MORE INTERVIEWS: The Honda Classic transcript archive DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome Rory McIlroy become to the interview room, you've put in quite the time here this week. 4-under 66 today gives you a two-shot lead heading into the final round tomorrow here at the 2012 Honda Classic. Just some thoughts on the round today and your feelings as you're getting ready to head into the final round tomorrow.
RORY McILROY: It was another very solid day out there. Got off to a great start, 3?under through five, which was just what I wanted to do. You know, made a couple bogeys on the front nine, which was pretty frustrating.
But to play the way I did the back nine and come back at 3-under was great. I made a couple of really key par saves on 13 and 14, which sort of kept the momentum going. Then to play the last four holes in 2-under, was very nice. Yeah, I'm very happy obviously with the position I'm in, and I just need to try and keep doing the same things tomorrow.
Q. Just talk about the dynamics of two weeks, both times you are right there with a chance to get to No. 1 and last week only dealing with one guy??
RORY McILROY: Yeah, but I wasn't standing 2-up on the first tee in the finals. It's nice to have the lead going into tomorrow, no doubt. But with everything that's predicted with the weather and the leaderboard is quite bunched, as well, someone could come out of the pack and give it a go early.
Again, I have to just try and focus on what I've been trying to do all week, which is hit fairways and hit greens. Really stay in the present, stay in the moment and not think about everything else that could happen, whether it be going to No. 1 or winning my first tournament. I've just got to go out there and try to put a good number on the board.
Q. How easy or difficult is it to not think about the No. 1 ranking, and what challenge does that present knowing that that is also out there in addition to the victory??
RORY McILROY: I definitely feel like I need to put it out of my mind tomorrow. I need to focus on just trying to win this golf tournament.
Yeah, you know, it might be a little bit difficult. It might creep in every now and again, but if you can keep it out for the majority of the time, I think it's the best thing to do.
Q. I'm just wondering, reception out there was pretty loud, pretty rowdy; what did you think of it, and what is the funniest thing you heard??
RORY McILROY: It was unbelievable. I'm not sure. Some guy asked me what shampoo I used on the 17th tee. (Laughter) Another guy asked me if I had any snacks in the bag; he was hungry obviously.
It was a great atmosphere out there. I enjoy playing in front of crowds like that. I think golf could do with some more of that. I think it's great for the fans obviously, and you know, when the players receive it the right way, I think it's good, as well.
Q. What did you tell the guy on 17??
RORY McILROY: What one?
Q. The shampoo??
RORY McILROY: The shampoo? What am I using this week? I don't know if I can product place here. (Laughter).
Q. Can you talk about the two par saves, particularly the one on 13??
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I didn't hit a very good tee shot there. The wind was off the right, and I was conscious that if I didn't quite hold my tee shot up enough, it would go into those bunkers on the left, which isn't a very nice spot to be in. I just hung on to it a little bit and blocked it out right and didn't have -- I was sort of behind the tree. I had a little bit of a line to the pin, but I needed to cut it a little bit. The ball wasn't sitting very well, so you know, caught it a little heavy and came into that front bunker.
You know, it was a pretty difficult trap shot, but it was nice to get that one close. I think it nearly went in. It was great to save par there, and obviously to save par at the next, as well. I hit another bad tee shot right, and you know, was able to recover there and make four. So they were two crucial holes today.
Q. Just wondering if there was any advantage to going out and just playing tomorrow early, as opposed to sitting around and waiting??
RORY McILROY: Yeah, you know, it could be a good thing just to get out there and get at it. Again, I'm not sure what weather we are going to get tomorrow. They are predicting pretty bad stuff later on. So it will be great just to get out there and get going.
It's always nice at the weekend when you are playing two balls because play goes a little bit faster. Tomorrow it's threes again, so it's something that you have to prepare for as well.
Q. Obviously last year going through the Bear Trap, quite a bit different than this year.
RORY McILROY: Just a little bit (smiling).
Q. Can you talk about 15 and your approach going through there??
RORY McILROY: They shortened both 15 and 17 for us today. So you know, 15 was only playing a 9-iron, and it was a perfect club for me just to hit a good, solid 9-iron and hold it against the wind. I was thinking that it was probably going to pitch a little further than it did in the middle of the green, but obviously just pitched past the hole and came back a little bit and set up a nice birdie there.
I'm very confident with my iron play this week. I feel like it's been really good. I hit two great shots into 15 and 17, and you just want to try and get through that without really any damage. If you can take three pars, then that's great. And if you pick up a birdie along the way, it's a bonus.
Q. Going back to the PGA Championship last year, I don't think you've been out of the top 10 but once, and that was the Dubai event where you were ill, the season-ending event in Dubai. Anything that you attribute this run of consistency to? You've been in contention or up there in every tournament since then.
RORY McILROY: Hard work and practice, and I think I said this at the start of the week. I feel maybe a little more focused, a little more motivated, and that's probably the reason. I'm basically just playing golf and it seems like every time I go out there, I play the way I want to and it's a great feeling. Hopefully I can keep it going for a while.
