What they said: Rory McIlroy

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February 29, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

DOUG MILNE: Rory McIlroy thanks for joining us for a few minutes here at the 2012 Honda Classic. Coming off a great week last week, just a few comments about that and how you're transitioning into the week here at The Honda Classic.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, last week was a very positive week for me. I felt like I didn't play my best golf at the start of the week. But when I needed to up my game a little bit, more the most part on Saturday and Sunday, I played really good golf.

Just got off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday afternoon against Hunter and left myself a bit too much to do. Felt like I played the back nine pretty well and obviously pretty confident coming into here this week, a golf course I've played the last three years, and I've had one decent finish here.

The other couple haven't been too great but it's a golf course I enjoy. I enjoy the tough conditions and looking forward to getting started this week.

Q. Yesterday Jack Nicklaus was in that same seat and he spoke very glowingly about what you've done at such an early age. I just want to see what you think of Jack, and also does all of the accolades, does that put more pressure on you, or do you feel it? Does it help you?

RORY McILROY: No, I mean, it's very nice for someone like Jack to say so many nice things. I actually bumped into him at lunch yesterday at the Bear's Club. He actually didn't recognize -- he didn't have his glasses on so he couldn't see who I was. (Laughter)

He was like (indicating Jack squinting), "Who is that, who is that?"

"It's me."

"Who?"

"Me!"

"Who?"

"Rory."

"Okay, Rory." I was wearing a bright yellow tee shirt, as well. (Laughter). I bumped into him at lunch yesterday and it was pretty funny.

It's very nice. I mean, people can say all these great things, but unless you actually go out and do it, it's a different story. I don't think it puts any extra pressure on me. I just think it's a very -- they are very nice compliments, and you know, that's all I can really take them for. It's very easy to say that I'll do this or do that on paper but until I actually do it, I still have to go and play some good golf.

Q. You hang around, or at least you know, a lot of guys, boys and girls, from the sports arena, greater sports arena, I guess soccer players, rugby players from Ireland and beyond. Do they kind of keep you honest? I think you showed me a picture that one of them sent you from the 10th --

RORY McILROY: At Augusta?

Q. He basically sent it to you while you were still out there shooting a million to keep you honest. Does that keep you grounded at all??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course it does. A lot of things I feel keep me grounded; the people I have around me, my mom and dad for a start, they are very grounded people.

And yeah, you know, the friends I have are the same friends that I've had growing up my whole life. They knew me when, you know, I was just going to school and playing junior golf and amateur golf. They know the real -- I don't feel like I've changed in any way, but still, they have known me my whole life. They can still give me grief and they can send me pictures of being lost in white houses left of the tent at Augusta and it's fine.

Q. Did you get a lot of that, or did they wait a little while??

RORY McILROY: No, no, they are brutal. But I give them the same stuff, so it's fine. (Laughter).

Q. Just dove right in there on you??

RORY McILROY: Yeah. But that's fine. That's what you need. That's what you need after something like that. You need someone to have a little bit of a sense of humor about it and make you laugh.

Q. You've been in the public eye for a long time, but how comfortable are you with this kind of start, everyone's watching you and looking at you; do you have to change the way you live your life at all? Are you comfortable with the things that come along with the trappings and all the success?

RORY McILROY: I am. This is what I've always wanted to do. This is what I've always wanted to be, which is a successful golfer. Still feel like I've got a long way to go to achieving what I want to. Yeah, I don't feel like I have to live that much differently. Okay, I might not want to go out as much, or if I say -- yeah, I don't really want to go to that restaurant because there might be some people there and I'd rather not guess hassled. But it's not a big deal. It's part of life and it's part of what I do now.

But no, I wouldn't change it for the world. This has always been my dream to play professional golf and to win big tournaments. I've been able to do that a little bit so far and it would be nice to keep continuing to do that. So you know, the day where I don't have the attention or I don't have the scrutiny is the day that I know something's wrong.

Q. How long did it take you to get over Sunday? And if it was quickly, why were you able to get over something that looked pretty devastating, so quickly?

RORY McILROY: You know, to be honest, I got over it straightaway, because you know, match play can be a very funny format. I was talking to G-Mac, who is obviously a very good friend of mine in the locker room just in that rain delay at the Pro-Am, and he had six birdies on Wednesday against Yang and went home. If he had six birdies against me on Wednesday, I would have been beaten 4&3.

