What they said: Rory McIlroy

March 04, 2009
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: The Honda Classic transcript archive

DAVE SENKO: If you could get us started, you had to be pretty happy with your week last week, your first time playing in a TOUR event.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, obviously it was a great week to play my first time in America. I just run up against someone that was playing just a little bit better than me on the week.

But yeah, it was a great first week and I was very fortunate to carry the form that I've had into this little run of golf. You know, it was nice. It was nice to start with the Top-5 and hopefully try and get a few more good finishes under my belt.

DAVE SENKO: Have you had a chance to play here? Can you talk about the course?

RORY McILROY: I played the back nine yesterday. Played the front nine this morning. So yeah, I mean, it's a tough par-70. Quite long, and playing a lot longer than it was last week with sea level and the ball not going as far.

But I think especially with the breeze and the last few holes, it's going to make for a pretty interesting finish as it always does. No, it will be a good week, and one I'm looking forward to.

DAVE SENKO: Now, you're here next week, and then you'll be back to play at Shell Houston Open and the Masters; correct?

RORY McILROY: Yeah. I'll play this week and Doral next week. I'll take a couple of weeks back at home, and I think I'm going to go to Augusta just before the Shell Houston Open to get a practice round. And yeah, then play Houston, Augusta and Hilton Head.

So it's quite a lot of golf in the States, but I've enjoyed it the first couple of weeks, so I'm sure I'll keep enjoying it.

Q. Having experienced Carnoustie a couple of years ago, did it prepare you a little bit for the hype that's really been generated since you've started making a splash at the end of last year??

RORY McILROY: I think so. Obviously being British and playing well at the British Open, you know, there was a lot of media attention. I've sort of got used to it over the past couple of years.

But yeah, I said this last week, I just go out and play golf, and talk to you guys and talk about what I've been doing, and everything else takes care of itself.

You know, it been great, and I've grown up around the media most of my life. I feel pretty comfortable doing it.

Q. Do you take it a little bit with a grain of salt with all of the -- like a Mark O'Meara talking about comparing you to Tiger and expectations of you; did you take that a little bit with a grain of salt??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. You can't let those things sort of get into your head. But you know, it's obviously nice for those guys to say those things about me.

You know, it obviously fills you with a bit of confidence that you're doing the right things, so it's good to get all of these compliments; and you still have to go out and play good golf at the end of the day.

Q. How do you not let all of these glowing compliments that have come out the last several months affect you??

RORY McILROY: You know, it affected me because it's given me a lot of confidence that I can just go out and I can think to myself, you know, I'm one of the -- I'm thinking to myself, I'm pretty good and I deserve to be out here. I feel as if I'm one of the best and that I can just go out and play.

You know, I've gone up in the World Rankings pretty quickly. You've just got to go out and play and try to make birdies and shoot good scores. If you can do that, you're going to do pretty well.

Q. You're of a generation that saw what Tiger has obviously been doing for the last ten years. Particularly, his fitness level; Sergio, Camilo Villegas, do you follow that routine yourself? Are you very much into that? What do you do?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm into it a little bit. I'm very -- I've always been very flexible, which gives me a lot of speed through the ball. That's where I get all my distance from. But I've started working on stability, injury prevention, because it putts so much load on my lower back during my golf swing.

So I focus a lot on stability exercises and core stability. I've got a lot stronger over the past year.

It's something that I don't feel as if I need to work out for two or three hours every day. I just have to keep myself in good shape and get myself a little bit stronger.

Q. Do you run or go to the gym??

RORY McILROY: I go to the gym, and get on the bike for half on hour or whatever. I like getting on the bike because it's quite therapeutic, you can just get away from everything. But I'm not a diehard fitness fanatic.

Q. What does playing in the United States represent to you; is it a proving ground??

RORY McILROY: It's golf, at the end of the day. Yeah, just more tournaments to come out and try and improve. I think it is a little bit of a proving ground. I probably had a few skeptics when I came over here with my World Ranking. I played pretty well last week, and I just want to try to keep improving and just try and get up there as high as possible.

