MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS interview transcripts
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy here to the interview room at THE PLAYERS Championship. Rory, thank you for joining us for a few minutes, making your fourth PLAYERS Championship start this week coming off a top 10 last week at the Wells Fargo Championship. Just some opening comments on being here this week.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm coming off the back of a pretty good week. I felt like the finish didn't really reflect how I played. From tee to green I was very solid last week. I just couldn't really get the putter going at all. But really happy with where my game is coming into this week, so hopefully I can see the weekend here for the first time.
Q. I wonder if you could address the last couple years with you and Adam Scott faltering in a major and then bouncing right back and succeeding. What were the obstacles and the hurdles to overcome, and how did you do it?
RORY McILROY: For me it was the Masters in '11 was just a completely new experience and new feelings, feelings that I'd never felt on a golf course before. It was learning how to control those, and I learned a lot from that afternoon. I learned a lot in terms of, okay, if you feel like this, what are you going to do differently? What are you going to do to not have that happen again? So, for me, it was a valuable experience to lose or to, I guess, blow a tournament or a major like that.
I think Adam views it the same way. You can't let a few bad holes hide the fact that you've played so well for the first 63, and that was sort of the same for both of us.
It's just a matter of when you get into those situations and you do feel the pressure a little bit, you just have to handle it a little bit better and find a way. I'm sure Adam thinks differently to what I do in terms of when you get into that position; what do you do; what do you think; how do you feel; do you try to think of something else; do you sing a song? Whatever it is you do, everyone treats it differently.
But I think you have to go through those experiences to be able to handle it better in the future.
Q. What was the main thing you learned?
RORY McILROY: For me it was this is going to sound very cliché, but stay in the present. Stay in that shot that you're playing at that point in time because nothing else matters. It doesn't matter if you're one behind or one ahead, whatever it is. The only thing you can control is that next shot that you play, and that's something that I had to learn to do.
At the Masters I had started with a four shot lead, and all of a sudden I'm only one ahead going into the back nine, and that's what I'm thinking about instead of thinking of my next shot. And that's what I need to do.
Q. What song did you sing at Congressional?
RORY McILROY: It was Adele. I didn't sing it quite as well as her, but it played every morning on the radio, so it was a song stuck in my head that week.
Q. If you could describe this course in just one word, what would it be?
RORY McILROY: Tricky. This is a tricky golf course. You've got to think your way around here. It's very strategic. You've got to play the shots, as well. Even the lay ups are tough out here. Visually it's a tough track.
Q. Could you just talk about you talked about your learning experience from the Masters. Could you talk about what you've learned in your very brief six rounds that you've had here?
RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I think you've got to find a balance around here of being conservative, but also you have to take on things, as well. There is no point in not hitting the driver anywhere around here because you're not going to make enough birdies to contend, but you don't want to be hitting driver everywhere either because you're going to find trouble. So you have to find a balance.
There are a few holes out here that you can take advantage of, and you have to because there are so many difficult holes out here that you sort of play for par and if you make birdie, it's a bonus.
Q. Are you suggesting that you're not going to bring your driver?
RORY McILROY: No, no, no. I'm saying that I will. But I'm saying you can't hit driver everywhere, and it's not like you can't hit you have to find a balance of what you need to do.
Q. Why do you think you've struggled here in the three years you've played here?
RORY McILROY: Okay, the first year I came here I was in Vegas the week before. That didn't help. The second year was my 21st birthday. That didn't help. And last year I don't have an excuse. Last year I just didn't play well.
Q. Secondly, tricky is a good word. Is this a course you feel like you can have sustained success on?
RORY McILROY: It's funny. It's the sort of it's a golf course where you look at the field and you're like anyone can win. You have someone like Tim Clark win, and obviously you have Tiger and Phil have won once you know, Fred Funk. It doesn't really suit any type of player. I was looking I heard all this rain had come in and I was like, yes, it's going to be soft, brilliant. And I get out there and it's bone dry.
But it's just one of these courses where the best player who plays well that week will win. It doesn't suit any type of game style. It's just you've got to go out there and play the shots.
Q. Do the greens here set up nice for you in that the last few winners have not been known as being particularly great putters; they just had a good solid week because these greens were smaller? Does this kind of help you and play to your strength?
RORY McILROY: I think so. Especially coming off the back of last week and playing so well and my stats were good last week. I think I led in greens in regulation and I was up there in driving accuracy and driving distance. You know, if I can carry that through into this week, and obviously we've got greens this week that are a little better than last week too, so maybe that will help.
Q. Having won a major on a Pete Dye course, could you kind of give us a sense of that test versus this one in terms of how it fit your eye and why you're more comfortable?
RORY McILROY: It's funny, the last two starts I've had on Pete Dye courses I've won, Kiawah and Crooked Stick. I read that last night, some stat on Twitter. It's pretty I don't know. It's funny. This course is never I think visually it's very tough. You're hitting out there on the fairways that are wider than they appear, so you think you're hitting into a really tight area, but when you get up there, it's actually quite generous. I think Pete is very good at doing that, visually intimidating. You sort of expect that when you go to a Pete Dye course, whether it's Kiawah Island or Crooked Stick or whatever it is. I feel like you hit across a lot of fairways that are at angles and the tee boxes, so sometimes it just takes you a while to adjust and get the right lines off tees and stuff.
