What they said: Rory McIlroy

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May 08, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS Championship transcript archive

CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome Rory McIlroy here, his third appearance at this event. Just got done, I believe, playing the front nine practice round. Just talk about returning here to THE PLAYERS Championship.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, just coming into here off a good week last week, getting myself in the mix, and that was nice. Gave me a bit of confidence for my first week back after a little break. Just played the front nine, and the course is in unbelievable shape.

I think they closed it for like the last three weeks. Didn't let anyone play it. So the greens and fairways and everything, it's-- I mean, I've only been here twice, but it's the best that I've ever seen it.

Yeah, looking forward to the week.

CHRIS REIMER: Coming off of an exciting finish last week and transitioning into this week. Talk about the last 48 hours and the finish on Sunday.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was good. It was good to get into the playoff. It was a little bit of a bonus because of bogeying the last. But I would love to have that second shot back in the playoff. I was in between clubs and went with the wedge instead of the sand wedge. And looking back on it, hindsight is a great thing, but I didn't really have anything to lose with Rickie being in there close.

But I was happy with the finish and happy I got myself into contention for my first week back.

Q. Did you not commit to that shot there??

RORY McILROY: No, I did commit to it. I just-- it was 126 and it was uphill. I mean, the wind might have been helping a little bit out of the right. And it was one of those-- I just felt like sand wedge was going to struggle, and it's a very hard shot to hit like a soft shot in. So I was trying to hit like a little half-wedge, and obviously you're not going to get as much spin on it and I came out of it a little bit.

I did commit to it, I just didn't execute it the way I wanted to.

Q. So it was either really jump on a sand wedge and maybe not get there and run the risk that--

RORY McILROY: Yeah, exactly.

Q. -- or choke up on a wedge and take something off it.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, so that was what I did. Looking back on it, I would have played it a little bit differently.

Q. You hit third, right??

RORY McILROY: Yeah. I hit 3-wood in regulation and I had 141 pin, and it was a perfect yardage for a wedge. Just a good, solid wedge. I hit the 3-wood in the playoff 15 yards longer. Obviously just because I was a little pumped up.

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Rickie, how it first started, when you first met each other, and what it's like today??

RORY McILROY: Yeah. We've known each other since playing some amateur golf together. I developed a really good relationship with him at the Walker Cup in '07. I felt like he was the best player on that team at the time, and he was also the nicest guy.

So I got on with him really well then and met his family and stuff. It took him an extra couple of years to turn pro. I didn't really have much contact with him for those couple years, but since then, since he's been out on TOUR, I feel like it's been a good relationship.

For me, I always thought it was just a matter of time before he won. He got into that playoff really early in Arizona just when he first came out here, and yeah, it was just a matter of time. He's a great player, and it's good to see that he's broken through.

Q. The TV cameras caught you two talking to each other on the practice green before the playoff. What did you say to each other??

RORY McILROY: I don't know, just this is fun and this is-- let's go out there and have a good time and enjoy it. Hopefully it's not the first time that we'll go head-to-head like that.

Q. Two questions: You and Luke keep on playing tag for that No.1 ranking. Can you explain to us how the World Rankings are calculated, formulated??

RORY McILROY: If you go onto the website, there's a page on it where it explains(laughter)-- I still don't understand it, but I don't think many other people do, either. Yeah, look, it's-- based on the way everyone is playing, I think it's a good indication of--

Q. So my question is since most people can't understand it, as a player, if there were two, three, four categories that you would use to really determine who was No.1, what would they be for you??

RORY McILROY: Wins, consistency, majors, and scoring average, I suppose, a little bit. I think I'm No.1 in that, as well. (Laughter.)

Q. Back to Rickie for a minute. Did you get any sense that Rickie was hearing some of the same things you did at the start of your career; when-is-he-going-to-win type thing??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. I think Rickie probably had it a little more than I did.

Yeah, but anyway, he's not the sort of guy that he'll let it affect him. I think he just gets on with his business and plays and really enjoys it and really is himself out there. He was always talented enough to win; it was just a matter of going out and doing it.

Q. Did it ever affect you, and once you got Dubai out of the way--

RORY McILROY: Yeah, Dubai was a big relief for me because it was out of the way. I should have won in Switzerland and had a couple more chances. Lost in a playoff in Hong Kong and was in contention a couple other times, and I think I was six ahead with six to play coming down the stretch in Dubai, and only won by one, so it was a relief to get over the line there.

It took me a while to get my next win at Quail Hollow after that, and since then I've won a little more regularly. Still not as much as I'd like, but I think as long as you just keep putting yourself in that position, sooner or later you're going to get the hang of it, and the wins will start to come in a bit more regularly.

Q. The dynamic of playing with Lee on Sunday and coming from behind on Sunday, you've kind of had a little bit of taste of everything. You had the experience at Augusta at the U.S. Open where you held on; you had 62 at Quail Hollow where you came back. What makes it difficult for guys to hold leads? Do you think it's more that the leader might falter, or that the rest of the guys are so good that there's always that threat of somebody really making a lot of birdies and going low?