But yeah, I mean, that's the first time I've played professional golf in America, and I'm enjoying it at the minute and want to keep enjoying it.

Q. Young golfers today are obviously compared to or talked about who will be the next Tiger Woods. What's your earliest recollection of Tiger??

RORY McILROY: I first saw Tiger on TV at the 1996 U.S. Amateur. He beat Steve Scott at Pumpkin Ridge. And then obviously he turned pro quite soon after, and then you know, he won Las Vegas and he won a few others and then won the Masters a year after.

So yeah, obviously any new kid that comes out is going to be compared to Tiger because he has been the best of the last ten or 15 years, and he might be the greatest golfer of all time by the time he finishes.

So, yeah, it doesn't bother me. You have to have someone to compare yourself against, or you always have someone that sets the bar and Tiger has been that person for the last 15 years, and if I can get anywhere close to him, I'll be very happy.

Q. I'm sure you know there's the legendary story about Tiger taping Jack's accomplishments to his bedroom wall; did you do anything like that??

RORY McILROY: No, I had a poster of him on my wall. I had a replica of his scorecard after the 1997 Masters, the final round. But it's never been a goal of mine to accomplish the major championships that he has or anything like that.

Q. Do you feel a little bit fortunate that that was 13 years ago and you were six years old when he broke on to the scene and that he has moved up a little bit forward and you're not one of those guys that was right there in his wake??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I suppose so. But I think because of Tiger, everyone else has got better. He's still in his prime. He's only 33 or whatever.

I know a few guys have said that, you know, some of the guys that are around my age will be fortunate because Tiger won't be competing in as many majors or whatever, but you never know with Tiger. He could be competing in majors until he's 50 years old. You never know.

Q. Other than the next paycheck, what was the best thing about winning in Dubai??

RORY McILROY: Probably the way I won it. It was a wire-to-wire victory. The field that I beat; I beat people like Sergio, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey. So there's a few really good players in the field.

Yeah, I was six ahead with six to go at a stage, and I just won by one. So it was nice to hold it together on the final hole and be able to win like that, as well. It taught me a lot. It taught me that you can't take anything for granted when you're that far ahead and you still have to play very good golf to win. And it also shows me that if you're six behind and still to go, you still have a chance to win, as well.

Q. Obviously you play on The European Tour and you're up there with The Race to Dubai and who you represent means a lot to you, the last event in Europe, just curious to see what your priority is, to become a member of the PGA TOUR in the U.S.; is that something that you see? How soon, do you have a goal on that?

RORY McILROY: I'm not in a rush to become a member. I'll probably play ten or 11 events here this year. I mean, that includes three World Golf Championships and three majors, so that's six, and another five.

You know, you have to play a minimum of 15, and at the minute I don't see that it's necessary to do that. The European Tour is a great tour and one that's been very good to me over the past few years. I'll support that tour for the rest of my career.

But no, I don't see any point at the minute. I might think that it will be necessary in two or three years time, but right now, I'm happy just to play in the majors and the World Golf Championships and get a few invites.

Q. Have you looked at any houses in the States or Florida or up in Orlando or anything??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've thought about it. But anything that I do, I won't be doing for another 18 months or two years. But yeah, it has crossed my mind.

Q. Obviously you got to play in The Open Championship, which for anyone from Ireland is probably a high priority; where is the Masters ranked for you, and how excited are you that at 19 and a professional, most teenagers are amateurs when they qualified, that you were able to qualify and compete in that??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think that the way I qualified for it, as well, having to finish in the top 20 in South Africa just before Christmas, and to get in to keep myself in the world's Top-50 -- yeah, Augusta, it's a special place. You watch it on TV and you never really know what it's like, or you hear the stories about it, that it's really hilly, but you don't see it on TV.

They only started showing the front nine a couple of years ago on TV. Yeah, I mean, I think after The Open Championship, the Masters is probably the second on the list, because that it's over Easter and you got to watch it on TV when you were younger and stuff.

