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Rory McIlroy: “There’s no room in golf for people to abuse someone on the golf course when all they’re trying to do is follow their dreams.”

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

East Lake Golf Club
Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: This is your 8th start here. You’re a two-time champion. Just what are you looking forward to about coming back here for the ninth time or the eighth time.

RORY MCILROY: I mean, I’m just happy to be here, to be honest. I was 28th going into the week last week at Caves Valley. I knew I needed at least a decent week to make it here and it turned out to be a bit better than that. I played, probably played some of the best golf I’ve played all year, not good enough to keep up with Patrick and Bryson, but certainly good enough to move up a few spots and get here this week.

So, yeah, happy to be here. It’s, I think it’s always a feather in your cap to make the TOUR Championship even though someone in my position is expected to and I obviously expect myself to as well. You look around this week and there’s only 30 players here and you can single out every single player that’s done something really well this year. So to be included in that group is nice and at least I have a chance.

I, it was funny, I saw Sungjae this morning at breakfast, and when I finished on Sunday, it looked like I was projected to start the tournament this week at 4-under and then Sungjae birdied 17, and then I was projected to start the week at 3-under, and then he birdied the last, and then I went down to 2-under. So even before the week started he cost me two shots.

But, no, it’s — and it’s sort of, I think that’s the fun thing about this format. You’re always sort of looking at what the other guys are doing and seeing where you’re going to start. But, yeah, just happy to be here and glad to have a chance.

THE MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. You touched on it there. How do you approach starting the week eight behind? Do you just think, that’s just two shots a day, or do you just try and put it out of your mind until you get down to the business end of it?

RORY MCILROY: Not really. I mean, I think East Lake isn’t the easiest golf course in the world and it’s certainly a, it seems to be a course that separates the field somewhat. So the way I look at it, if I go out tomorrow and shoot 6-under, for example, which is the score I shot last year in the first round, get to 8-under par, and some of those top guys shoot even par or even 1- or 2-over, all of a sudden you’re right in it.

So it’s a golf course that you can, I feel like you can make up a lot of ground quickly. You can also lose a lot of ground quickly as well, depending on how it goes. But I certainly don’t feel like I’m out of it. I don’t feel like I’m too far behind. Eight shots around this golf course doesn’t seem like that much, so still pretty optimistic.

But, I mean, I think it just puts the impetus, especially for people that are in my position, the bottom half of the field, you just have to get off to a fast start.

Q. Jon has been kind of outspoken about the format for this week. He points out the fact that you come in having won, four, five times and a major and end up finishing 30th on the points list. And I know you’ve addressed this before, but there is a clarity for the fans, but that’s offset by Jon’s point, which I think a lot of people agree with. Do you have a thought on that one way or the other?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean I, look, the first year that it was played in this format I started five back, and I ended up winning the tournament by three. So, like, everyone gets here. The people that have played well have an advantage. It’s not an insurmountable advantage like it has been in previous years where guys have turned up to the TOUR Championship not having to do anything to win the FedExCup and that’s certainly, you don’t want that to happen either.

So I mean, there’s been a few iterations of it and I think this is definitely the best format so far. There’s clarity for the players. There’s clarity for the fans. It’s, again, it’s the playoffs, and I think everyone that’s in the top-30 deserves to be here and then because of that everyone in the top-30 deserves to feel like they have a chance to win it all.

So I can certainly see where Jon is coming from, especially with the year that he’s had. But, look, I’ve went into two, I went into two playoff runs being No. 1 in 2012 and 2014 and didn’t win either of them. So I’ve been on both sides of the coin here.

Look, it is what it is. I mean, the PGA TOUR wanted to create this playoffs format and by nature it is going to be volatile at the end of the year and I think most players have accepted that.

Q. I know you were hitting fades and hitting draws and trying to figure out which one made more sense. Where have you settled on that and why?

RORY MCILROY: I think it’s shot- and hole-dependent. I’m going to try to hit a fade on holes that dictate that that’s the way you should play the hole and I’m going to try to hit a draw on holes or hole locations where it dictates that you should hit a draw. I think I’m, most players in this field and most players on TOUR should be good enough to be able to work the ball both ways.

Certainly there is advantages of just having one shot shape. It takes the options or the choices out of your head somewhat and it simplifies the game, but I think I should be able to swing the club well enough and know what I’m doing that I’m able to hit both shots. I mean, I think for my swing pattern and when it gets off, I think the feeling of a fade is always a good one because it gets the club out more in front of me on the way down. So that’s always going to be a sort of thought or a drill of mine is, like, just keep trying to get the club out in front of me and rotate and hitting those fades because I know if I can hit the fade pretty consistently, then I know I’m swinging well and the club’s not getting stuck behind me, and I know how to hit a draw. I mean, I’ve done that my whole life.

So it’s just a matter of managing your patterns somewhat and basically just hitting the shot that’s required on the hole or, yeah.

Q. With two European Tour counting events remaining for the Ryder Cup, how do you see the Ryder Cup, European Ryder Cup team shaping up? Pads has got a pretty tough task in terms of phone calls before he makes the announcement of the wild cards at Wentworth on that Sunday night.

RORY MCILROY: It depends how Italy and Wentworth go, I guess, the next couple of weeks. Obviously, Bernd Wiesberger had a great chance to play himself into the team in Switzerland and didn’t quite get it done but certainly has a couple more opportunities coming up in Italy and Wentworth to get over the line.

And then I think if that were to happen, if say someone like a Bernd or a Victor Perez or one of those guys gets, plays their way into the team, then I think it makes it a little more difficult for Padraig because then say, for example, if Shane doesn’t get on automatically, then you’re looking at him for a pick or whoever else.

It’s sort of, it’s still all a bit up in the air. But I think at this moment in time, if the qualifications stopped, I think it’s a pretty simple, I think it’s a pretty simple scenario, but a lot can change over the next couple of weeks.

Q. Are we going to see you at Wentworth or not?

RORY MCILROY: No.

Q. Do you feel that fan behavior has become less respectful and if so what do you attribute it to?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I do, a little bit. I think I sort of know what you’re getting at on the back of last week and some things that were said over the past few weeks, I guess. Yeah, a little bit. I think it’s different. As golfers, there’s a very thin rope that separates us from the fans, and then you hit a shot off line, and you have to go into the fans to hit it. So we get a little closer to them than some other sports.

Yeah, I think some of it crosses the line. I think there’s a certain, I think certain other sports culture has fed into our game and fed into the fan base that’s definitely affected it, and people will make the argument that, well, it happens in every other sport. But I would say that we’re not any other sport and I think golf should hold itself to a higher standard. I mean, the players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn’t our fan base be.

Q. Do you feel like you have to develop a thicker skin for the Ryder Cup?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, certainly, especially the ones that are played in the United States. But I think the best thing is to just not — someone once told me awhile back, if you don’t take anything personally, you’ll live a very happy life, and I think I try to do that all the time. You just try to let it slide off, not take things personally and if you can do that and if you can train yourself to think that way, it certainly makes it easier.

Q. Everybody seems to be on Bryson’s case at the moment. Do you feel any sympathy for him or do you think he brought it on himself?

RORY MCILROY: I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I certainly, I don’t think that you should be ostracized or criticized for being different, and I think we have all known from the start that Bryson is different and he is not going to conform to the way people want him to be. He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts and everyone has a right to do that.

There are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself. I’m not saying that he’s completely blameless in this. But at the same time, I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late and it’s actually pretty sad to see because he, deep down, I think, is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be. And it just seems like every week something else happens and I would say it’s pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now.

And I don’t know if anyone else on TOUR has spoken up for him, but I definitely, I definitely he feel for him a little bit. And I agree, I don’t think he’s completely blameless in all this, but at the same time, I think he’s trying to become better and he’s trying to learn from his mistakes and I think everyone should give him a chance to try to do that.

Q. Outside observers can’t help but note Patrick Cantlay’s very calm demeanor on the golf course regardless of what the circumstances are. Is that something that the players take note of as well? And what other parts of his game might you point to to, that’s going to make him tough to catch this week?

RORY MCILROY: I mean, if he putts the way he putted last week for the rest of his career we have no chance. (Laughing).

Yeah, Patrick is, he’s a very, what you see on TV is what you get in person. I mean, he’s a pretty, he’s a very smart guy as well. I think that’s the thing. He’s very, he doesn’t say a whole lot, but you can tell that there’s a lot going on in his head and he’s an educated guy. And, yeah, I mean, the performance that he put in last week, I think everyone that, when he hit that shot into the water on 17 in regulation, we all thought, Well, this is Bryson’s to win. But the resolve that he showed to get up-and-down to make bogey there, to birdie the last to force a playoff, and then everything that happened in the playoff, it was really impressive to see.

I think that was a, he’s won some tournaments before and he’s played well, but I think that was, I don’t know if anyone’s ever seen that side of Patrick Cantlay to that extent like we did last week and it was very impressive.

