What they said: Rory McIlroy

March 01, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: The Honda Classic transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Rory McIlroy into the interview room after a 4-under 66. Rory nice playing out there if we can just get some comments on your round.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, it is a solid opening round, especially on a course like this. Any time you shoot 66, you have to be pretty happy. Felt like the course was very scorable this morning. It's obviously very soft after the rain. With lift, clean and place on the fairways, if you can put your ball on the fairway, you have a lot of chances to score with these soft greens.

So I felt like I played very nicely. Only made that one mistake on the 8th green with a 3-putt. But apart from that, I was very happy with how the day went.

Q. How much did it help having Keegan in your threesome? It seemed as if you were playing off one another, and he said it was helpful from his standpoint.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I think all three of us, including Kyle, we all play a very similar type of game.

So I think that definitely helps in some way. Kyle didn't have his best day today, but you can see that he hit some quality shots out there, like the eagle on 3. Keegan played very solid shooting 3-under.

Yeah, it was a nice group, three pretty young guys, hitting the ball a long way and trying to make as many birdies as possible.

Q. I know you've been over here, I've lost track of how many times you've been to the States including when you were a kid; your comfort level in the States now, take it you don't even blink coming over here now??

RORY McILROY: No, to be honest, it feels like a second home.

Q. What did you hit on 18??

RORY McILROY: 5-wood from 256.

Q. I was just going to ask, you've been on this nice roll here lately where you've been in contention a lot. Although you won the U.S. Open last year, that has not always been the case. Has there been a difference, sort of late, late into last year, that you've put your finger on as to giving yourself these opportunities here of late??

RORY McILROY: Not really. I mean, I feel like I'm just a better golfer. Maybe a little more focused, a little more -- yeah, I mean, not that I never took it seriously, but I feel like I've got a few targets in my head and a few things, and I'm sort of striving to get to those.

So I feel like my work ethic is probably increased a little bit this year, as well. So it's probably been a few things, but it comes down to hard work, and just wanting it a little bit more.

Q. It looked very stress-free out there. Was it as stress-free as it looked? Do you think your game -- how does it compare to 12 months ago; do you feel you've improved?

RORY McILROY: It was pretty stress-free out there. I put myself in a couple of tricky positions. But I was able to get them up-and-down, or you know, I was disappointed not to birdie either the third or the fourth hole, they are two big birdie opportunities.

But to birdie the par-3 7th was a bit of a bonus. Yeah, it was pretty stress-free. Just the 3-putt on 8 obviously was a little bit frustrating. You never like to 3-putt. But apart from that, it was -- I hit quite a few fairways and a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances, and that's sort of what you need to do around this golf course.

Q. Not much wind out there today, so how important to you was it to put a good score out there because of that??

RORY McILROY: I mean, it's nice to tee off early in the morning and not have any wind. You feel like, especially when it's so soft, that the course is scorable. If I had come in today and shot, say, 70, I would have been pretty disappointed because the conditions were so good out there.

But I think to take advantage of not much wind and how soft it was, was nice, but hopefully the wind gets up this afternoon.

Q. How much different of a player and person are you from two years ago, or even a year ago??

RORY McILROY: I feel a lot different. As I said, I might be a little more focused on what I'm doing. I'm working harder than ever I think, and you know, I'm sort of -- haven't really reaped the rewards of it yet. I've been very consistent, but I haven't won in the last -- I've played three tournaments this year and had a couple of chances to win. I feel like it's very close.

Q. Club selection on 7, was that a difficult decision??

RORY McILROY: No. It was just in between. It was either a hard 6-iron or -- it wasn't really a 5� iron, because if it pitches anywhere at that flag, it just runs into the bowl in the middle of the green.

I just couldn't see where it landed, so I was hoping that it was on the green somewhere and got up there and it was just below the pin. So it was good club selection from JP, because I wanted to hit 5 and he talked me into 6, and it was the right club.

Q. The 3-putt on 8, you really had not had a putt of any serious length in maybe nine holes or so. Was that a factor at all, going so long without a lag putt??

RORY McILROY: Probably. The putt looked like -- for the first two thirds, it was uphill into the green, and then as soon as it got over that little ledge, it sort of got away from me.

Yeah, you know, I had not really hit a long putt like that the whole round basically and obviously hit it a little too hard.

Q. But you holed some nice little short, par putts early on. Curious how much of an improvement you've made from inside ten feet putting??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, that's been a huge improvement second inside six feet. I definitely don't miss as many as I used to. I feel a lot more confident over those putts.

I've always been pretty good from like 15 to 25 feet. I've always held my fair share but it's those putts that you should hole all the time are the ones that I've definitely improved on.