RORY McILROY: I think it's a combination of both. You know, it's a combination of the leader going out there and trying to protect the lead. So maybe playing a little conservatively or a little safe or a little tentatively; and guys that are three, four shots back thinking that, you know what, I'm just going to go out there and I'm going to give it a go and see what happens. And a few of those guys will catch fire at some point during the round and make a few birdies and make a charge.

Yeah, I mean, I think once you play with the lead a few times, it becomes a little easier, but I think it takes a little bit of time to get used to.

Q. And do you have the routine for protecting the lead down? Do you feel like after the U.S. Open that you've got the right formula for yourself?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, for me I don't feel like I have to protect it; I feel like I have to increase it. For me, that's the way to protect it, just try and-- if you're four ahead, get five ahead and just try and keep your foot down.

Q. Can you talk about-- you've been here a couple times now. Talk a little bit about how you play this course as opposed to other courses and maybe some of the strategies you need to be successful around here.

RORY McILROY: Yeah. It's a different type of golf course. I mean, you really have to-- it's a big advantage if you're playing from the fairway, especially with the small greens. And the rough around here, it can be a little thick in patches and it can be a little tricky.

I've actually put a 2-iron in the bag this week, which I'll hit a lot off the tee just to try and keep it in play. I don't mind sacrificing distance as long as you're hitting from the fairways here.

Q. Once you do win, how does that sort of change things? Does it become easier once you do win, once you get that first win, and how does it change everything for you?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think so. I think you feel a little better about yourself for a start.

You know, you can draw on the memory that I've won out here, so I can definitely do it again, and that gives you confidence.

Yeah, I think for me, I won in Dubai in '09 and then it took me over a year to win again. After a few months, I'm like, you know, I feel like I am playing okay and I just want to get another win. It really depends.

But I think being a winner out here, it just gives you that extra little bit of confidence.

Q. When did you think, what was I thinking last year; that was really stupid not coming last year??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, the thing is I was talking about this this morning. If I had have played here, I would have played Quail Hollow, here, Match Play, Wentworth, Memorial. I would have played five on the spin, and I just didn't really want to do that.

So this year, I mean, I'm not playing the Match Play but I'm playing here. So that's the only-- I've just sort of swapped those two around.

Yeah, I mean, looking back on it, it wasn't one of my brightest moments. Yeah, I mean, I'm glad to be back.

Q. And the other thing is, this winning thing you talk about every week, is it just a question of more practice of winning??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I gave myself a good chance-- I don't feel like I lost it last week. I felt like I played well, and I made bogey on 17, but it was playing tricky coming in. I give myself a-- I had a putt to win on 18 and didn't quite do that.

But it's not like I did anything stupid coming down the stretch or made a mistake. I played the last few holes in 1-under, and on a tricky day like that, I felt like that was pretty good.

Q. Did you think it was coming or do you think--

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I hope so. I'd like to think so. I think the more you just put yourself in these positions, the easier it gets. But yeah, I'd love to get a win or two going into the U.S. Open.

Q. I was reading some of your comments from a year or two ago about the golf course and the weird angles and how uncomfortable it makes you. I was wondering if you could talk about the awkwardness and explain a little more about that. And then how many times do you play on a course during the year where the golf course is as big a part of the story as the players??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, the main reason why I've put the 2-iron in the bag this week is because even for me, hitting 3-woods on some of these holes, it still goes a little too far even though you're hitting across fairways.

Sacrificing some distance for me, it makes the targets a little bigger, and I don't mind going into a green with a 7-iron instead of a 9-iron.

As I said, if you hit it-- if you're hitting your second shots from the fairway here, it makes it a lot easier.

That's hopefully one thing that's going to help me get myself around the golf course.

Q. What did you take out??

RORY McILROY: 5-wood. I put a 2-iron in there.

Q. And about the golf course??

RORY McILROY: Yeah. I mean, I think there's a few places a year where I think-- the Masters, obviously. You've got here.

I think when the British Open goes to St. Andrews, it's a huge part of the week. And I think that's probably it.

I mean, you've got places like Colonial and places where there's a lot of history, but I think the main three are probably Masters, here and St. Andrews whenever the Open goes there.

Q. You skipped last year, and so did Lee; in return there's been a lot of guys that are skipping this year. Can you talk about what the perception of this tournament is by the European players??

RORY McILROY: I mean, I don't know. I never played this event when it was before the Masters, so I don't know what the feeling was like when they had it then.

But it just seems that it comes now in the season where there's a lot of big tournaments, and it sort of just-- I think before the Masters, it sort of stood out.

And now in the place where it is, it's just one of a number of big tournaments coming up.

But I think it's being-- you've got the Masters in April; you've got this in May; U.S. Open in June; British Open in July; PGA in August. So it sort of fits in quite well.

I don't know what the perception is like amongst other players, but for me it's a very big tournament and it's a tournament that I'd love to win one day.

Q. For so long Tiger sort of dominated the golfing landscape. The last couple years we've seen parity. Which is better for the game; would you like to see a rivalry at the top between two or three top players??