Q. You alluded to the Hazeltine Ryder Cup a little bit earlier and my read on that week was that you expended a ton of energy winning matches early in the week and kind of carrying your team. Obviously, you had that huge energy explosion on the 8th hole against Patrick on Sunday, and then I thought maybe you kind of lost, like you had reached a breaking point almost at that point. I wanted to ask you if that was true, first of all, and then playing off of that, what would you tell, let’s say like a Ryder Cup rookie or how would you advise them about the specific challenges of playing a Ryder Cup in the U.S. in this modern era where fans can be jerks and it’s just like a crazy amount of energy that it takes from you?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, so you’re completely right. That observation is, you hit the nail on the head. I expended so much energy during that week, not just competing on the golf course, but also just everything else that was going on that, everything sort of reached a crescendo on that 8th green on Sunday, and I think both of us, I think both Patrick and I, we certainly didn’t keep that level of play up for the entire match, and I think we both sort of came down a little bit from that, but he was just able to — he made birdie at the last and ended up winning 1-up.

And but, yeah, it was certainly, I took a lot from that. I learned a lot from that and I hopefully won’t make the same mistake again this year because you can only, you only have so much energy, and you can only use it for an amount of time. And I think what I would tell a rookie going into a Ryder Cup, especially on the road, is, yeah, conserve your energy. You don’t, like we’re there from the Monday, the matches don’t start until the Friday, I mean, I would Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday do just enough to feel like you’re prepared, but don’t do too much. Don’t play 18-hole practice rounds every day. Don’t kill yourself in the gym. Don’t like, I mean, do what you need to do to get yourself in the right frame of mind and the right space physically to go out there and play.

And the thing, as well, is if you’re called upon to play all five sessions, that’s a long week. It’s tough and it’s physically draining, but also mentally as well, trying to focus on the job at hand and not get distracted by the crowd or anything else.

So it’s a pretty tough task, I think, for a rookie coming into that environment that’s going to be the toughest week of their golfing life and they have to be prepared for that and all I would say is conserve your energy and put it into the three days.

Q. You said if you don’t think anything personal, you’ll never be upset. How do you put that into practice when you’re in the thick of it and the things people are saying to you are intensely personal?

RORY MCILROY: I think you just have to, you have to think about, Okay, if I were to sit down and have a beer with this person, would they think the same thing, would they say the same thing? And of course they wouldn’t. You go, if someone says something to you and you go up and you confront them about it, they’re not going to say the same thing as either, right? It’s a — it’s just a weird dynamic between fan and competitor and they’re doing it to try to help their own team. They’re doing it because they’re from the United States and they’re trying to — and I think if you — I think I’ve tried to train myself to think about it and think on purpose rather than react, and I think the more you react to it, the more it gets at you, but the more you actually think about it and break it down and it just, it becomes less meaningful and you can just sort of let it roll off.

And I’ve tried to do a really good job of that over the last few years of not react and just try to think about it a little bit more and try to just try to put it in a better perspective, I guess.

Q. It sounds as if you’re on board with what Jay told us yesterday about the fan behavior stuff. But just curious your thoughts on just enforcing that, the difficulty of actually calling people out and maybe asking, booting them or ejecting them in such a situation. Is that realistic?

RORY MCILROY: I think as I said at the start, as golfers I feel like we’re held to a higher standard than other sports and other athletes and I think because of that the people that come to watch us play should be held to a higher standard as well. And enforcing that, I think it should be — there’s no room in golf for people to abuse someone on the golf course when all they’re trying to do is do their best and win a golf tournament and follow their dreams. So there’s no place for that in our game and that might sound a little stiff or snobby or whatever, but that’s golf and we have traditions and we have — you look at like a First Tee Program, for example, what are they taught through golf? They’re taught respect, sportsmanship, etiquette, how to treat others the right way, and that’s everything that we try to do through golf. They are the values of our game and that’s, people need to understand that and they need to try to adopt those same etiquettes and those same beliefs and values when they show up at our tournaments.

Interview Transcript by ASAP Sports

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Team Ireland

US Open 2020 – Rory McIlroy: “I’m feeling pretty good that I’ve got a good chance tomorrow.”

Q. Rory, 2-under 68; how are you feeling about your round today?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, really good. Geez, I think anything under par on this golf course today is a really good score. I saw Alex go out there and shoot 3-under earlier. You know, I’m not saying it’s out there; he got a good one, I did, and there’s maybe a couple other guys that are under par. Yeah, and the wind is not quite as strong as it was yesterday. You know, it maybe played a touch less difficult I’ll say. Not easier, but it was a little less difficult.

But some of the hole locations are still pretty tricky and got to leave yourself on the right side. But yeah, overall 68 out there is a really good score. I don’t know where that’s going to leave me at the end of the day, but I’m feeling pretty good that I’ve got a good chance going into tomorrow.

Q. When you’re in a little bit of a chasing position as you are right now, what kind of conditions are you kind of hoping for or half hoping for tomorrow?

RORY McILROY: It’s sort of a double-edged sword, right, because you would think that you’d want tougher conditions because it’ll make it more difficult for the guys in front of you, but also makes it more difficult for yourself. I think looking at the forecast, the conditions are going to be pretty similar to today, which is fine. If I go out there tomorrow and shoot another 68, I won’t be too far away.

Q. Kind of along those lines, depending on how the next few hours work out, is there a number in your head based on how difficult this golf course is that you feel like legitimately I could come back from?

RORY McILROY: I mean, around here, anything. Not necessarily anything, but I said over there, if Matt pars his way in and is 5-under par, I still don’t think that’s out of it by any stretch of the imagination. You know, it doesn’t take much around here for — someone gets off to a decent start, maybe 1- or 2-under through 5 and then the leader goes the other way, 1- or 2-over through 5, and all of a sudden you’re right in the thick of things.

But yeah, we’ll see what happens. No matter where I am at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good shot.

Q. Is yesterday’s round a little harder to swallow after today?

RORY McILROY: No, not really. I mean, I felt like I finished the round well yesterday. I was sort of hemorrhaging after like 12 or 13 holes, and then to just par my way in, right, so 14 through 18, so five in a row, just to get it in the clubhouse, sort of regroup, and then I sort of started the same way today. I parred the first five, first six holes, made a birdie on 7, made another birdie on 9, so played a really nice stretch of holes there from the 14th last night to the 9th today. I played those holes in 2-under par and didn’t make a bogey in that stretch.

You’re going to have stretches in U.S. Opens where you’re going to make bogeys and you’re going to make mistakes, but if you can back it up with stretches of golf like I showed there, that’s what you have to do. It’s not going to be all plain sailing in this tournament.

Q. Given how hard you had to work to get 68, how surprising is it to look up at the board and see somebody with a 30 on the front?

RORY McILROY: Is that what it was, a 30?

Q. Yeah, missed probably about an eight-footer for 29.

RORY McILROY: Wow. I mean, that’s just — you can’t say anything but that’s just awesome golf. Yeah, I mean, everyone knows how talented Matt is and he played great at Harding Park in the last major. You know, he’s explosive like that. He can get on runs like that. So yeah, I’m not saying it’s out there. I certainly didn’t see shooting 30 on any nine today, but we’ll see what happens over the back nine.

Q. If Matt is leading tomorrow, do you think it helps him to not have to try to win a major with a massive crowd around him in the same way that Morikawa didn’t have to face the crowd at Harding Park?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course. Of course, yeah. It’s one variable that you just don’t have to deal with, where — is that a loss of an advantage to you who’s accustomed to being in that environment.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it could be, a little bit. Maybe not a loss of an advantage to me, but just more of a — just makes it a touch easier for the guys at the top. Even today, look, you’ve got Bryson and P-Reed out in the final group, and any other U.S. Open final grouping you’ve got those two guys, things are going to be said and tempers are going to flare. Even if those guys don’t have to deal with that today, it just makes it a little different and maybe a touch easier if you’re in those final few groups.

Q. Do you have a simple explanation for why it hasn’t been the massacre that many expected going into this week?

RORY McILROY: I mean, I guess what’s a massacre? Yeah, okay, 5-over is not going to win like last time and 7-over when Hale Irwin won. I’d say the golf course is playing just as difficult.

You know, you’ve got to think 14 years on the game has changed a lot, guys hit it further, equipment. There’s a lot of different things that — scoring averages have went down a little bit, on average. The game has just moved on a little bit and everyone has collectively, I think, just got a little bit better.

Q. You mentioned just earlier the first three or four holes and how difficult they are and just hoping to kind of get through those unscathed. Can you talk more about what that’s going to mean for you tomorrow and just getting off to a good start?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, fairways and greens. It’s literally just bringing it back to the basics. From that first tee shot, just try and make a good swing and hit the fairway, hit it on the middle of the green, take two putts, especially on that green because it’s probably one of the craziest greens on the course and in golf. And then it’s the same thing on 2, hit the fairway, hit the green. You get yourself out of position those first few holes, it just makes it really difficult.

And when you do get yourself out of position, making bogey is fine. That’s the thing, you look at some of the guys that went off earlier today those first few holes there was some big numbers made, and when you’re in trouble, get it out, play for a 5, and if you’re not going to putt for a 4, that’s a bonus.

Q. The course is playing about a shot easier today. Do you attribute that more to the gentler winds or the hole locations were more gettable?

RORY McILROY: No, the wind more than anything else. The hole locations today I thought were pretty tricky. It was hard to leave a putt dead. Even if you’ve got a putt that’s uphill, once it gets past the hole it starts to go downhill again. It was very hard to leave putts within top-in range. I felt like every time I hit a good putt that didn’t go in, I was marking it and resetting and it was at least three or four feet.

Source: ASAP Sport

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Team Ireland

Rory McIlroy about his new born daughter and the TOUR Championship

Q. Congratulations on the birth of your new baby, Poppy.

RORY MCILROY: Thank you.