So match play is a funny format. I was quite fortunate to get through a couple of rounds without playing very well, and you know, that's just the way it is. So I was just happy that I was able to raise my game at the right moments, apart from the front nine on Sunday afternoon in the final.

But you know, still, getting to the final in that event is still a very, very positive week in my eyes and I think that's why I was able to get over it.

Q. How would you characterize what seems to be a pretty good growing rivalry between you and Lee Westwood, and just sort of your general thoughts on how you feel about it.

RORY McILROY: It's competitive. I view Lee as one of the best players in the world. He has been one of the best players in the world for a few years. You know, he is one of the guys that when you look at a leaderboard or you look at a tournament field, he's one of the guys that you look for because he's been so consistent. You know if you want to win a tournament, you're going to have to get past him at some stage.

So it's very -- I think we both respect each other for the way we play and how we go about our games. I know he's worked very hard the last few years on his body and on his game, and I feel like I'm doing the same. So you know, I think it's obviously very competitive but very respectful, as well.

Q. How much weight or strength or how would you measure how much you've changed in the last, say, year??

RORY McILROY: To be honest, my weight has stayed pretty similar. Body fat has went down quite a lot. I've gained quite a lot of muscle or lean mass. But overall, I'm still around 73, 74 kilos, which is 160 pounds maybe.

Q. We'll look it up.

RORY McILROY: Yeah (laughs). I've got much stronger. I feel like I'm a lot more stable in my golf swing, which is a big help to me. Sometimes a couple of years ago, I might have had a few too many moving parts and I feel like I've cut those out and that's definitely helped my game and helped me swing a lot more consistently.

Q. What have you done weight?wise?

RORY McILROY: Just everything. At the start, like this time last year, was a lot of basics and trying to build a foundation for sort of bigger and more advanced stuff. And now that I've built that foundation, I'm able to move on.

So starting to get into a little bit of weightlifting; and so snatches, cleans. But yeah, all the sort of -- sort of January, February this year, I did quite a lot of single legwork to balance out both sides in my lower body. And then, yeah, just strength, squats, lunges, bench press, back -- I'm actually trying to strengthen my back at the minute because I have a bit of a discrepancy between my front and my back so trying to strengthen my back up.

Q. What is your bench press??

RORY McILROY: Max, for one rep, 90 kilos. So I don't know what that is?? 200 pounds.

Q. Secondly, maybe the biggest change seems to be your consistency. If you go back to -- since the injury at the PGA, you've had one finish outside of the Top-10. What's led to that, do you think??

RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I've had stretches where I've been this consistent before, but I don't know. I feel like I'm just going out there and playing. I'm not really putting any pressure on myself. I'm just going out and playing golf. Most times when I do that, I'm able to get myself into contention.

Now it's about getting -- going from getting into contention to turning those into wins. I've had two seconds this year, and a fifth, and it would be nice to get a win going into the Masters, either this week or next week.

Q. Sounds like mostly free weights versus cardio?type stuff?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I still do, I've started to run a little bit more. But I don't like running too much, just because I know golf's -- you can have a long career in golf, but you don't want to ruin your knees and joints too quickly. But I like to run.

Q. You mentioned being able to raise your game at the right time a little bit more. Is that a matter of -- this probably sounds too simple, but flipping a switch or how do you kind of get into that??

RORY McILROY: I think so. It's definitely a focus thing, and yeah, I mean, again, the first couple of rounds last week, I felt like I didn't -- I just did enough to get past the opponents I played. That's no disrespect to the guys I played. But that's the nature of match play. You just have to do enough to get by and I did.

Then I was coming up against Jiménez in the third round and knew if I didn't play well at least that I would probably be going home. So I played some good golf in that match.

Then I knew Sang-moon Bae was playing well going into the quarters, so I knew I needed to play good in that. He didn't play as good as he was doing the previous couple of rounds, so I didn't need all my best golf to win there.

But I knew going into Sunday that I needed to produce some good numbers. I was able to do that, which was nice.