Q. How do you work on that??

RORY McILROY: Just repetition. And I think the more you see the ball go in from there, the more confidence you get. I think that's what you really need to do. I practice quite a lot on a chalk line, as well, from, say, six to eight feet, so that helps.

Q. When you say you're working harder this year, is it simply spending more time at things, or have you kind of changed the way you go about it??

RORY McILROY: I've definitely changed the way I go about -- I feel like I manage my time a lot better. I know if I go on the range, I go on the range for 45 minutes and in those 45 minutes, I'm going to hit balls and that's all I do. Sometimes you go for on the range and you'll spend an hour and a half and you'll be talking to someone here, and someone will be talking to you there, and you just don't get the work done that you need to; instead of just going on the range with a purpose, doing everything with a purpose. And that's something I've felt like I started to do the last few months.

Q. Is that anything that Caroline has helped you with??

RORY McILROY: Not particularly. The only thing I feel from that side is being close to someone who works so hard. Obviously that's got to have a great influence on you, because you see how hard they work, and you know, I'm there hitting golf balls. It's not a hardship really. Obviously you can putt a little -- everyone can put a little more work in if they want to.

Q. You ever hit balls next to Fred Couples??

RORY McILROY: Actually I did hit balls beside him this year. But I mean it was just warming up in Dubai.

Q. A follow on an earlier question by Doug, on your first nine, you looked really patient, as if you were just sort of waiting for the chance to score. Is that -- how much of that is your confidence that you can make those par putts, and just can you speak to maybe your level of patience over a year ago??

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I feel -- I think I've always had patience, but I mean, you've got to understand, it's still only the first round of the tournament. So you're going to be feeling a little bit different than, say, Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

I know -- I feel over the course of a round, I will hit enough good shots to give myself chances for birdies, even if it's not happening straightaway. I parred my first four holes or whatever it was out there. Had a couple of chances.

But you've just got to -- especially on a course like this, you've just got to wait for your opportunities. I knew I had a good opportunity coming up on the 18th. I knew 3 and 4 were good opportunities. If you can pick a couple up at some other holes, then that's a bonus, so that's the way I sort of went about it. I think that's the way I sort of approach this golf course.

Q. What do you think The Honda Classic needs to do to keep attracting the top players out here??

RORY McILROY: I don't think it has to do much. I mean, it's got a great golf course. Usually the weather is very good. It's got a great date; it's right in between two World Golf Championships.

So I mean, it doesn't -- it's in a great area. I can't see why anyone wouldn't play it to be honest. It's a really good event.

Q. You said you had a few targets in your head. I take that as being objectives and things you want to get done, presumably No. 1 is right there, which is again in play; can you elaborate on any of the rest, Player of the Year, Money List??

RORY McILROY: I never really -- a Money List or Player of the Year has never really been a goal of mine. I think that, again, that will just happen if you play good golf and try to win tournaments.

But obviously with all of the talk of No. 1, it would be great to get to that position at some point. I'm working towards that and I feel like I'm playing good enough to challenge for it at least. I'm working towards trying to peak my game from April through to August for the four majors and for the big tournaments.

I want to give myself the best possible chance going into those tournaments, and that's what I'm really working towards.

Q. When you play early/late like you do this week and you post a good score, what sort of things will you do to kind of fill the time between now and tomorrow's tee time, and has that evolved over your short career, of things you do during the tournament??

RORY McILROY: To be honest, I'll go to the gym after I have some lunch here. I'll go to the gym and then I'm just going to go home and chill out for the day. I mean, I might take a little bit of a nap and catch up on some sleep. I was up at 5:15 this morning.

Tomorrow I might get up around 8:00 and maybe come-- or might go to the Bear's Club in the morning and hit some balls, do some practice there and then come over here and get ready for my 12:30 tee time. But to be honest, I like late/early. That would be my favorite tee time, because if you have a good score on Thursday afternoon, you just keep going, and post a good one on Friday or whatever.

But JP likes early/late, because he thinks if you play well, you go early, late, late, late and have three lates in a row. It doesn't really -- I think you play so many tournaments, you don't really think about it too much anymore. You always find the time; you fill your time doing something.

Q. When was the last time you saw Dave Stockton and what have you been doing with him??

RORY McILROY: Last week.

Q. Anything new there??

RORY McILROY: No. You know, just the same things. I had not seen him since August before that. But he felt like everything looked good. Just working on -- it's very, very simple stuff for me, and the more natural I can keep it, then the more in sync with the rest of my game -- I feel like the rest of my game is very feel oriented and I feel like my putting should be the same way.

We don't really get into too much detail. It felt pretty good at the end of last week, and I made some nice ones today when I needed to. So that part of my game has definitely improved since starting to work with Dave.

JOHN BUSH: Rory, we appreciate your time. Keep it going this week.