Q. How would you describe the emotions of being a part of that moment with your wife?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it’s amazing. I don’t think — you see other people having kids and babies, and you’ll say congratulations and you’re happy for them, but you have no real — you don’t really know how it feels.

Now that I do, anyone that I know that has a child, there’s even more — there’s so much admiration for the mother, what they go through, and it’s just amazing that this — you feel like you get to know your baby while she’s still in her mother’s belly, but to go from not having met this person to having unconditional love for them from one minute to the next is just — there’s nothing like it in the world.

And so many people have went through it and so many people have experienced it. It’s probably the best part of being a human being, and I’m glad that I got to experience it.

Q. Where did you guys decide on the name Poppy?

RORY MCILROY: I don’t know. We really liked it. I have a cousin of mine, her daughter is named Poppy. We know a few other Poppies. And we just really love the name. We were sort of trying to go through a lot of the flower names, Rose, Iris, all those things. My mom is a Rosie, so we were sort of like, That mightn’t work. We know Alex Noren has an iris. Shane Lowry has an iris. We wanted to go with something that was pretty unique, maybe more common back where I’m from, but we landed on Poppy and we loved it.

Q. What have the first couple days been like?

RORY MCILROY: I mean, emotionally drained, right. We got her home yesterday and trying to get her settled into the — it’s nice in the hospital. You’ve got so much help and all the nurses are around and they did a phenomenal job. You don’t appreciate that side of things, as well.

And then you’re handed your child and they’re like, See you later, and they don’t come with an instruction manual.

Look, every parent has to sort of go through it, and we’re going through it. Thankfully Erica has her mom and sister with her at the minute, so she’s got plenty of help and I feel a little better leaving and coming here to play this week.

Q. We talked at Memorial and you said you’re focused on what happens when it happens. So now that’s happened and you can focus on golf now. Are you ready to focus on this week?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I am. I think it’s been hard the last couple weeks because you’re sort of in limbo when she’s going to arrive, and then in the back of your mind you’re hoping it’s going to go well. You hope that your daughter is safe. You hope that your wife is safe.

There’s a lot of different things and there’s a lot of things that sort of run through your head, and the fact that all that went well and everyone is good and recovering at home, I feel more comfortable now that I can come out here and play golf and maybe get my mind off it for four or five hours a day, and that’s a nice thing.

And then obviously I can get a couple of good nights’ sleep before I go home.

Q. Was it a little emotional leaving today?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I didn’t want to leave. I had — I was supposed to fly at 8:00 so I was going to leave the house — airport is close to our house and I was just going to jump on the plane and come up, so I was going to leave at 7:30. I ended up not leaving until 8:00. It was just hard to leave, really hard to leave.

But at the end of the day life doesn’t stop. Life moves on. And as I said, I know that Erica is surrounded by her family, and my mom and dad are just around the corner, so she’s got all the help she needs, so I felt a little more comfortable being able to go.

Q. You the chance to win your third FedExCup this week, but it would also be your first win as a father. Have you thought about what it would feel like for everything to happen in one week?

RORY MCILROY: Not having — it’s been hard to think about golf the last few days just because I’ve been so focused on making sure that everything is okay at home. But yeah, I mean, maybe this is what I needed, just for everything to happen and go well.

I haven’t played my best since coming back out since sort of post-COVID. But yeah, maybe things just will fall into place. It’s already been the best week of my life, and this would obviously just be the icing on the cake.

Q. People like Jack and Tiger, they’ve had incredible careers, but it seems like when they became dads it just became even better because they had something more to play for. Do you think Poppy is going to be like that for you?

RORY MCILROY: I think so. I mean, I think if you look at fathers in all different sports, golf, tennis, it’s not a new lease of life, but it’s a different perspective. The trials and tribulations of what goes on out on the golf course don’t really seem to matter that much, so you can sort of let it just slide off you a little bit more and not be as reactive to your mistakes and know that this is — it’s important and it’s your career, but at the end of the day you get to go home to your family, which is the most important thing.

Q. Just being here right now with you and talking to you, you’re so content. Do you just feel content and happy right now?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah. I mean, like if I can’t be content and happy right now, I don’t think I’ll ever be. Yeah, we’ve obviously known for a while. We’ve known all this year that Erica was pregnant. We were going to have our first child. Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s the best part of life.

You know, I sometimes think — everything that’s happened to me on the golf course and off the golf course has already been beyond my wildest dreams, and sometimes I have to sort of pinch myself and sort of ask why me, why am I so lucky?

But I’m just so grateful that everything that has happened to me has happened to me. I don’t take this for granted, playing golf and being who I am, but I also obviously don’t take all of my other — my off-course life for granted, either. Especially that’s been never more apparent than over the last few days.

Q. We’re doing kind of a gratitude player diary type thing. You guys are just thankful to be here essentially. Given everything that’s happened in the world, it’s just a miracle that we’re here, honestly. In your own words, if you can just look to the camera and just talk about the fact that we’ve made it and we’re here given everything —

RORY MCILROY: At the end of the season? Yeah. It’s been a trying year for everyone. I think everyone is going to be happy to see the end of 2020. But the fact that everyone rallied together, March, when the sort of sports world shut down seems like a long time ago now, and we know more about the virus, we know more about how to protect ourselves, and I think the PGA TOUR have done an unbelievable job to get us back out on the course, to get us this far, to the playoff finale at the TOUR Championship, and keep everyone safe at the same time.

That’s been the most important thing. The fact that of all the tests that have been administered on the PGA TOUR, there’s only been a handful of positives, I think that, if nothing else, is the biggest positive to take from all of this.

Really good guidelines were set in place at the start, and I think the players and everyone involved with the TOUR has really stepped up to make sure that those have been implemented, and you’re seeing the results of that by the 30 players here in Atlanta this week.

Source: ASAP Sports

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Team Ireland

PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy after his second round

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park. Pleased to be joined by Rory McIlroy, who posted a second round 69. He is 1-under here at the 36-hole mark.

Rory, a lot of birdies today. One unfortunate hole. Overall how was your round today?

RORY McILROY: You know, better. I got off to the perfect start birdieing the first hole, and I hit some loose shots after that on 3, on 4, on 5, a bad drive. I think what turned it around, I hit a good drive on 7 and made birdie from there, and then made birdie on 8 and 9, the two toughest holes on the course. That gave me a nice little bit of momentum going into the back nine.

Then, you know, played the 10th hole well, and was feeling good, 3-under through 11, and then that 7 just sort of stopped me in my tracks a bit. From there, when you’re 3-under par, especially with the way the leaderboard is looking, you’re thinking, okay, get another couple and you’re right into this tournament going into the weekend and all of a sudden you make triple and you’re like, I just need to be here for the weekend. It went from thinking I’m right on the cusp of getting into contention to just making the cut.

I was happy how I responded after that 7 and made a birdie coming in and played pretty solid, and that’s all I could really ask of myself after that.

Q. On No. 3, your ball was stepped on?

RORY McILROY: Yeah.

Q. And you placed it and it was too good; you elected to place it down?

RORY McILROY: Yeah.

Q. What was your thinking there?

RORY McILROY: I just wouldn’t have felt comfortable. I placed it, and the rule is try to replicate the lie. No one really knew what the lie was, but if everyone is going around looking for it, it obviously wasn’t too good. So I placed it, I was like, that just doesn’t look right to me. So I just placed it down a little bit and sort of — yeah.

You know, at the end of the day, golf is a game of integrity and I never try to get away with anything out there. I’d rather be on the wrong end of the rules rather than on the right end because as golfers, that’s just what we believe.

Yeah, I would have felt pretty wrong if I had of taken a lie that was maybe a little better than what it was previously.

Q. I know 7 is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth, but that birdie run, does that give you confidence going into the weekend knowing you can flip it around that quickly?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, that was nice, especially the holes that I did birdie. 8 and 9, especially, I hit a really nice 4-iron into the 8th hole, and to make it through there is really good, and to birdie 9, as well, two really tough holes. I took care of the easier holes on the course. The first hole, you know, I birdied one of the par 5s, birdied 16 coming in.

So there is birdies out there, but as you saw on 12, you know, danger isn’t that far away, but it was nice to see some birdies because even last week at Memphis, there was a lot of pars, a lot of sort of not really getting on runs, and it was nice to get on a little run like that today.

Q. How bad was that lie on 12, and then from there what happened?

RORY McILROY: It wasn’t that — it didn’t look that bad. I’ve had worse this week, and been able to hit better shots from them.

So it was okay. If anything, I really tried to get on my left side with those shots, and usually the bad one squeezes right rather than goes left on me. So I’ve had a couple this week that have sort of squeezed out to the right, so I was maybe just guarding against that and clubface just turned over.

But that wasn’t really the problem. I mean, I guess taking 4 from over the back of that green, that was the real — that’s unacceptable, really, and that was really the cause of the 7.

But out of position off the tee. You miss — I’ve missed that fairway the last two days in a row and I’ve paid for it. I’ve played it in 4-over par.

Q. You’ve played with Tiger many times now. Is it a little easier to deal with without the commotion?

RORY McILROY: 100 percent. (Laughter.) It’s like, it’s so much easier.

Yeah, I’m happy to be drawn with him every week until fans come back.

But yeah, like you can see, even the 12th hole, the tee box there alongside the road, Tiger gets on the tee and everyone goes crazy and you have to wait for them to settle down. The fact that we don’t have to deal with that and the fact that he doesn’t have to deal with that every week is sort of nice.