Q. Will that be your first trip over to see the course when you go before Houston then??

RORY McILROY: Yeah.

Q. What are you looking forward to most??

RORY McILROY: Loads of things. The drive up Magnolia Lane, walking out of the back of the clubhouse and seeing the 18th green, ninth green, first tee box. And I've heard a lot of great things about the Par 3 Course, as well. There's a few things that I'm really looking forward to seeing. Obviously Amen Corner. Yeah, everything. It's going to be great.

Q. Will you try to experience it all in one day when you get over there??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's probably -- I think just to get my bearings and know where everything is so that when I get to the course, the Monday of the Masters, I'm not going to be lost and looking for the locker room and looking for where I'm going to eat and stuff.

Q. O'Meara invited you to play with he and Tiger, right??

RORY McILROY: I played with Mark the first two rounds in Dubai and he said it would be great if we could have a practice round together. I said that would be awesome, because he's obviously a past champion. He said, "I'll ring Tiger up and see if he wants to play early one morning."

I said, "Yeah, that's great." Hopefully that will -- it would be nice to get to play with Tiger. I think they have got five green jackets between them.

Q. If you get to do that, what do you want to get out of that practice round with Tiger??

RORY McILROY: You know, just to see how those guys play the course, and where they think the best places are to hit it on the greens. And just, you know, where to miss it and just a lot of strategy because I think that's what Augusta is about. You need to really know where to miss it.

Q. How times have you met Tiger??

RORY McILROY: I've met him a few times. He came over to me last week and said well done for Dubai and great playing. I've met him three or four times, chatted briefly.

Q. That replica of his '97 scorecard that you had up on the wall, was that something given to you or that you actually found??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I just seen it in a memorabilia shop, yeah. I think I was actually over here playing a junior tournament and seen it in a mall or something, asked my mom and dad to get it for me.

Q. Do you remember what the cost was on that??

RORY McILROY: Don't know.

Q. Too young??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I wouldn't know. I don't know.

Q. You're not the only teenager in the field. Danny Lee is playing and he just won last week and Ishikawa got an invite, he won twice on the Japan Tour. Do you feel like there's this collection of guys that are going to be your contemporaries; that this could be the sort of rivalry??

RORY McILROY: I hope so. It will be great for the game of golf if we all do improve and get to the top level in professional golf. I think it would be -- because golf has never really had -- it's had young guys coming through, but never at the same time. You had Sergio and Adam and you had a few of those guys, but they never really came through at the same stage.

So it's pretty cool to have a few younger guys, and especially I'm the oldest at 19, so it's pretty cool. Tadd Fujikawa is here this week, as well, so there's a young guy that could be great, as well.

Q. Would you like to be low teenager at the Masters; is that a goal? Or do you have any certain goals there?

RORY McILROY: You know, I'll be coming in there and probably one of the top 20 players in the world, so you've got to have to think, if you play well enough, you've got a chance to win. And that's what my goal is at the end of the week, to play well enough to give myself a chance on Sunday; to have a chance of getting a green jacket.

Q. I saw your head cover. Is that something new or that will be available to the public? Is there a name for that?

RORY McILROY: No. Actually in my amateur days, I had a St. Bernard dog, and I've always liked dogs. It's just something that I put on my 3-wood, and it's nice, because it's got Titleist on it as well. I'm not sure if it's going to be sold for anything at the minute.

Q. You've known Darren Clarke for a while. What kind of relationship have you had with him and what has he meant for you??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, Clarkey has been great. Actually I met Darren on my ninth birthday at Portrush Golf Club briefly. He was practicing there one day and my dad brought me up to play for a birthday present. I never got to play, so that was the first time I played. That was the first time I met him.

And then I didn't meet him for about three years after that. I was part of his junior golf foundation. He invites all of the top juniors in Ireland down for a weekend at Portmarnock every year and I was part of that and got to know him, I think it was the second year of the foundation, he gave me his phone number. I think I was 13 or 14, and he said, "Rory, if you need any advice or you want anything, or you want to come over and stay and practice, just give me a shout."