RORY McILROY: I mean, as a fan growing up watching golf, I loved that Tiger was dominant and I loved that there might be Phil would come and challenge him for a while and then Ernie and then Vijay and then Duval.

I sort of liked that as a story line. So it would be nice if a few people separated themselves from the rest. Hopefully I will be in that group at one stage.

I just think it shows how good the guys are now. But it's the finest of margins is what takes-- that's what it takes to win out here.

And it is; you've got a player like Rickie who's a great player who's just won, and even he said last week that it is hard to win.

But I think the more you do win, the easier it becomes.

I think for me if I was a golf fan, I'd like to see a rivalry.

Q. Going back to the Masters, obviously not the finish you were looking for. But you came back, played well at Quail Hollow. Talk a little bit about what you learned in terms of preparation, whether it was for Quail or bigger tournaments, majors, this tournament, etcetera. What did you learn from that experience??

RORY McILROY: Not much. I felt like I prepared really well for the Masters. I put myself in a good position going into the weekend. I was third going into the weekend, and I just had a couple of bad days.

I don't put that down to how I prepared for the tournament. I just put that down to just being a little bit off with your game.

No, I didn't touch a club for two weeks before going to Quail Hollow and I get in a playoff. So there's different ways to go about it.

Q. How much have you learned say in the past-- going back a year or two, and how much of a benefit is that experience??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've learned for myself that playing too much golf isn't necessarily that good for me physically or mentally. I feel like a few weeks on the road, I get a little stale and a little-- uninterested isn't the right word, but just not as motivated as I would be if it was my first or second week out. That's something that I learned.

I'll only play three weeks in a row is my-- is basically the maximum that I'll do now.

Q. On the topic of putting 2-iron in your bag, have you looked ahead to Olympic Club and Lytham, and is that something that you're possibly thinking about needing there? And also, if you could think back to last year at Congressional, do you feel like your ability to hit driver and hit it a long way and hit it pretty straight was something that helped separate you from the field?

RORY McILROY: Yeah. I've played Lytham a lot, and the 2-iron will probably come in handy there. I still haven't been to Olympic, but from what I hear, it could be a good club for that course, too.

Congressional, yeah, I think it was. Even though I didn't hit driver-- I mean, I hit driver quite a bit, but I think that the course played soft and it played long, it played into my hands a little bit. I could take advantage of the par-5s and make some scores there.

Yeah, I mean, it wasn't a typical U.S. Open setup. I think that that helped me a little bit.

Q. Did you grow up with a 2-iron??

RORY McILROY: I did, yeah. I did. I've never been a fan of the hybrids, so I always had a-- yeah, I always switched between a 2-iron and a 5-wood, depending on where I played, and growing up playing amateur golf in the UK, you're playing a lot of links courses, so you would use a 2-iron quite a lot.

Q. What was the first full set of clubs you had??

RORY McILROY: First full set of clubs I had?

Q. Going back to like age 3.

RORY McILROY: I can't remember what club I was swinging back then, whatever it was. I think it was a-- my first-ever club was a John Letters 5-wood that was cut down. I've got it framed and it's hanging up in my house.

First set of clubs that I can remember were a set of Mizuno something or others with graphite shafts.

Q. Does Rickie winning-- does it now feel that was a watershed moment for world golf or American golf in particular, with you and your generation is now, that it's your time, with Tiger troubling, as well??

RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I mean, it's tough to say because there's so many different guys winning out here now. I don't know. I mean, I still expect Tiger to come back and do some great things. I mean, he's won this year, so he's definitely on the right track.

But I think it was great for the game of golf that Rickie won. It's great to have characters like that that are playing well, and he engages with the fans really well, and he's a really popular player out here.

Q. Was there ever a time when you first came out here that you were, I don't want to say afraid, but concerned about a particular guy because of their status??

RORY McILROY: No, not really. I remember I played with Ernie Els in Singapore in 2008, and it was the first time that I really played with a big player like that.

I remember just going out there really wanting to enjoy the experience and looking forward to it, and just seeing-- matching my game up against his and seeing how much better he was and what I needed to improve.

But no, I've never really-- I've never felt in awe, but I've just been excited to play alongside them and play against these guys that I've watched growing up on TV.

Q. Can you remember a time when you were a kid that you were in awe of anybody??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I think the first time I met Tiger I was a little star struck. I watched him on TV winning majors by 15 and 12 and doing things that no one else could.

But he's probably-- I was more nervous-- it's funny, I was talking about this last night. I was more nervous meeting Tiger than I was meeting Barack Obama.

Q. How old were you when you met Tiger? When was that, the circumstances?

RORY McILROY: 15.

Q. Where were you and what were you doing??

RORY McILROY: I met him a couple of times. I actually bumped into him at Scotty Cameron's putter studio once. And then the American Express Championship in Ireland at Mount Juliet, whenever that was.

Q. Do you remember how old you were the first time??

RORY McILROY: No, just a kid looking for a putter.

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