendly, so nice. And then sometimes we're on the range, if I have any questions, I just ask.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Yes? And who do you talk to mainly, or who do you -- ?

TSENG: Ian -- Ian and Justin Rose and Trevor Immelman, yes.

O'DONOGHUE: Good guys.

And who was the golfer in the family? Was it your dad? Or how did you get actually started?

TSENG: My dad and my mom.

O'DONOGHUE: Both of them played?

TSENG: Yes. My dad was a club champion. My mom, she used to be a caddie, like 10 years, so it was really cool, my whole family, they love golf, and they'd bring me to the golf course, and I just love it.

Go up. That's a good shot.

O'DONOGHUE: It's all right, yes.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Yani's always been one tough competitor. At the age of 14, she won the US Amateur Public Links, beating Michelle Wie by one hole. As a pro, she won the first of her three majors in a playoff. Then, for her two majors last year, she needed putts on the final green to win by one shot.

GARY GILCHRIST, YANI'S COACH: You know, she's had some tough putts, but I saw her hold that same kind of putt when she was 14 against Michelle Wie at the Public Links.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Yes.

GILCHRIST: And that same putt keeps coming back, and she keeps making it.

The club isn't matching your body turning into the ball. You see?

I think one of the best things that ever happened, she bought Annika's house, because she can look at the trophy case every night and say, hey, you know what, this will be a great goal, I can fill that case.

And Annika is a person that you can learn so much from. She's gone through it all. And I think one thing is to be number one in the world, and the next challenge is to stay number one in the world. And one person that can help her do that is Annika.

O'DONOGHUE: The Asian dominance on the LPGA tour, can you see that continuing and getting even bigger in the years to come?

TSENG: I think so, because I think they work very hard, the family puts lots of pressure on the kids, and then we always feel our -- lots of pressure and feel -- pay attention to every shot, every tournament. If we're, like, out of top ten, we're going to cry and then the family's going to be mad. It was really tough.


TSENG: Open.


TSENG: Pencil.


TSENG: Atom.

O'DONOGHUE: When it comes to adjusting to life in America, learning the English language, obviously you're excellent at it now, but you've put in a lot of work into that, haven't you?

TSENG: Yes, I do, because I want to share my story. I want to let more people know my personality, it's not just inside a golf course. Like, I would like to talk -- really talk to the fans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, do you remember what are the vowels?



O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Yani first went to the US Open nine years ago as a very young spectator. She wasn't lacking in confidence even then.

TSENG: I just turned around to see my uncle, like he's my Sherpa, and he says -- he took me, and I tell him, "I think I can beat those players on the golf course." It's like, "I play better than her."

And then, he said, "No. Come on, you're kidding." And he was thinking, "You're only 13 years old, how can you beat them?"

And then I tell her, "How can I qualify for this tournament? I want to play?"

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): So, going back to the US Open, as you say, it's on in a couple of weeks time in Colorado Springs. Your preparations, what are they going to be?

TSENG: I prepare really good. Just try to don't put too much pressure on me, because I know if I don't get it this year, I still have next year. I still have a long way to go.

O'DONOGHUE: But it's amazing to see the likes of Annika and then, Lorena, obviously, number one, number one. And they're retiring. Now, you're only 22, so how many more years do you think you'll be able to commit fully to golf.

TSENG: First, I want to come onto the course, I was thinking ten years. But now, it's like already four years, so I think I'll play another -- probably another ten years, and I would like to finish -- I would like to retire when I was on top, too.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): For now, we can only guess how much more Yani will have achieved by the time she does eventually leave the game.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): This for the money. Oh!

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): But it's a fair bet she'll come to be recognized as one of the outstanding figures of the women's game. And that in Colorado Springs for next month's US Open, she'll be just a little tougher on her opponents.

TSENG: Made it! Woohoo! That's a good putt.

O'DONOGHUE: That was great.

TSENG: Thank you, yes.

O'DONOGHUE: Thank you so much.

TSENG: Thank you.

O'DONOGHUE: Fantastic.

TSENG: Thanks. Good birdie there.



O'DONOGHUE: Yani Tseng, an amazing talent and still only 22.

Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF. It promises to be a great month ahead. Don't forget, you can find all our programs and our interviews on our website. And if you want to keep tabs on what we're up to, you can follow me on Twitter.

Next month, we'll be looking ahead to the Open at historic Royal St. Georges. But until then, from Orlando Florida, it's good-bye.