But not saying — I still want crowds to come back and fans. It’s much better to play in front of them. But it does make it easier.

Q. Cameron Champ said earlier that he believed that Tony Finau was by far the longest driver on Tour. Wondering your take on the 10 or 12 statistically longest drivers went out to a range and really bashed away, who do you think is the longest?

RORY McILROY: I think it would be between Cameron and Tony. They have very easy speed. Even Cameron, I mean, Cameron has such easy speed. He doesn’t look like he even swings hard at it and the ball speed is up in the 190s. I think it’s between those two guys for sure.

I think there’s a couple guys on the Korn Ferry that might compete with them I’ve heard, but from who I’ve seen and who I’ve played with, I think that the two guys that have the most potential to hit it the furthest are Tony and Cameron.

Q. Given three decorated players in that group, all having their own travails, you, Justin and Tiger, what was the conversation like among you guys about how difficult, cold, windy and not as easy as maybe three great players like you could play at Harding Park?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, once Tiger and I got our tee shots off 18, I just gave him a look like, phew, glad that’s almost done.

It was tough out there. We all didn’t really have our best. We were grinding just to be here for the weekend. But thankfully all three of us made it to the weekend and we all have an opportunity to go out tomorrow and post a low one and get ourselves back in the tournament.

Source: ASAP Sports

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Team Ireland

PGA Tour: Defending Champion Rory McIlroy Previews Title Defense Ahead The 2020 Players Championship

2019 Players Championship winner Rory McIlroy addresses the media prior to beginning his title defense at the 2020 edition at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy talks Players Championship title defense prior to 11th start at the event

MICHAEL BALIKER: It’s a pleasure to welcome defending PLAYERS champion Rory McIlroy back to the interview room here at TPC Sawgrass. This is Rory’s 11th PLAYERS appearance here this week, six starts so far this season, finished top 5 in all six, and enters the week third in the FedExCup standings. Rory, just to start out, no one has ever successfully defended THE PLAYERS. You have an opportunity to make history this week. Talk about the challenge ahead here at Sawgrass.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I guess there’s — if there’s been no one to defend, it would be a nice time to start and have someone do that. But yeah, glad to be back.

Obviously this week last year was huge for me in terms of sort of getting the monkey off my back a little bit, and I had a few close calls, and I wasn’t able to sort of walk through the door and claim a win, and then I was able to do it here and went on to have a great year and won a few more times. You know, it’s nice to be back. I said this on Sunday at Bay Hill, a lot of similarities between this year and last year in terms of how I’ve played the first few events of the year, given myself some chances, haven’t quite been able to capitalize, and yeah, obviously would be wonderful to replicate what happened last year.

MICHAEL BALIKER: And then just very briefly on last year coming down the stretch, being able to close out that tournament on the last few holes, starting with the putt there on 15. Kind of take us through that briefly.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, yeah, obviously it was sort of — holed a big putt on 12 for birdie and then another big putt on 15 after a great 6-iron. Yeah, I like big putts and I cannot lie (laughter), and I was happy to hole those two, and went on to win from there.

Q. You’ve talked a lot in the last year or so about concentrating on the process rather than the results, and I just wonder, you’ve been on such a great run this year with all these top 5s, at what point do you try to shift into more of a result mode, and how do you stave off being frustrated by fact that you’re crossing the line probably as much as you think you ought to?
RORY MCILROY: I don’t think you can ever go into result mode. I don’t think that works. I don’t think that helps anything. I think you just have to keep going about your business, doing your thing. I think the only way to not win is to concentrate on the results. So if I can just concentrate on what I’m doing and what I’m doing well, what I maybe need to improve on a little bit, just break the game down into different sections but really just try to make it as simple as possible, if I can do a few different things in my golf game just a little bit better, those thirds and fifths will hopefully turn into wins.

You know, I’ve had some really good success following this path that I’m on, and I’m just really trying to focus on doing the little things right, practicing good habits day in, day out, and if I keep doing those, then the byproduct is winning. Yeah, I definitely don’t feel like I’m too far away.

Q. Just on the no one has defended here, what’s your best guess as to why that might be, and do you look at it as, I guess, an opportunity?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it is. It is an opportunity for sure. I don’t think you ever need an extra motivation when you come to this golf tournament, but to be the first one to defend here would be very cool.

And I think this golf course can play so differently day-to-day, depending on wind direction, conditions. You know, it is such a clich´┐Ż here, but it really doesn’t suit any one style of play or any one type of player. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s been people in the past that have had opportunities to maybe defend and have had their chances and finished well up there, but I don’t know, I’d love to give myself a chance. If I can keep playing the way I’ve been playing and get myself into contention on Sunday, it would be something extra to play for, which would be pretty cool.

Q. You just mentioned, obviously, that it can be different. You were the first winner going back to bringing this back to March. What were the big takeaways, the difference from May to March?
RORY MCILROY: So for me two big things were, off the tee, the course plays a lot longer in March than it does in May, so I was able to hit driver a lot more. The fairways are a little softer, so the course plays a touch wider. And then I think the other thing is having the rough overseeded around the greens, that was a big thing for me because I’ve always been more comfortable chipping out of that sort of overseeded rough rather than a pure Bermuda. Pure Bermuda, especially in May time here, it was sort of a hit and hope. It was a little bit of a guessing game around the greens, where at least nowadays, if you do miss a green — I said this last year and I said it about Jason Day, I played with Jason the final round last year, Jason has got a wonderful short game, and he can actually show what a wonderful short game he has in March here rather than in May, when if you miss greens, basically it’s a leveler of everyone, where in March the guys with the best short games and the best techniques can sort of rise to the top a little bit.

Q. You’ve mentioned that Pete Dye courses were a little bit of an acquired taste for you. I wonder was there a turning point where you started to feel a little bit more comfortable, could have been Kiawah in 2014 or could have been — you had three top 10s here in a row early on. When did you start turning the corner on that, and is there a hole out there that still kind of drives you nuts?
RORY MCILROY: So 2010 Whistling Straits was when I turned a corner. I turned up there, it was the PGA Championship, and I hated it. Like I really did not like it. I had to tell myself, look, you just need to like it for one week. Just get your head around liking this place for one week and embracing the fact that it’s different and the fact that it’s visually a little funky and whatever. I ended up finishing third that week and one shot out of a playoff, and I think that was when I sort of had turned a corner in terms of not necessarily loving Pete Dye golf courses because of — I think he’s a wonderful golf course designer, but I never liked how he made you feel on the golf course in terms of hiding things and angles, and it makes you a little bit uncomfortable, which is obviously his plan. Like he’s a wonderful designer of golf courses, but that was the week where I had to embrace what Pete tried to put into his golf courses.

Yeah, going on from there, winning at Kiawah, winning at Crooked Stick, winning here, I’ve started to quite like them. But as you said, an acquired taste. They’re like beer when you’re younger. You sort of don’t like it but then you think it’s cool to drink it and then you sort of acquire a taste for it.

Q. Is there a hole that still gives you the most trouble or maybe makes you think the most?
RORY MCILROY: The first hole. The first hole to me is — the fairway is over here, the tee box is over here, but the tee box is sort of parallel to the fairway, but you’re having to hit across — just angles and sort of — you’ve really just got to pick targets and be very specific with what you’re aiming at out here.

Q. You’ve had a lot of success here recently, but you actually missed your first three cuts here. What do you remember about your first impressions of this tournament, and I’m wondering what caused that change, whether it was more conservative or more aggressive strategy or just becoming a better player?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think strategy was part of it. I was probably more stubborn back then than I am now and trying to overpower this golf course with a driver, when in May you couldn’t do that. The first time I played here, the weekend before I was in Vegas for a fight and then probably didn’t prepare the best way possible and missed the cut and ended up getting kicked out of bars in Jax Beach for having a fake ID. So I’ve come a long way. (Laughter.)

But yeah, I think just learning to play the golf course a little bit better, tempering my — whatever that is, willingness to hit driver all the time. At least now in March I can hit driver a little bit more, but I had to learn to play the golf course the right way when it was back in May.

Q. Going back to what you were saying about process and so forth, I’m curious, do you view — is there such a thing as a good top 5 or a bad top 5 in your view, and maybe if there’s an example one way or the other you can think of?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean, I’d say last week was a bad top 5. I took advantage of a good draw. I got out early on Thursday morning and shot 66 and then sort of hung on for the rest of the week. And then there’s other weeks where you just don’t have it at all, and you hang in there and hang in there and you sort of just — you struggle all week and you scrape it around in 70 or 69 or whatever it is for four days, and you end up finishing T5. I finished fifth at Torrey Pines last year, and I swear it was one of the best top 5s I’ve ever had. I walked away from that week just thinking I couldn’t have squeezed anything more out of my golf game for the week. So yeah, there are such things as good and bad top 5s, and last week was probably on the bad end of the spectrum.

Q. Jon Rahm was in here earlier talking about his maturation process from age 22 to where he is now at age 25. Three years ago when I asked you about his meltdown here at THE PLAYERS, you had said he’s going to be a generational talent, and when he can harness that passion that he has in a positive way, you’re going to start to see some really good results. Do you see that happening, starting to happen now for Jon?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, I don’t — even before the last couple of years. I mean, as soon as Jon came out, he was contending to win big events and playing great and obviously won at Torrey Pines, won in Europe. I mean, I think we all have to go through that process. Some of us it takes longer than others. But Jon, I think everyone could see as soon as Jon turned — even before Jon turned pro when he was in college that he was — the TaylorMade guys tell a story that they basically thought they signed a top-10 player in the world coming out of college. I mean, just shows you how highly they thought of him then.