Q. Whereas you didn't have many of that cross angle stuff at Kiawah and Crooked Stick?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I guess. And the thing about Crooked Stick, it felt like all the bunkers were about 290, 295, so I felt like I had a big advantage where I could carry them where the majority of the field couldn't. But, yeah, hopefully I'll make it a hat trick this week, three out of three.
Q. This is a little off topic, but I'm wondering your reaction to Alex Ferguson's announcement, and any thoughts for a successor?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there was speculation last night before I went to bed, and when I woke up this morning I saw that United had released a statement saying that he was going to retire at the end of the year. I think he's been the most successful manager ever, I guess. I think it was about time, we Man United won the Premier League title this year by quite a way. It would have been great to contend in the Champions League a little bit more.
As for a successor, obviously they're saying Moyes or Mourinho. Yeah, I'm not too sure. It would be great to see Mourinho. I think it would be a great fit, but we'll see.
Q. Rory, have you played Merion?
RORY McILROY: No, not yet.
Q. When do you plan to?
RORY McILROY: Probably the week before.
Q. Do you know anything about it?
RORY McILROY: I know that they've got baskets for flagsticks, and I know Ben Hogan hit a great shot on it at the last. I don't really know much about it. I know was it Edoardo Molinari won the U.S. Amateur there a few years ago? I know it's not the longest golf course, and it will be a typical U.S. Open setup, I'm sure.
Q. Do you feel like you've turned the corner?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I do.
Q. When did that happen and more importantly what allowed it to happen? What allows you to get back to just playing golf?
RORY McILROY: I don't know, a few things. I think I felt good going into the Masters. I really did, coming off the back of playing so well in San Antonio. You know, even the first two days I played well and I got myself a couple off the lead or three off the lead or whatever it was on Saturday, and then just had a few bad holes. But I guess I didn't really let it get me down because I knew that my game was there. I made a couple of little tweaks with Michael the week before last, and I feel like my game is really there. It's back to where it should be, which is hitting quite a lot of fairways and hitting it quite long but hitting a lot of greens. I'm usually up into the 70, 80% range when it comes to greens in reg, and that's something that I've started to do, which is a good sign.
Q. What are you doing the best right now?
RORY McILROY: I think my iron play is really good at the minute. I think I'm hitting my irons well. Yeah, as long as I put the ball in the fairway, I feel like I'll have a chance.
Q. There was obviously a lot made early in the year about the equipment change, and you said that you just wanted to get it out of the way and make it all at once. Was there any thought to maybe kind of doing it in stages, and if so, why or why not? And secondly, did you expect there to be this adjustment period or did it sort of surprise you the way everything kind of snuck up on you?
RORY McILROY: For me, I viewed it as I'm at the time 23, now I'm 24. I've still got 20 years, hopefully, of playing top class level professional golf. Taking three months of that to make an adjustment or to change isn't that big a timeframe, I guess. So that's why I wanted to do it then, because I'd rather even though, again, even one year in a 20 year isn't that much, but just getting it done and then not having to do it ever again or go through stages, I'd rather have the process last three months than have it being drawn out over a year or 18 months. Just get it all done, and if you need to make any tweaks here and there, you do. That's the way I viewed it.
Q. Did the adjustment period that there was or is, did it take longer than expected? Did it catch you off guard in any way?
RORY McILROY: I think it took me longer. I felt that if it felt good in practice it would feel good on the course, but I had to play tournament rounds. I had to play to really know how it felt under pressure when I'm on the course, when I need to play a certain shot. That's when I really found out the most about the equipment and what I needed from it and maybe what I needed to change at the start.
So if I had to do it again, I'd probably play a couple extra tournaments at the start of the year just to learn a little bit more. But once I did play those tournaments, I seemed to figure it out pretty quickly.
Q. You've gotten to know Sir Alex a bit. Did he ever give you any advice?
RORY McILROY: Not particularly, no. He'd always text me after I win or whatever, which was very nice. But, no, never really. I remember he sent me a nice text after the Masters in '11, but I think everybody and their dog was sending me a message after that tournament.
Q. You mentioned that your iron play is really coming around as of late. Having won a U.S. Open a couple of years back, how important is iron play to winning the U.S. Open as a whole?
RORY McILROY: I think it's very important. I think, first of all, at the U.S. Open, you have to give yourself an opportunity to hit those irons into the greens, so you have to hit the fairway. If you're not hitting fairways at a U.S. Open, you're not going to hit many greens with your irons. I think it all starts with the tee shots.
Yeah, I've said it all along; if I could put it in the fairway and have my iron play the way I know it can be, I know that I'll do well.
Q. Can you tell us about the Blessings in a Backpack logo on your bag?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's something that well, it's not Six Bags charity anymore it's sort of went on from that. But it's a great initiative. Obviously they feed over 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 kids every weekend that obviously don't have the proper nutrition or resources that we have. It's a great initiative. I love that I'm able to help in some way because it's not like I put a logo on a bag and it brings awareness to that charity and also brings funds that they need to help those kids. I'm really happy to help. I know Kate and Justin Rose are really involved with it, and I wanted to try to help them. They approached me a couple of months ago, and it was something I was really happy to do for them.