MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS transcripts archive
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy back to the interview room at THE PLAYERS Championship after round one. Two days in a row for you, that's obviously indicative of good things. 6 under 66 to get things started in round 1 here at the TPC Stadium Course. Just a couple comments on the round, and then we'll open it up and take a few questions.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I played well. I actually didn't have a great session on the range this morning before I went out to play, but once I got on the golf course I felt a lot more comfortable. Just continued to do what I've been doing well, which is hit my ball on the fairway for the most part, but hit greens and give myself a lot of chances for birdies. Every week when you do that, you're going to shoot some good scores.
So, really happy with how I played and how I hit the ball out there. We just need to keep doing that for the next three days.
Q. Rory, you mentioned about how you appreciate the strategic element of this golf course a little bit more now than maybe you did before. Can you give us some examples of where you stand on tees now and don't pull the driver?
RORY McILROY: I don't hit any drivers on the front nine. I mean, I hit driver on 11 and 16 on the back nine, and one more, 14, so I only hit three drivers around this place. Now I see why I don't. There is no point in the par 5s on the front nine, for example, there is no point hitting driver off either one of those for me, because I'm still going to reach the green with a 3 wood off the tee, if I want to.
I'm playing 9 as a three shotter this week; I don't think I'll go for the green once. And the 2nd hole I was still hitting iron in after hitting 3 wood off the tee.
It's just these courses and this especially is just about getting your ball in play. Once you do that, you can the way I feel like I'm hitting my irons, I can take advantage of that.
Q. Did you feel coming in that you were educated enough on this course to be playing it? You sound like you feel like you know how to play it now.
RORY McILROY: When you hit the shots, it seems very simple. I had a lot of good shots out there, lot of iron shots that were 12, 15 feet away from the pin and I got myself a lot of looks for birdies. I adopted maybe more of a conservative strategy off the tee this year, but once you put your ball on the fairway, that means you can be more aggressive into the greens. So it sort of balances itself out.
Q. There seems to be more consistency to your game overall, in particular, your ball striking. At what point did that maybe turn for you and you kind of turned the corner in terms of that?
RORY McILROY: I think just over the past few weeks. This year it's sort of been a couple of good days and a bad day, then a couple of good ones again and another bad one. I'm starting to get the consistency back in it, which is a good thing.
I guess it probably started in I don't know. I played okay in Houston. I think I hit like ten shots in the water, so that didn't help. But I felt like I was striking the ball well at least. Then the next week in San Antonio I had four good ball striking days. The Masters was good, apart from those nine holes, as I said. Then last week was very promising too. I think it's just been a gradual step by step process over the past few weeks.
Q. What did that do for your confidence especially coming here where you obviously didn't have a very good track record, haven't broken par?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm definitely a lot more relaxed coming in here this year. I guess in a way whatever I do this week is what I felt coming in, I'll do better than I ever have before, because I've played well and I am playing well. I feel like I've got the game to contend. I came in here with not much pressure, and just wanted to go out and play well, and that's what I've done so far.
Q. How many drives would you have used last year then if you said you used three?
RORY McILROY: I probably would have taken driver off the second and off 9 and off 7 and off 5, so maybe six or seven drivers last year.
Q. Did you have to reign yourself back at all?
RORY McILROY: No, not at all. I think I'm in a good place. Mentally, as I said, I'm very confident with my irons. So it doesn't matter if I'm going in with a 9 iron or 6 iron, I feel like I can get it close enough to the pin where I have a birdie chance.
Q. On 9, in the past you would have gone for that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I would have hit driver off the tee and got it down there and tried to go for the green in two. But it's such a tricky up and down, I'd rather have a full shot into the green from maybe 80 or 90 yards.
Q. Any other specific examples of your strategy you've got now as opposed to the aggressive one?
RORY McILROY: No, I think that's really it. It's just being a bit more conservative off the tee. Trying to hit more fairways and from there it's a lot easier to shoot at some of these pins, especially because the Bermuda rough here, it's very hard to control your ball out of that. It's such an advantage to be hitting off the fairway.
Q. How was 17 today when the conditions are down and it's Thursday?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was only 124 yards to the pin. You know, it was slightly into off the left, so it was just a perfect wedge for me to pitch 6 or 7 yards past the pin, and came back down the slope. It's probably the smallest target to hit at at the green because it's in that front little portion, but I think you'll see more twos there today than you will any of the other days.
Q. How often, Rory, do you play with Stricker, and what do you make of a guy who is about twice as old as you are and just kind of goes about it differently?
RORY McILROY: He's just a great pro. I love playing with Steve because he's got a nice demeanor. The rhythm in his golf swing is great. He's unbelievable from 10 yards in, and he's just a nice guy to play with. I think the last time I played with him was in Akron last year, so, yeah. But he's very he knows what he does well, and he does it consistently. It's amazing to see that he's only playing a handful of tournaments this year, but he's still
Q. Same as Adam, I guess.
RORY McILROY: But he's consistently up there all the time.
Q. He was drilling you on tennis today?
RORY McILROY: A little bit, yeah. He was asking me a few questions.
Q. What is it like when everyone is playing so well? None of you were really in any trouble to speak of, are you aware of that? Does it have an effect? Do you think it helps all of you? What kind of a dynamic is that?
RORY McILROY: I think it is. I think when you get all three guys playing well in a group, can you sort of feed off one another. I mean, Steve and I halved every hole for the first 11 holes. We were both 6 under par after 11. We both birdied the exact same holes.
Q. He couldn't (no microphone).
RORY McILROY: No, he couldn't get the honor off me. But no, Adam's playing well. Adam's playing really nice. He's striking the ball really well and giving himself loads of chances out there. It was a good group to be a part of. We all played well, and I think when that happens, it is easier to sort of feed off one another.
DOUG MILNE: Last thing, Rory, if you would run us through your birdies and give us some clubs and yards and then we'll cut you loose.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the 11th hole, I'll start on the one I started on. I hit a driver and 3 iron to the front left sort of portion, just front left of the green there and got it up, chipped and putted and got it up and down there.
12, I hit 5 wood off the tee. I had 77 yards to the pin, and hit a lob wedge in there to about three feet. 14, I hit driver off the tee and hit 9 iron from 159, and hit that to about three feet. 16, I hit a driver into the right rough. I hit a 5 iron up short left of the green. Had about 50 yards left, and hit the chip to maybe 15 feet left of the pin and made that. Pitching wedge on 17 from 124, hit it to, I don't know whatever it was, 5 feet 5 inches or something, and made that for the two. And then I hit a 3 wood and a 3 iron just short right of the green on the second hole, and chipped and putted there, and no bogeys.