But yeah, he’s a wonderful player, and I think I said to you then, he can use his fieriness to his advantage, he just can’t let it get him down and get on top of him. But he seems to be harnessing it pretty well at the minute, and he’s not turned into a great player, because he always was a great player, but he’s a hell of a player.

Q. As a follow-up to that, you’ve done it, Brooks has done it, Jordan Spieth has done it. You win that first major and it seems to catapult a little bit into the second major, third major, fourth major. Could you see that happening with Jon once he gets over the hurdle of winning that first one?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think it just gives you belief. It gives you belief that you can do it on the biggest stage, and I think, you know, you’re obviously playing well, and the majors are pretty — they come pretty soon after one another, so if you get that first one and you’re playing well, you get into that second one with a little more belief, and all of a sudden, boom, you’re right back in there and you believe you can do it.

Yeah, I think not just with Jon but with anyone. Once you get over that hurdle, it should make the second one a bit easier, and then on from there.

Q. Can you give us some details on the bet today and how nervous were you?
RORY MCILROY: My bet? Which one? There was two.

Q. Okay, both.
RORY MCILROY: There was one with — where’s George? There you go. He bet me 50 bucks that I couldn’t hit the green on 17, which was easy. That was an easy one. And then again, I have a bet with Harry every practice round about shooting a score, and yeah, Harry will be buying me dinner at some point this week. But yeah, my tee shot on 18 was a little too close to the water. But yeah, so I’ll be enjoying a nice steak on him at some point.

Q. A little bit off the beaten path here, there are some really impressive Peloton metrics floating around online, and the rumor is they belong to you. I believe the one I saw was a 955 output in a 45-minute ride. First, can you confirm that that was you, and please do or my story is completely ruined. And second, has cycling become a big part of your fitness and workout regimen?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, so that was me. But I think the bike was a little juiced. (Laughter).

So I did that the Monday after Riviera in the hotel I was saying at in Santa Monica. So, like my bike at home, I can sort of get on the Peloton, and I can sit in the saddle at like a 50 resistance at like 90 — like a 90 cadence and just sort of buying that out for 45 minutes or an hour, but 50 resistance on this bike felt really easy, so I sort of cranked it up. So I’d say that was a little juiced. But most of the ones are, on my Peloton user name or whatever, are pretty accurate. But yeah, I try to get them in sort of two or three times a week. I did one last night — and I’ve never really enjoyed doing cardio, like really never liked it, but since sort of learning about Peloton and doing it and sort of being a part of that whole community and stuff, I’ve started to enjoy it, and I enjoy the leaderboard aspect and the fact that it is competitive in some ways and you’re always trying to beat your last score. And it keeps me — it makes me earn my dinners and sort of keeps me sort of in decent shape. I’ve been enjoying it.

Q. I’ve been talking to a lot of players about you, and aside from their envy of your ability to drive the ball a long way and your iron play and all that, the one dominant theme that they have is that they like the way that you seem to be leading and being comfortable with leading. Do you understand what they mean? And are you indeed as comfortable as they think you are with leading?
RORY MCILROY: Well, if they looked at the leaderboard the last few weeks they’d say that’s not true.

Leading in terms of like —

Q. The game. Not on —
RORY MCILROY: I mean, I think at this point I think I have somewhat of a responsibility. Not just for myself but for the other players. I’ve been around the top of the game for a long time now, over a decade, and I think being at the age I am and being at the stage of life where — I am very — I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin and in my own beliefs and values and convictions. So yeah, I have been outspoken about a number of issues in golf over the past couple years, and I’m happy about that, yeah. I’m not trying to lead so that people can — I’m not trying to set some sort of example, but I guess I want to be a voice out there that can at least put forth some good commentary and a decent opinion on things, and that’s what I try to do.

Q. Why are you so comfortable in your own skin now?
RORY MCILROY: I don’t know. I think just because I’ve learnt over the last few years that you’re not going to please everyone and you’re not going to — not everyone is going to like you. I think as you grow up, you sort of — I certainly had an ambition or you try to do things for people and you try to — I just basically learned no matter what you do, there’s some people that are going to like you and appreciate what you do, and there’s some people that you just won’t be able to please. I think I came to terms with that a few years ago and am definitely a lot more comfortable in my own skin because of it.

Q. I’ve been sitting here looking at this photo, very nice photo of you taking a peek over at 17. Take me through what you were thinking at that point and what was that moment like?
RORY MCILROY: It was nice because I just hit a 9-iron into the 16th and had a 12-foot eagle putt, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. I always take a peek at sort of the group in front and seeing what they’re doing or where they hit it into. Everyone knows where the hole location is on 17 here on Sunday, so it was just more having — there’s the two big boards there, as well, the two video boards, so looking at players’ reactions and sort of the shots that they’re hitting in.

Yeah, I wasn’t thinking much. At that point I think I was tied for the lead, or no, maybe I was one ahead and Furyk had maybe just birdied the last. But knew that if I could birdie 16 and par the last couple that I’d be able to win. Yeah, that was really it.

Q. The question about Rahm made me think what a help it must have been, you were 22, I think, when you won at Congressional. For you and for people like Justin and Jordan to have kind of knocked it out at an early age, was it helpful, do you think, looking back, as you contemplate questions about Rahm, when he’s going to win a major, Xander is going to fall into that, Rickie has been there for a few years. How much of a relief do you think it was?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean, it certainly is a relief whenever you can get one on the board early. It’s helpful. But I mean, you think of Phil didn’t win his first one until 33, 34, and it didn’t hinder him. I mean, he ended up winning five, and people could say should have, could have won more, but he’s still got a pretty impressive tally.

I don’t think the likes of a Jon or a Xander or whoever else is in that category of great young players that haven’t won one yet, my recommendation is not to let it affect you or listen to it. I mean, everyone is going to have chances, and it’s not as if you — we’re all just trying to beat each other out here at the end of the day, and at one point or another, all of us have beaten one or another out here. So it’s not — if you can sort of try to take the importance of the occasion out of it and the trophy and the history and all that stuff, they’ve done it before.

Q. There was also 10 years of Phil getting asked when, four times a year.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah.

Q. Wouldn’t that add to the difficulty do you think, or no?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, you’d have to ask them or you’d have to ask him. I mean, I get it every April, and it certainly doesn’t help things. But at least I only get it once a year, not four times a year.

But yeah, I mean, if you’ve had close calls — all those guys are good enough to win major championships. I would think it’s just a matter of time.

Q. We’ve got a question from a fan in China. Which hole is your favorite here at TPC Sawgrass and also on the 17th, how comfortable are you to avoid the water this week?
RORY MCILROY: My favorite hole, I’m a big fan of the new 12th hole here. I think they’ve done a good job with the redesign of that hole, risk-reward, you can go for the green, but if you miss it in the wrong spot, it can become very tricky. So I do like the 12th hole.

And yeah, I mean, look, I think the 17th is — if you surrounded that green with bunker or grass or whatever, it would be one of the easiest par-3s that we play all year, but because of the water, there’s just an extra element of difficulty to it. I think most guys are just trying to put it into the middle of the green. If you hit it close, that’s a bonus, but you walk away with four 3s there for the week, you’ve done pretty well.

Q. I heard last week called the ultimate in survival golf. As a fan of the game, how often do you like to see that, and what are your expectations for scoring this week?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, so obviously the last two tournaments have been very difficult, and obviously I live very close to PGA National and people say to me, why don’t you play this week, and I say, well, I don’t get to spend that many weeks at home, and when I do, I’d like to enjoy it.

I think the last couple tournaments have been tough. It’s been windy. The courses have got firm and fast, especially last week at Bay Hill.

And yeah, it’s a different style of golf, right. It’s more of a defensive mentality rather than an assertive, aggressive mentality of trying to go out and make birdies. You’re having to play a little bit of chess and you’re trying to put the ball in the right spot and hit it to 30 feet, two-putt, move to the next. It’s a little more methodical, sort of takes a little bit of the flair away from it, I guess.

But I think every so often, that’s a good thing. I think if every week was the same, it would be pretty boring, so I think to throw in weeks like last week, it keeps it interesting.

Q. What do you think this week?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, this week is not going to be like the last couple weeks. It’s still pretty soft out there. The greens have the potential to get firm if the weather forecast stays the way it is, but I can’t see the fairways getting overly bouncy and firm. It’ll be a little more sort of target golf, I guess, but it has the potential to get a little firm over the weekend and the greens to get a bit of speed. But I certainly don’t think you’re going to see single digits under par winning this week.

Q. How proud are you of 100 total weeks at No. 1? Can you fathom 683? And how will you treat this stint differently to the last one?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I’m very proud to think that I’ve spent two years of my career at the top of the World Rankings is a pretty nice feeling. 683 or whatever it is, I can’t fathom. I mean, it’s just — it’s unbelievable. I just don’t think anyone can speak highly enough of what Tiger did over that stretch of golf. It was just insane.