Q. More of a mental thing, focus thing than it is physical or even, say, nerves??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's more of a mental thing. The later you get into a tournament like that, it sort of means more. You know, your mind is focused and yeah, you might have a little bit extra motivation to try and finish the thing off or if you're playing someone like Lee who is one of the best players in the world, you know you need your best and nothing else is going to be good enough. Yeah, that focuses your mind for you straightaway.

Q. Just curious if you've gone back and watched the tape of the final round of the Masters since last year, same thing with the U.S. Open, obviously two very different out comes, maybe what you took away from watching it.

RORY McILROY: I watched the Masters maybe a week after, or when I got back -- I went from the Masters to Malaysia and I was home for a couple of weeks after that.

So the two weeks I was home, I watched the last day of the Masters, but I haven't watched it since. Only watched it sort of a couple of times and then I don't really want to look back on it. I don't want to dwell on it. (Laughter).

Yeah, I've watched the U.S. Open a couple of times. Obviously you see like if there's the Masters commercials on TV now, for instance, you see, I think my hand might be, or my head or my arm on 13 or whatever. But I haven't watched the whole thing back. I've just seen little snippets here and there.

Q. Why did you watch it? You already knew how it ended --

RORY McILROY: I just wanted to watch my whole demeanor, body language, and that was something that helped going into the U.S. Open, because I knew that that was very -- looking at my shoes and looking at the ground all of the time instead of, even if you're not feeling that confident portraying someone who is confident, chest out, head up, eyes -- especially that last round of the U.S. Open, I tried to keep my eyes above the crowd level. That's something I really focused on. And even just having a good body language, it subconsciously gives you that little bit of confidence.

Q. Going back to the Masters last year, has there ever been a time where you thought too much has happened too fast in your life both on the course and off the course??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, a little bit. I didn't know -- I mean, that whole last day at the Masters was a bit of a blur, and everything sort of happened so quickly.

But no, I don't think -- maybe for some people it might have been overwhelming. Everything that's -- even since the Masters, everything that's gone on. But I think if you have a certain type of approach and a certain type of mind, you can handle it. I feel like I'm pretty laid back and sort of take things in my stride and don't let it affect me too much.

So I think in that way, I might have been able to handle things a little better than some people would have.

Q. Just wondering if you've seen Olympic Club, know anything about it??

RORY McILROY: Not really. I know there's quite a few sort of doglegs and the slopes are going the other way. But apart from that, I haven't really -- I know Lee Janzen won there in 1998. I know Scott Simpson won there in the 80s or something.

Q. Jack Fleck beat a guy named Hogan there.

RORY McILROY: Oh, okay. Who? (Laughter) No, I know Hogan.

Q. When might you go there or can you even get there before??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'll go the week in between the Memorial and the tournament. I'll spend that week, I'll go for a couple of days sometime the week before and I'll practice in California that week.

Q. Have you been back to Augusta since??

RORY McILROY: No.

Q. When are you going??

RORY McILROY: Sometime -- I've got three weeks off between Doral and Augusta, so sometime in that stretch. Probably the start of the week before or something I'll go there.

Q. You mentioned last week that Congressional it helped to have double the lead you had at Augusta. But if you have someone trying to win their first major, had a three? or four?shot lead going into the last round, what advice would you give him? Unless you're playing against him.

RORY McILROY: I think just try and -- my whole attitude completely changed from the Saturday to the Sunday. I came out and was trying to be this player that I'm not. You know, I was trying to be ultra?focused, tunnel-visioned, which just isn't like me. I'm usually pretty chatty and sort of looking around and being quite relaxed about the whole thing.

Whereas, just try and -- however you've played those first three days, try not to change anything and try not to -- even though you're within -- you're one round away from winning your first major or whatever, you just have to try and be the same person. Because that's the person that got you to that position in the first place, and not try to become someone else to finish the thing off.

Q. Why did you do that??

RORY McILROY: I don't know. It might have been the occasion got to me. To be honest, I think growing up watching Tiger all those years win those majors, he's so -- he gives out this aura where everything is just so focused and so -- you know, it's like I'm going to rip your head off on that first tee. I felt like that's the way I needed to be to win a major.

But I quickly found out that that isn't me and that isn't how I play my best golf.