Q. Are you surprised by this at all, or does this feel natural? Does it feel like, hey, this is how it's supposed to be?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. I feel like the way I'm playing is the way I envisage myself going out and playing a round of golf. There's not many mistakes. I think I've made four bogeys this week, and just really solid golf. I think, again, it's knowing when to take pins on and fire away from pins, and accepting that sometimes par is a good score and moving on. That's something that I think I've really improved at over the last 12 months.
Q. With the wind coming out of the north, how does that make the course play different??
RORY McILROY: What direction was it out of today?
RORY McILROY: Okay, so it's a complete switch. It probably -- it makes a few of the holes on the front nine play a little bit easier. It makes 6 maybe play a little bit tougher.
It will make the Bear Trap play pretty tough. It will be -- the wind will be off the left instead of off the right, so you're going to have to try and keep it a little further away from the water. But yeah, it definitely changes the way the course plays, and we'll just have to see what comes tomorrow.
Q. Just with regard to the No. 1 thing again, is there anything that you can take out of the Match Play into tomorrow as to maybe how to handle it well, if you didn't handle it well the other day??
RORY McILROY: No, the last thing you want to do, especially in a stroke?play tournament, is to turn it into a match?play situation.
I just want to go out there and focus on myself, and again, put good numbers on the card and hopefully it adds up to a good score at the end of the day, and that's all I can do.
Q. I just meant in terms of thinking, not letting the No. 1 --
RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course. I maybe thought about it a little too much, trying to use it as motivation going into the final, and you know, I didn't play my best golf that front nine, but was able to come back a little bit on the back nine. But Hunter just was very, very solid from start to finish.
But you know, I'm going to try and put it out of my mind for tomorrow and try to win The Honda Classic.
Q. Tiger was asked about you today and said that he played with you in Abu Dhabi and felt that you had progressed but that you still had a lot to learn; what do you feel that you still have to improve and learn??
RORY McILROY: I think you can improve all the time. You can improve every aspect of your game. At the minute I feel like most aspects of my game are pretty good. I feel like I'm striking the ball well and my short game is pretty sharp. Mentally, I feel pretty good. So at the minute, it all feels like it's pretty much right there.
You can always try and improve on something, whether it's just a certain shot or whether it's your short game; I've missed a few putts this week inside, say, six or eight feet, which you know you can always improve on.
That's why we practice is just try to get that little bit better, that little bit better, and that's the reason why we hit so many balls and we spend so many hours on the range.
Q. Just a couple of shots I wanted to ask you about. The selection on 15??
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a 9-iron.
Q. Looked like a good shot.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was decent. Again, it was a perfect yardage, I can't remember, 150 or 151 or something. The wind was straight off the right and it was just a good 9-iron held into the wind.
Q. 5? Looked like a hard pin to get close to.
RORY McILROY: The wind was different. It was straight off the left. I hit 8?iron from 167.
Q. What was your line you were taking??
RORY McILROY: To be honest, just hitting it on the middle of the green and turning it into the wind. And if it turns left, then great, and if not, I still leave myself with 20, 25 feet. Gave myself a little bit of margin for error.
Q. Lastly, that easy birdie on 11 what kind of lie did you have over there and was there any contemplation -- how much of a risk was it? Was there any contemplation to lay up and take five or six out of the picture?
RORY McILROY: It wasn't lying great but as soon as I put the club behind the ball, I knew if I could get steep enough on it, I could probably make a jump. I got it to jump just enough and it landed middle of the green and trundled up to the back of the green. And to make that putt was a bonus. Out of that lie, I would even have taken the back bunker and tried to get it up-and-down for four from there.
Q. What did you hit??
RORY McILROY: 7-iron from 180 something.
Q. All week you've talked about how much more comfortable you are as a player and this is where you always wanted to be. Wondering what specifically you're comfortable with; and secondly, how much better of a player are you right now compared to a year ago at this time??
RORY McILROY: Just more comfortable with the whole -- like this, like the media and the fans and the whole -- you know, when you get yourself into positions in tournaments like this, it just all backs -- it's not just the golf you have to deal with. It's everything else that goes on outside of that. That's something I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable with.
I feel like a better player all around. I mean, I can still hit the same shots last year as I hit now, but maybe I'm just able to hit the shots on a more consistent basis and maybe not have as many destructive shots in the bag. We sort of eliminated those. I think I was going into the last round here last year 60th or whatever, and obviously this year I have a chance to win.
And I feel like the way I'm swinging the club at the minute, I can control my ball flight a lot better, and that's obviously helped this week in the wind a little bit.
Q. Wondering what you learned about playing with a 54-hole lead. You've had some wins and you've had a couple losses, including last year a couple fairly high?profile tournaments; are you in better position to handle that now?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think so. You know, you have to learn from your mistakes, and I mean, like everyone else in this world, I've made mistakes and I've tried to learn from those the best I can. Sunday at Augusta last year was a huge learning curve for me and I feel like I took a lot out of that and can put a lot of the stuff I learned there into practice going into a day like tomorrow.
DOUG MILNE: Rory, great, keep it up and best of luck tomorrow.