And I’m — this stretch now that I — the way I got to No. 1 this time was sort of anticlimactic — there wasn’t much of a fanfare. I got there through a mathematical algorithm more than anything else, but I still made sure to celebrate it and celebrate the milestone. I hadn’t been in this position for over four years, so on the Sunday night of Riviera, I went out and made sure to have a couple of drinks with Harry and a couple of my friends and sort of toast the fact that — especially for Harry, too, Harry took over that caddie position in the middle of 2017 and basically we’ve been on that journey together from sort of injuries and not playing my best all the way back to the top of the world. So it was important for me to sit down and have a few drinks with him and be like, you know, we’ve done this, this was our journey and we did it, two guys that grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, playing golf together, and that we’ve done this is something that was really cool.

Q. You said at the weekend that you wish you could have converted one of the recent top 5 finishes you’ve had coming into this week. Is there one thing that you can pinpoint that has held you back from crossing the finish line so far this year?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, just big numbers when I find myself in those positions. I made the triple bogey at Riviera early on Sunday, and I made the two double bogeys on the front nine last week. Just real untimely, poor shots. Not even poor shots but just — like Riviera was very firm, as well, and if you missed it in the wrong spots, it got tricky, and I feel like that’s what happened there and that’s what happened at Bay Hill, as well. Especially on the par-5 sixth hole on Sunday, I hit a decent drive but didn’t hold the fairway and tried to get the ball up as close as possible to the green so I had an easier third shot with the chip, and it went into the bunker and then I had a tricky shot. It was just — maybe playing the percentages a little more if I had have made sure to stay short of that minute on 5 at Riviera, I wouldn’t have brought 7 into play and then maybe staying short of that bunker on the 6th hole at Bay Hill last week, I wouldn’t have brought the water into play with my next. So just those little things.

When the courses are playing that firm and that fast, those are the tiny little margins that make the difference. Yeah, so maybe just sort of dialing it back that five percent instead of trying to play the perfect shot to hit my next from, being okay with the 80-yard shot into the par-5 or the 40-foot putt below the hole. They’re the things that make the difference, I guess.

Q. Did Fallon put you up to the whole “I like big putts” line, and second question, this is an Olympic year, and some of the courses that — you’re the reigning champion here, Augusta is Augusta, and then you’ve also won at Harding Park. How did you physically prepare yourself for this year and describe your process for getting ready for six straight months of marquee tournaments?
RORY MCILROY: No, Jimmy didn’t, no. I don’t think Jimmy even could have came up with that line. Yeah, I mean, preparing physically, I don’t think that’s the challenge for me. It’s more mentally preparing yourself for going back to defend here. I think the nice thing is going back to places that you’ve had success on before, coming back here, going back to Harding Park. You know, I think at this point in my career, I said earlier, I’ve spent over a decade in this position, so there’s not much that’s new to me anymore in the game of golf, but this year the Olympics will be. I’ve never got to experience anything like that, and that’s a really cool thing. 12 or 13 years into a professional career and you get to do something for the first time again, that’s pretty exciting.

MICHAEL BALIKER: And your relationship with Optum and having won this tournament last year, what did that mean from that perspective?

RORY MCILROY: It was certainly a nice way to kick the partnership off, that’s for sure. But yeah, it was — yeah, obviously Optum are a huge partner of the PGA TOUR and myself, and yeah, it was great to win in front of them and obviously kick off the relationship in style, and they threw me a nice little party at the end. Hopefully we can get together on Sunday night again and do the same thing.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

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PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy Talks Coming Up Just Short Of a Victory Yet Again at Arnold Palmer Invitational

PGA Tour professional Rory McIlroy addresses the media following his final round 76 at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational in which he failed yet again to capture a victory but earns his 5th consecutive top 5 finish in 2020.

PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy earns fifth consecutive top five finish with final round 76 at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Q. Just some comments on the day and the conditions of the course over the weekend.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean, obviously, tough weekend. I guess for me today two bad, two loose shots sort of cost me. The third shot on 6 and then the tee shot on 9. I made two doubles there. Obviously, played the rest of the holes in even par and if I hadn’t have done that I would have had a good chance. But, yeah, it was tough. Look, I stood up here yesterday saying that the key tomorrow was to keep the big numbers off your card and I made two of those today and that’s what cost me.

Q. Last year sort of similar situation. Afterwards you said, Hey, the great thing about golf is you get back on the horse and play again the next week and obviously that’s what happened, the next week you won?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it’s very, there’s a lot of similarities between the start of this year and the start of last year. A lot of chances not converting, but knowing that the game’s pretty much there. So just keep knocking on the door and go up to Ponte Vedra tomorrow and work on a few things. And, yeah, get back at it again.

Q. Knowing what happened last year, being in a similar situation, does it almost make it easier or is it still very aggravating to you?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, it’s aggravating but at the same time like I just have to keep telling myself the game’s there. It’s not as if I’m walking off the course and — I didn’t have my best stuff again over the weekend, but neither did anyone in these really tough conditions. The two, I guess the two doubles that I made today sort of, I don’t know, it’s, I think if I am going to keep getting myself into contention like I am, I just need to sort of stop making those big numbers. And if I can do that, hopefully the course next week’s a little more benign, a few more chances, and sort of play the style of golf that I want to play. I was very defensive out there and that’s sort of what you had to do this week and hopefully next week we get a chance to be a little more aggressive.

Q. Seems like people expect you to win every week because you’re No. 1 in the world. Can you talk about the expectations of that and how hard it is to win out here?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean, I expect myself — I mean, I’m doing what I expect myself to do every week, which is giving myself a chance. I give myself a chance most weeks and the more weeks than not it’s not going to happen. That’s just the way golf is. I mean, I think my win percentage on TOUR is like 10 percent and I think that’s pretty high for anyone not being Tiger Woods. So, yeah, it’s one of those things. Like, I’ve had chances and I wish I had converted one of them over the last few weeks, but I’m still in good form. I’m playing some good golf. And hopefully if I just keep putting myself in those positions, it’s only a matter of time.

Q. How do the conditions compare today versus yesterday? Better? Worse?
RORY MCILROY: Similar. A different wind direction. I didn’t expect the wind to be up as much as it was. It was just as windy today as it was yesterday. The greens are firm, fairways are firm. So, yeah, I mean just a really tough weekend.

Q. What do you most need to improve upon before Augusta?
RORY MCILROY: Before Augusta? Driving it well. I mean, maybe just my mid-range putting, that’s sort of between 12 and 20 feet. I’m holing out — I missed a couple this week — but I’m holing out pretty well for the most part, but just giving myself a lot of chances between that sort of 12- and 20-foot range and not converting that many of them. So that’s pretty much it.

Q. You’re allowed to say nothing.
RORY MCILROY: No, no, there’s not nothing, there’s always something.

Q. Did you think the bunker shot at 6 was okay when you hit it?
RORY MCILROY: I did, yeah. Actually, it was okay, I played it the way I wanted to. It came out a little hot, but I thought, I thought it was still going to hang on to the back edge. Obviously just trickled over into the hazard, so…

Q. It’s a thin margin.
RORY MCILROY: It is, yeah. That’s the thing out here, it’s just very, very fine lines.

Orlando, Florida

March 8, 2020

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PGA Tour: Graeme McDowell Talks Opening Round 65 at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Major champion and Orlando native Graeme McDowell speaks with the media following an opening round 65 good for a tie for 5th place at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

PGA Tour: Graeme McDowell speaks to the media following opening round of The Arnold Palmer Invitational

Q. Some birdies on the card, a couple bogies, the putt you made at 18, I know your mouth was wide open when it went in, I was calling it as it went in, I’m thinking, oh, man, it did a 360. 140 feet worth of puts today. Tell us about the round.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I putted well. I putted very well. Seeing the greens well, feeling really good on the greens. The surfaces are fantastic this week. There’s not a lot of grain on them at all. They’re not up to speed yet, obviously, with the wind forecast today, I assume the maintenance crew decided that they were going to try to take the sting out of them a little bit. I’m fully expecting these greens to be pretty firm and pretty fast come the weekend here. But, listen, pleasing to putt like that. The save on 15 was probably the most important save of the day. I hit a 4-iron in there over the back, kind of knifed my bunker shot, put it in the front bunker and hit a phenomenal drop shot. I made a 20-footer for 5. It’s putts like that that really turn good rounds into great rounds and the putter certain served me well today.

Q. The guys who finished in the morning who looked at the afternoon forecast thought, Oh, this is not going to be good for those guys. But we have seen some good numbers, including yours.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, we were lucky to get two and a half, three hours where it really wasn’t blowing particularly strong. But eventually it did arrive and it made those last five or six holes quite tricky. And the golf course remains playable, because I think there’s a lot of cross winds. There’s not a lot of into-the-teeth type shots. 9 is probably, 9 and 15 are probably the two standout really difficult holes on the course, and the rest are just kind of playable.

So we’re going to see a completely different wind direction tomorrow, so it’s going to be interesting. I always like that because I feel like guys put a game plan together and then when the wind switches game plans are out the window, so you have to be smart and have a great caddie and be able to think on your feet.

Q. You call Orlando home now you’re a restauranteur, a dad more than once, a husband, major champion. First time you played here was 2005 and you finished second. What does this tournament and the legend of Mr. Palmer mean to you and this Orlando community?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think this tournament continues to grow as far as what it means to me. I think having both my kids in the Winnie Palmer Hospital, to be an ambassador to this tournament the year after Mr. Palmer passed away, having two seconds here, having my family here. Like all of the above really makes this a special event for me. It’s a golf course I feel comfortable on, which is very nice. And, listen, love to, dearly love to have this one on the resume. But the most important thing this week is Mr. Palmer’s legacy, just taking that extra second to be a great role model, to be a great professional and living up to the standards that he really, that he laid out for us all.