Q. What was it like playing with Cabrera? Not too chatty there, imagine.

RORY McILROY: Not too chatty. And he plays so quick. That was something that I learnt, as well. He dictated the pace of the round. We were always waiting on our second shots. We were always -- he tees it up and hits it. Something I actually chatted to Dave Stockton about afterwards, as well.

So if I ever get paired with someone again who plays that quickly, or that slowly, whatever way it goes, you really have to dictate the pace of play yourself and do your own thing and not try and either keep up with the guy that you're playing with or slow yourself down with the guy that you're playing with. You just need to try and do your own thing.

Q. You're a quick player yourself.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, but Cabrera is very quick. I'm quick but Cabrera is a different level than I am. (Laughter).

Q. How much has it helped having another world-class athlete in your life? How much has she helped you with your golf and how much does she help you away from golf to recharge your batteries when you're not out there competing?

RORY McILROY: I think we both help each other in that regard, because you know, to be honest, being around the tennis scene for the last few months, you realize how much more intense it is than what we do out here. They practice so hard.

I feel like most of the guys out here have a pretty good relationship with each other and the camaraderie is pretty good. You know, it seems like everyone keeps to themselves a little bit more in tennis and everything is just a little bit more intense.

And for Caroline, especially to get away from that sometimes, is quite a nice thing. And for me, it's nice to see something different and to see how hard they work. I mean, they work so hard. That sort of made me realize that I could probably work harder and give me a little bit more motivation to go in the gym and hit more balls. It's definitely paid off.

Q. How about in terms of you getting away from the game; finding things to fill your life so that you are not golf just 24/7??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, but I've always been like that. I've never had any trouble putting the clubs away for a couple of weeks and doing something else. That's never been a problem to me. Okay, after a week, you might miss it, but I still follow it.

But I'm not -- it's in the like I would put the clubs away for a couple of weeks and feel guilty. I know that I can come back and it's not as if it's suddenly going to be gone or it's going to be lost. You might need a couple of days to get your rhythm back, but apart from that; no, I've never really had a problem getting away from the game.

Q. Why do you think apart from the fact that they are the two best players in the last 20 years, Tiger and Phil, doesn't seem to matter how well they are playing, when they get to Augusta, they are always in the mix. Tiger didn't play for four months, showed up with blimps flying over --

RORY McILROY: He didn't see them, though.

Q. Apparently he didn't see them, or hear them. Finished T?4. What is it about how they play or the venue or unique to their games or venue that seemingly puts them in the mix every time. You seem to have some of those same assets.

RORY McILROY: Tiger has been going there since 1995. Of course the place has changed a little bit from then. But I think going back to a course year after year, you've become very comfortable with it and I think that's part of the reason. You have good memories. Tiger has won the thing four times. Phil has got three, going for four. Going back to a place where you've got great memories, as well, always helps.

I think another thing for Phil, as well, because a lot of holes are right?to?left for him, that could be a little bit easier for a left-hander, hitting a cut, especially some of those holes like 10 and 13 where you have to hit it around the corner. But, I don't know, they just seem to -- and they have always had great touch and great feel, especially Phil. He's so imaginative around the greens and that's what you need at Augusta.

Q. Wonder if you have any interest in reading The Big Miss by Hank Haney.

RORY McILROY: No, not really. I mean, I'll probably see a few -- I know there was a little excerpt out there from yesterday or whatever.

Q. You don't have an interest seeing what Hank had to say about six years of a guy, winning majors --

RORY McILROY: In respect to Tiger, I'm not sure if I would or not because I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with him. I mean, people are going to write what they are going to write and you can't really stop them. If I was him I wouldn't be too happy about it but that's how it goes.

Q. Hate to put you on the spot, but what's the last book you read??

RORY McILROY: It was actually on a flight from Dubai to Arizona, James Patterson. It was called, Now She's Here, Now She's Gone. It was about a girl who was down in Florida for spring break. It was a drunken night, her boyfriend cheated on her, she took his car and she got pulled over for drink driving. She had to change her identity, went up to New York, became a really successful lawyer, had to go back down -- it was actually a really good book. I finished it in like four hours. (Laughter) I've got it if you want me to bring it tomorrow if anyone wants to read it.