For a 14-year-old to have one of the top players in the world phone number just to ring up and ask advice for or anything, it was pretty cool. I probably didn't -- being 14, I probably didn't use it enough. I didn't ring him enough and ask him enough questions.

Yeah, and ever since that, I started playing in Tour events as an amateur when I was 16 and he played a practice round with me, and he really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He's been great, yeah.

Q. Has he been the closest thing maybe to a mentor??

RORY McILROY: On Tour, yeah, definitely. As I said, he played practice round with me and as I've grown up, or got older, being able to chat about a few more things, he's been great and he's here this week.

You know, he is still a great player and I enjoyed spending time with him and playing practice rounds. He still gives me a bit of advice. I played with him last year at the Dunhill Links and he gave me a chipping lesson and stuff.

It's great to have someone like that on Tour; especially at the stage of my career that I'm at.

Q. Really, with Darren, or any TOUR player out here, how long did it take you to kind of get over the awe factor??

RORY McILROY: The first time I played with Ernie Els was in Singapore last October, and I was nervous on the first tee. It takes a while, because I've watched these guys growing up, for ten or 15 years. To play with them and compete with them, I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

I think I'm over it now. I'm still getting there, but even in Dubai, I was playing with Mark O'Meara, Masters and British Open Champion, so on the first tee, you're still a little nervous.

But the thing you realize is that they are all just normal guys. They are just great at golf. But they are normal guys and you can get along well with them and chat to them and have a laugh. So, it's great.

Q. There was a European dominance at Augusta, of all the majors over here, that's the one that's had the most success; do you feel like there's a bunch of guys now that maybe we are in store for maybe another era of that where guys come over here and start winning fairly regularly??

RORY McILROY: I hope so. It would be great for European golf. Obviously Sergio is leading that group of them. He's No. 2 in the world. If he wins a couple of events in the next three weeks, he's got a chance to catch up on Tiger.

You've got Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, and you've got a few really top Europeans that will challenge in majors this year, I'm sure. But yeah, it's good for worldwide golf that you have so many players from so many different countries becoming so much better and it's a lot more competitive. I mean, you look at even Asia and you've got Ishikawa, and the Korean teenager who is 17, as well, and you've got from Europe, myself, Martin Kaymer, Oliver Fisher, you've got a few really young guys.

I think it will be really great for golf in the next 20 years if there's people from all over the world being able to compete in majors and being able to fight it out for them.

Q. Have you picked Sergio's brain about being a very young up and comer on Tour worldwide??

RORY McILROY: Not really, no. I've played a few times with Sergio but we have never really talked about that because I have never seen myself to be the way -- because he finished second to Tiger at Medinah when he was 19, and that was a huge feat for him. But I suppose now I've broken into the world's top 20 and I suppose he was in the exact same position that I probably am now. Yeah, he has not done too badly out of it.

Q. I was speaking to Aaron Baddeley about this, because he won the Australian Amateur, and then the next year, he beat Monty when Monty was the world No. 3, and next year, his second professional tournament -- he was 19 and everybody was of another different age group. How do you feel you'll cope with that? You don't get to go with your pals to a concert and that sort of thing.

RORY McILROY: But I do. When I'm home, that's all I do.

Q. You do??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I didn't hit a golf ball for two weeks after Dubai. I just hung out with my friends, went to a couple of concerts, went and did shopping. Had dinner with a girlfriend a few nights. We just did the normal things that any other teenager would do.

Q. What concerts did you go to??

RORY McILROY: I went to Chris Brown and I went to Acorn.

Q. So I still do the normal stuff that anyone else does. I like to get away from it when I'm home. It's almost like two different lives, because you're out here and practicing hard and you try to win golf tournaments and you're back home and just hanging out and just doing normal stuff.

DAVE SENKO: Thank you.

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