Valero Texas Open interview: Rory McIlroy

April 03, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Valero Texas Open transcripts archive

ROYCE THOMPSON:  We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the media center.  Rory, if you wouldn't mind, maybe some opening comments about playing here this week, and why you decided to come to Valero?
Yeah, it was obviously a bit of a last minute decision.  I made the decision last Friday to come and play here in San Antonio.  I just felt like I needed a bit more competitive golf heading into The Masters.  But saying that, I'm happy to be here.  I'm happy just to play another tournament.  I'm excited about this week.
I've played pretty much all the golf course twice.  I didn't play the last five holes out there today, but from what I see, I really like it.  You've got to drive it well.  You've got to hit the shots.  You've got to be precise.  So, it should be a good week, and a week where I can try to get my game sharp going into Augusta.

Q.  It seems like it was a very similar to decision to you adding Memphis to your schedule last year.  What were the similarities in how you made the decision to play those two events when you normally don't play the week before majors?
Yeah, I guess it's nice    I've done it both ways.  I've played the week before going into a major, and I've won, and I haven't played the week before a major, and I've won.  It's nice to be able to sit here and say that.  But I guess just for confidence and just for    I know I'm playing well, and I'm hitting the ball well.  It's just getting the scorecard in my hand and shooting some good numbers going in.
I had a chance to win in Memphis last year and that didn't transpire into playing good golf at Olympic, but I feel like my game is there.  It's close.  It's just a matter of putting some numbers on the scorecard.
You plan just tournament rounds, committing to targets, having to get it up and down when missing the green, and just that sort of stuff going into next week.

Q.  If I could ask a follow up, regarding being in contention at Memphis and the like, what did you learn out of that week that you hope to apply to this week and your preparations I know you wanted to make sure you played as well as possible that week?
Yeah, for sure.  Memphis was, I guess was nice for my confidence a little bit.  I had just come off the back of three missed cuts.  Whereas, coming into this week, I've played okay the last two tournaments at Doral and Houston.  A top 10 at Doral, and last week I felt like I played okay.  I just didn't score as well as I should have.
I was struggling with confidence going into Memphis in the U.S. Open last year, but this year I'm confident about my game, and it's just about putting the numbers on the scorecard and trying to correct the silly mistakes and just get sharper.  That is the big reason I'm here.

Q.  You say you're pretty happy with your game and you're confident in it.  So when you're practicing on the range and on the course in your practice rounds, what are you working on to try to take the next step to get your game back to where it was last year?
Again, as I said, I feel like I'm hitting the ball very similarly to the way I was last year.  It's just when you're out there and in competitive runs, you're limiting the silly mistakes.  Whether that means you go for a pin and you short side yourself, or you maybe just are giving yourself a little more margin for error.  You're going for the fat of the green sometimes knowing that par is a good score on some holes.  It's just that sort of stuff that you get with playing week in and week out, and that's what I'm trying to get here.

Q.  When you made the change in plans, you talked about making the phone call to the UNICEF Ireland people yourself.  A lot of athletes would have just had their managers or some other handler take care of that.  It sort of spoke to a more hand's on approach that you have on off the course stuff.  Can you just speak to why you made that call and what you see your role as in those affairs?
I think they deserve that.  I think they deserved a phone call from me, because the whole trip was planned around me going down there and the least I could do is make a phone call personally and say I'm sorry that I can't make it.  So, yeah.  What we do for a living out here it's all about relationships.  You build relationships from the start of your career, and you want to try to keep certain relationships until the end.
So, it's nice to have sponsors and have partners and whatever, but the nice thing is having a relationship with these people just outside of golf, and I feel like I've built up some pretty strong relationships in my time playing on TOUR.

Q.  Can you talk about the idea of over the last few years, you're still obviously awfully young.  And there's been such ascension in your game up to No. 1.  So many peripheral things come with that, the scrutiny and things you have to deal with.  You seem so level headed about it.  But can you talk about the difference between four years ago and today?  Just the kind of things that you have to kind of measure yourself as far as dealing with off the course?
Yeah, as you say, the media attention and scrutiny is something I didn't really have to deal with four years ago.  What is four years ago?  2009.  I had just won my first professional tournament, and I was playing a little bit over here and I was going to play in my first Masters.  Everything was new to me.  It was new experiences, new courses, and that was, obviously, great.
Now I'm not calling myself a veteran by any means, but I'm starting to get used to it a little bit more.  It's just part of the routine and part of day to day life that I have to do these things.  I don't have to, but I feel like it's sort of my responsibility to do some of these things.

Q.  You've been scrutinized for coming here.  I saw a lot of the overseas press written about why would you come here.  It seemed like there's more magnification of anything you might decide as far as your career goes?
  Yeah, I think people want to make a story out of most things and to get people to read it, it has to be exaggerated to some extent.  For me, I'm a person that doesn't really overthink things.  If I want to play the week before The Masters, I play the week before The Masters, and it's good that I'm here in San Antonio and I'm enjoying myself.  Yeah, I want to go out there and play well this week.  There is not really anything more to it than that.