Q. People consider people like you and others, the new generation of golf; if you compare that to, put it politely, the more veteran generation, the players like Tiger and Phil, do they still put you in a little bit of awe or intimidate you??

RORY McILROY: No, I think at the start -- maybe at the start when I turned pro in 2008, 2009, there was still that little bit of awe or intimidation factor.

But the more you're around these guys and the more you see them at tournaments in the locker room, the more that sort of goes away, and realize that they are just normal people like you, but obviously are extremely talented at what they do. But you know, again, they are the two most successful players of the last 20 years. Tiger has 14 majors. Phil has got four, 40 PGA TOUR events and Tiger has 70 or whatever. Those guys are head and shoulders above everyone else basically.

Q. Can you talk about being a fast player? Slow play just always seems to be a topic of conversation. How much of that is a concern among the players and what should the pace of play be?

RORY McILROY: I think there's definitely concern but more for the TV audience and the spectators, people don't want to turn on golf and see guys taking two minutes over a shot. It's just not enjoyable to watch. You want to see quite free flowing -- I don't think it's time to introduce a shot clock to golf, but you sort of -- you know, when it's your turn to hit, you've got to be ready.

Okay, if you need to go through your routine, then that's fair enough. But if your routine takes longer than it really should, then you know, you need to work on that.

Pace of play, it's amazing what happens when you go from Thursday, Friday to the weekend. Thursday, Friday, it takes 5 1/2 hours and then you cut from three balls to two balls and it takes under four. It's unbelievable.

But I don't think, you know, a three ball should take anymore than five. Five hours is still pretty slow, but you find sometimes on Thursdays and Fridays, it can go a lot longer than that.

But yeah, I think more -- I don't mind playing with someone that's slow. You need to give them their time before they are ready to hit the shot. I completely understand that. It's more for -- we are trying to grow the game of golf and we are trying to portray this great image of the game, and if you turn on the TV and see guys taking so long, then people are not going to want to watch it. I think that's the real concern.

Q. Can you talk about how the course played today before and after the rain, and is mud a concern? A couple of guys were saying balls were plugging.

RORY McILROY: Before the rain it played soft. After the rain it played a lot softer. After the rain I got a couple of mud balls on fairways. But it's pretty warm out there at the minute and it's a warm wind. It should be okay by tomorrow morning. But it will still play long. It's a par 70 and it's a tough par 70 at that.

With the thick rough and the place playing a little bit longer, if the breeze gets a little bit up, it will be a very tough test, even if the greens are holding. If the wind gets up, they will firm out during the week. But you're going to have to hit it really well from tee?to?green to score.

Q. When did you realize or come to the conclusion, if you did, that you didn't have to be Tiger Woods; that being Rory McIlroy was actually an okay thing to be.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, probably, I mean -- I don't know, I actually played in the 2008 Singapore Open with Ernie in the third day and it was the first time I had ever played with Ernie. I was so excited to play with him. You know, JP, my caddie, had obviously caddied for Ernie for a couple of years, so he was telling me, you know, there's nothing to be afraid of or intimidated about. He's obviously a great player, but go out there and play your game.

That sort of Ernie, three major championships, Hall of Fame, won dozens of tournaments around the world and you're playing with him and you're keeping up with him and maybe shooting a better score or whatever. I think that's when I realized first that, okay, I can sort of -- I can be as good as these guys. That's when I realized that I didn't really need to be in awe of these big players.

But I think Sunday at Augusta was a big day for me because I realized that, okay, I don't need to be anyone to win golf tournaments. You know, if I have my own mannerisms and do my own thing and be the person that I am, that is hopefully going to be good enough. I feel like I sort of proved that to myself at the U.S. Open a few weeks after.

Q. Just as a follow?up to that, the first person guys used to look for on the leaderboard was Tiger's name. Which name do you look for? Is it your own?

RORY McILROY: I shouldn't need to look for it if I'm up there. Yeah, I mean, still, you look at leaderboards and I don't look for anyone's name in particular, but if I saw Woods up there, I mean, I would be -- you would notice it. Just like you would if you saw one of your friends up there. Yeah, if you see Woods on the board, obviously you're going to take note of that.

DOUG MILNE: Thanks for your time as always. We appreciate it. Best of luck this week.

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