Q.  In preparing for The Masters, you say you need to get scores on the card.  This is a place where that doesn't always happen.  It's a demanding course.  If it does turn out to be kind of a slog out there with the weather really dominating things, what can you take from this course specifically to help you prepare?
  Course management.  That is the thing - Course management, putting the ball in play, leaving my ball on the right side of the pins when I'm going into the greens, and if I miss greens, trying to get it up and down.  All the things that you face    all the things that I'll face next week as well at Augusta.  You've got to know when to not take on pins.
Augusta's a little more generous off the tee than it is here, but in a way, that's a good thing.  That means I'll step up on some tee shots next week and feel like they're a little wider than they were this week.
But, yeah, more course management than just trying to manage my game a little bit better.  Because I feel like all the components are there.  It's just a matter of putting them all together.

Q.  What holes out here look agreeable to you, and what holes look to be a problem?
  I mean, there's a lot of tough holes out here.  One that came to mind today that was playing very tough was the 9th hole.  It was playing long, straight into the wind, very narrow green.  But there are holes out here where you can make a score.  There are a lot of short to medium yardage par 4s where you can take advantage of, and there are probably only one, maybe two par 5s that you can reach, but with the rain it doesn't look like I'm going to reach them.
It's a golf course where you've just got to play awfully well to make a score, and you've got to be precise with your iron shots, and you really try to leave the ball in the right spots because there are a lot of runoffs, and if you know there's a runoff behind the pin, you've got to try to leave it short.  Very much like Augusta in that regard.  You've got to really think about your iron shots.

Q.  A follow up on the scrutiny question.  It's not just you that's facing extra scrutiny.  Your parents, things have been written about them, Colin, Conor and Sean have come under some criticism for how they've handled things.  Do you feel like there's a learning curve for everyone around you in just dealing with this life in the spotlight?  And what do you make of all the people around you also coming under the spotlight?
I think at the end of the day, most of the decisions are down to myself, so I don't think that people around me, especially not my parents or people closest to me, they shouldn't be scrutinized or criticized at all.
But I think what we're dealing with and what's going on in my life now is new to everyone around me, and it's a learning experience and it's a learning curve and you learn every day.  If we weren't learning and we weren't making mistakes, then there would be something wrong.  I'm very happy with everything that's going on around me.  I've got great parents and a great support team and everything in that regard couldn't be better.

Q.  Padraig came in here yesterday and said basically that consistency is overrated.  That all people will remember 20 years from now is the high peaks and all these little trials and tribulations will be forgotten.  In the grand scheme of things, how important is consistency week in and week out, or is it all just trying to peak for the big events and win those?
  I don't care if I miss ten cuts in a row if I win a major a year.  I don't care.  I mean, that's what it's all about is winning the big tournaments.  Of course, it's not going to be great for your confidence going into those majors if you're missing ten cuts in a row.  But when people look back on a person's career, you don't say Jack Nicklaus was so consistent.  Okay.  You could say he finished 19 times second in a major.  But what you think about is the 18 majors he won.  That's what people remember.  People remember the wins.  They don't remember that I shot 65 at Doral to finish 8th.  I mean, people don't remember that stuff, but they remember the wins and they remember the high points.  It's only a minority that will remember the low points and will get on you for that.

Q.  Does that make it easier for you to get over these little rough patches that you may have knowing that in the future you'll have peaks again?
  Yeah, for sure.  Right now I'm just looking to, as I said, shoot some good scores.  I guess it would be nice to have consistency in your career, but not let it go too far down and not get too low, but also enjoy the peaks as well.  But, yeah, I guess you've got to think about what I remember are the good points.
I remember last year, my five wins, my second major championship, the Ryder Cup, winning Player of the Year.  I don't remember missing four or five cuts or whatever it was in the middle of the season.  I mean, I remember, but that's not what I think about.  I think about the high points.

Q.  Looking ahead to your grouping tomorrow, how familiar are you with Jordan Spieth?  Not that you're exactly an old timer, but if he was going to pick your brain about being his first year as a pro, what advice would you give him?
  I know that he's played a little bit on TOUR, and he was obviously a great junior and everything.  A very impressive player.  I've never played with him.  I've seen him hit a few shots before.  And if he had to ask me anything, I mean, what do you say?  I turned pro at 18, and I was fortunate that I got my TOUR card straightaway and I didn't have to go to TOUR School.  I didn't have to go through all of that.  And he's trying to do the same thing.
It's just about playing well when you have the opportunity to, and he seems like a good enough player to be able to do that.  It's about believing in yourself, believing in what you're doing is the right thing.  Because everyone is different, and something that might work for me might not work for anyone else.  And if he believes he's doing the right thing, then he'll get there.

Q.  This tournament has an historic list of winners and has a very unique tradition.  What would it mean for you to win here, and so far, what has the hospitality been like and what have you thought of the course?

RORY McILROY:  I must say the hospitality has been fantastic.  The people here have made us feel so welcome.  From when we got here on Sunday evening, it seems like they couldn't be happier to have us here which is a great thing.  It makes us feel so comfortable, And it would be great to win.  Every tournament you turn up to you know the ultimate goal is to try and win.  I'd love to leave here on Sunday night with the trophy and have that before heading to Augusta next week.