Orlando, Florida

March 5, 2020

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PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy Speaks With The Media Following Opening Round 66 at The Arnold Palmer Invitational

World number 1 Rory McIlroy addresses the Media following his opening round 66 at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational about slow start, course conditions and what to expect moving forward.

PGA Tour: World number 1 Rory McIlroy recaps opening round 66 at The Arnold Palmer Invitational, trailing leader Matt Every by 1 stroke

Q. Slow start. A couple unforced errors. What did you do to get it clicked in?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think, looking back on the day, one of the biggest shots of the day was the key putt on 11. It started giving me a little bit of momentum. Obviously, it was an unforced error with the second shot. The missed putt on 12 was actually a decent putt. I just got a little complacent with it. I thought it was straight in and it broke left. But then after that, the birdie on 16 to get back to even, the birdie on 18 to get, turn in 1-under. And then I started to get going, hit some really good shots on the way in and took advantage of the par-5s and did everything pretty well for about the last 12 or 13 holes.

Q. Knowing you got the good end of the draw, the wind’s going to continue to pick up, is there any extra added pressure to try to get good rounds, good score in, good birdies?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, sort of. I think it was more I, when I was 1-over par I looked at the board and Sam Burns was already like 6-under, so I was like, Geez, I got to do something here. I got to get going. But then, yeah, I think this course is all about staying patient. If you can play the par-5s well, you should be there at the end of the week.

Q. So a lot of the wind — a lot of wind out here. Do you like to practice in the wind or are you going to shut it down?
RORY MCILROY: No, I’ll shut it down. I don’t think there’s any point. It’s hot as well. It’s getting hot. And I’ll just rest up and maybe go to the Magic Kingdom and then get ready for tomorrow.

Q. 1-over par after 6, 7-under thereafter. What changed?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I don’t know. I made a couple unforced errors starting off. I hit it in the water on 11. Actually made a good bogey in the end, holed a good putt for bogey. And then I missed the little one on 12. I think with the start and then turning in under par, birdieing 16, birdieing 18, sort of had a bit of a good pep in my step going into the first tee and then I played some great golf after that. I hit two great shots into 1, the shots into 2, holed a good eagle putt on 4. I got a bit of momentum and I kept it going until the end.

Q. I was looking through your highlights and it jumped out to me, the shot from the bunker on the 4th, talk us through the detail, because it looked a bit special.
RORY MCILROY: Harry said that’s the best shot I’ve hit all year, so, you know, high praise from him. Yeah, I had 260. It was in between 3-iron and 5-wood and I sort of — 5-wood was going to carry up on top, but it had a chance to go over the back of the green and that chip from over the back to that back pin is really tricky. So I said to Harry, If I can catch this 3-iron good and maybe pitch 10 or 15 short, maybe trundle up the hill. But short was always better than long. And it just came out perfectly and got up to pin high. And yeah, it was good to convert on that and make eagle.

Q. Finally, Radar was walking around here yesterday and he actually says, Rory turns up and it’s, like, is it going to be 3-under, 4-under, or more when he goes out and plays. Tiger, in his prime used to say that par almost seemed like a 68. With how you’re playing now and the consistency, do you set a different par for yourself when you’re going out, even on a course like this?
RORY MCILROY: No, I mean, I think — so, for Bay Hill I, think this course has always been about the par-5s. If you can play the par-5s well, you can play the rest of the course pretty conservatively and pick your spots. I mean, you’re hitting irons off a lot of tees here, but if you can play the par-5s well — I mean, that’s what — Tiger’s won here seven or eight times, whatever it is, he killed the par-5s. He then could pick and choose where he was going to be aggressive. And just sort of trying to follow that plan because it worked pretty well for him.

Q. Slow start today. 1-over through the first 6, but you end up shooting 66. Talk about how you played and what turned it around for you early.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, as I said over there, I think one of the biggest or best shots that I hit today was my bogey putt on 11. I hit it in the water and then hit a very mediocre chip shot. But to hole that putt for bogey, you know, it’s not — making 5 instead of 6 there is a big deal. I didn’t convert with making a birdie at the next, but 1-over through 2 instead of 2-over is sort of a different feeling. And to turn that nine around and turn in 1-under par, I sort of felt pretty good about myself going to the front nine. And then I had some really good shots coming in. Drove it really well. I worked a little bit on my driving over the last few days. I didn’t think it was quite up to par over the first three tournaments of the year. So I think I only missed one or two fairways today, and if you can do that around this place, especially with how juicy the rough is, you’re going to give yourself a lot of chances.

Q. I was going to ask you about the course conditions. They were telling us over 13 on the Stimpmeter on the greens. Is that what it felt like?
RORY MCILROY: No, I mean, I think they have taken it easy with the greens today, expecting the wind this afternoon. So I actually struggled to get the ball to the hole this morning. But then as they started to dry out, as we went on then, you could feel them, you could definitely feel the aprons getting a little bit firmer, the fairways, you know, the greens are getting a little crusty out there. And if the wind continues to whip the way it’s, the way it is, it will be a tough afternoon for those guys.

Q. How did you hit it into the water on 11? Was it turning?
RORY MCILROY: Turned it, yeah. I was trying to — I was forcing an 8-iron to try and get back there and turned it and pitched, obviously, over the hazard line. And I could have nearly played it. It was sort of, the ball was half in, half out, try to sort of do a Bill Haas spectacular whatever, but I decided against it.

Q. (No Microphone.)
RORY MCILROY: Definitely playing a bit better than I was playing in Mexico. Putting better. Driving it better. I think the course suits me a little bit better as well. So Mexico was frustrating because I started well and then just couldn’t get the best out of myself for the final three days, where I’m a little more comfortable on this golf course, comfortable with this style of play, and a little more comfortable on greens.

Q. (No Microphone.)
RORY MCILROY: I hit 3-iron out of there. I was between 3-iron and 5-wood and if anything, I wanted to err on the short side rather than the long side because of where the pin was. So it was one of those ones where it wasn’t, I never really expected it to get on the green. I thought maybe just like 5 or 10 short, chip it up close and make birdie, but it worked out perfectly and it was nice to convert that one.

Q. Going back to Mexico, are you still at a point in your career where you learn something from getting off to a first-round lead and not being able to close? If so, what did you learn two weeks ago?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, 54 holes is still a long way to go. I mean, even — I mean, you sort of take it one day at a time. It’s not as if I played badly in Mexico. I shot 69, 68, 68 the last three days. I just didn’t get as much out of myself that I wanted to. But, yeah, I mean, it’s always — I mean, if you do shoot a good one, you know it’s in there, you know you’re playing well, so you just got to try to keep it going.

Q. (No Microphone.)
RORY MCILROY: Not for public discussion.

Q. Can you feel Arnold Palmer’s presence on the grounds here?
RORY MCILROY: There’s so many nice little traditions here. Obviously, behind us here on the range. Still having to take your hat off when you walk into the clubhouse, that’s something that I really like. Eating breakfast this morning and saw a couple of people that were asked to take their hat off as they walked in. That’s nice. I think that’s a really nice thing. And to see Amy around and Sam and Roy and some of the family still. He meant an awful lot to the game, an awful lot to this community. And I didn’t play it for the first sort of few years of my career, but once I did, I realized that it’s a pretty special place and one that I want to try to come back to each and every year.

Q. How special was it for you to wear that red cardigan for the first time?
RORY MCILROY: It was special. It was warm. Alpaca isn’t as comfortable as you think. But it was nice. I mean, for me at that point just to, just to win a tournament again, it was 520-whatever days, and so I think just the, I don’t know, the joy in winning again was really, really special. You could have given me a neon cardigan and I would have worn it all the way home.

Q. Where do you keep it?
RORY MCILROY: I keep it in my wardrobe.

Q. The play on 18, did that at all set you up for the front nine?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, that was, I think the two shots I hit into 16, the shot I hit into 17, and the two shots I hit into 18 gave me a lot of confidence going into the front side. I hit a drive and a 5-iron into 16. Hit it right into the heart of the green. Good shot. Hit a good 6-iron on 17 the way I wanted to. And then 3-wood, 9-iron on 18. Yeah, so it’s shots that you got to stand up and make good swings.

Q. (No Microphone.)
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, of course. Again, like, 1-over through 6, there’s still 66 holes left in this golf tournament. I mean, it’s so fine that even now it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve shot a good score and it’s great that I’ve done it on the good end of the draw. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty fortunate that I’ve got that draw this week. So it’s just nice to take advantage of it this morning and tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll see how that goes.

Orlando, Florida

March 5, 2020

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PGA Tour: Graeme McDowell Talks 13th Start at Arnold Palmer Invitational

PGA Professional and champion Graeme McDowell speaks with the media ahead of making his 13th career start at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

PGA Tour: Graeme McDowell talks with the media prior to 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Graeme McDowell to the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. You’re making your 13th start here this week. Just some thoughts on being back here at Bay Hill.

GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, one of my favorite weeks of the year. Home event. Get to stay at home with my family. Some great history here, a couple of second place finishes. Obviously, my relationship with Mastercard. Just a lot of reasons to be here. Course looks great. Prepared for another, hopefully another great tournament. Like I say, just game’s in good shape, excited to be here, looking forward to he hopefully competing.

THE MODERATOR: Four top-25s this year. Where would you say your game’s at.

GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think it’s trending in the right direction. The 4th in Sony was important. The win in Saudi was very important. I’ve kind of had a couple weeks now to reset and get ready and I’m kind of, I’ve got a busy few months coming up, so I’m ready to play golf. I’m focused and I’m motivated. And it’s so much great golf to play here, so it’s a good time of the year to be feeling good and looking forward to playing and competing and I’m excited about what the next six months could hold.

THE MODERATOR: Open it up for some questions, please.

Q. Are you thinking about Ryder Cup already?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Am I thinking about Ryder Cup?

Q. Already.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I think we’re always thinking about Ryder Cup to a certain extent. I think there’s no doubt it would be a massive goal to play on the team this year. I missed the last two. I certainly put myself back on the radar for this year, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of great young players. It’s a lot of fun to see guys like myself and Lee Westwood and even Adam Scott, obviously, he’s not a Ryder Cup player, but guys winning in their 40s. It’s a nice flavor to start off 2020 and, you know, the Ryder Cup will get in the way if I play the way I know I can play and do the things I know I can do. So it’s, we’ll see what happens. A lot of golf to play. Four major championships ahead of us and lots and lots of great golf to play. So, listen, I would love to be in Whistling Straits, it goes without saying.

Q. The key this week, is it off the tee, just keeping it out of the rough, would you say?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I think so. Looking at the forecast tomorrow, I think we’re going to have to get through a really tricky tough day tomorrow with 20 mile an hour gusts in the morning and 30 miles an hours in the afternoon. The rough is thick. Driving the ball is going to be a massive premium this week. I think in and around the greens it’s not as tough as I’ve seen it. There’s quite a nice bit of grass to chip off around the greens, and the bunkers are very nice. So I think big premium on driving the ball well, giving yourself a chance to attack the greens, and controlling the ball well in the wind tomorrow. I think tomorrow’s going to be a key day. I think tomorrow’s a day where you could play yourself way out of this thing right away. So thankfully played a lot of good wind golf this year, this season. Felt like Hawaii, a couple weeks in the wind, blew in Saudi, pretty happy the way my wind game looks, so very, very important to get off to a good start tomorrow.

Q. Do you use data at all in either course management or in like allocating your practice time? And if so, how have they affected what you do in those areas?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah. Did you say data?

Q. Yeah, like ShotLink?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, like stats. Yeah, I mean, I think we have, I’ve always used some form of statistical analysis into my game. I think instinctively between myself and my caddie we always have a fairly good idea where we’re at, but it’s nice to look at some numbers to back up, because you can get a little, you can get a little blinded out there thinking I’m not putting well, when in actual fact you’re hitting a lot of irons, a lot of great iron shots and you’re giving yourself a lot of 15-, 20-feet looks that you’re not going to make a lot of, and therefore you think you’re putting badly. So that’s just an example of how you can get a little blinded by what you think’s going wrong. But, no, sort of areas that I’ve been looking at, proximity to the hole, just around the greens, for example. I have a tendency to be a very good scrambler, but I don’t chip the ball close enough to the hole very often. And that has a wearing affect on the putter when you have 5 and 6 and 7 feet all day. So trying to be a little tighter around the greens, giving myself easier up-and-down opportunities has been something I’ve been working on, just as an example of using some of the data and some of the numbers to try and find areas in my game where I can just tighten up a little bit.

Q. What about for a course management?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: For course management? Not really. I mean, again, instinctively I think myself and my caddie are pretty good at taking a course apart and understanding where to miss and where not to miss. I think some of these little overhead maps where you see the little dot kind of maps where areas where guys are getting it up-and-down and areas where guys are not getting it up-and-down, I think those are very useful, especially on a golf course which I don’t maybe know very well. So, say, at a tournament where I haven’t played the course much, I may have a look at the computer on a Thursday morning and just try and see where guys are missing it and areas, what are they doing off tees, playing aggressively, and stuff. Those are very, very interesting, but I feel like it’s something I’ve always naturally done anyway. I feel like I’m pretty good at understanding where I should be missing the ball and trying not to overcomplicate it. It’s a hard enough game. You don’t really need too much stuff in the head at times.

Q. Speaking about hitting the ball toward the hole and whatnot, can you talk about how hard it is to actually hit the ball inside 10 feet on a regular basis. I mean, that’s really difficult.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: That really depends how far away from the hole you are to start with, obviously. Yeah, listen, I mean, proximity is important. They say 7 feet is that kind of threshold number where putting stats really start to skew and start to kind of fall off a cliff. So really from inside of a hundred yards those proximity numbers become highly important because those are your — that’s your conversion, your conversion area, where you’re getting the ball up-and-down on a regular basis. So from longer range, obviously, just managing it well and trying to be as tight as you possibly can. But from inside of a hundred yards it’s, that 10 feet number, that 7 feet number becomes very important.

Q. In this stretch of schedule where you’ve got two World Golf Championship events, THE PLAYERS, this, other strong Florida swing events, what makes this tournament stand out and how hard is it for players? I know you’re a main stay, but how hard is it for players to decide what to play and what not to play?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: For sure, I think you look at this stretch and you could argue that it’s maybe a little too strong. When you look at the stretch maybe between Augusta and PGA and PGA to U.S. Open, not trying to disrespect any of those events in that window, but there’s a lot of golf right now. You’ve got an unbelievably good Florida swing sandwiched between two WGC events. I live in Florida, so I love the Florida swing. I didn’t play the Honda last week for the first time in 10 years. I regretted not playing the Honda. I went to Mexico instead. Saudi got me into Mexico. I went down there. I didn’t play well. I was, like, totally wished I would have skipped that event. Like, skipping WGC events it’s just historically something you didn’t really ever think about, but I think the value of the WGC has been reduced because the strength of everything else around it has got so much stronger. So the long and short of it is, outside of the major championships, there’s so many great tournaments and scheduling becomes very difficult. So like I say, hindsight’s 20/20. I wish I hadn’t gone to Mexico. I wish I would have taken a week to reset and gone to the Honda. I think I would have loved it down there, just the way it played, seeing so many Europeans on the board. It’s so hard to pick and choose. I’m going to skip Tampa. It’s not an event I typically skip, because I want to be ready for the Match Play and I’ll play Valero as well. So there’s a lot of golf. And unfortunately big events are suffering. It looks like Tampa’s got a great field. Honda, maybe not so much last week. Obviously, next week’s a huge week. Really looking at that, trying to take that as a major championship approach going into the PLAYERS. So very, very hard to pick and choose right now because this is such a strong part of the year.

Q. Considering that, is 13 out of 25 choosing to play here, is that a pretty good number when you consider all the other moving parts?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: 13 out of 25 what? Sorry.

Q. 13 out of the top 25 in the World Rankings.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Are here this week at Bay Hill?

Q. Yes.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: I mean, that’s great. I mean, obviously, being a Mastercard guy and being one of the tournament ambassadors in the beginning after Mr. Palmer passed away, the big thing was how do we keep this event as a premier event, how do we carry the legacy forward. Obviously, the golf course can be a little sort of divisive. Some guys love it, some guys don’t love it. It’s a strong field this week, but because of all of the other events around it, it’s maybe not as strong as it could be. But, listen, I love this event. I’m happy for Mastercard and Bay Hill that they have got the kind of event they have this week and hopefully it continues to be a strong event.

Q. Whether you’re aware of this or not, you were No. 255 in the world when you left Bay Hill last year. What happened?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: (Laughing.) Yeah, I mean, Bay Hill was a very pivotal week for me here last year because The Open Championship conversation began here last year. There was some open spots up for grabs here, and I got off to a pretty good start and I blew out on Sunday and I was very disappointed. So, yeah, I do remember the emotions I was going through this time last year, for sure. It was difficult. The game wasn’t really, felt like where it needed to be. I suppose I’d go and win in Dominican Republic in three weeks’ time, two weeks’ time. But I was sort of trending in the right direction, but emotionally I just was, you know, I was, somebody beat me up. I just couldn’t seem to, I couldn’t seem to kind of get out of that, get out that have 25th and 30th funk that was in. I was in run of 25ths and 30ths and 40ths. I was feeling like I was playing well, but then I would look at the check at the end of the week and go, you know, 30ths just don’t cut it. I would go and win in Dominican. I wouldn’t you really have a good summer, but it kind of led me to kind of having a little soul search, getting a new coach, started hitting the reset button a little bit, and I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve made. It’s not really been over a 12-month period. It’s really been since last August, I suppose, so it’s been a five-, six-month period, which brings me to here, obviously, in a very different place, 200 places in the World Ranking better than I was last year and feeling like I can go out and really, really compete. And if I’m there on a Sunday afternoon, I might actually know what to do this year. So just have a lot more belief, a lot more confidence in what I’m doing, which is, obviously, those intangibles that you can’t really learn on the range. You just have to be out there. You got to test yourself.

Q. And winning Saudi, how much did that change your outlook on the entire year?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: It changed my schedule a lot, for sure. It takes the pressure off trying to get into events like The Open Championship. I should be, barring a monumental collapse between now and July, I mean, I should be in pretty good shape for The Open Championship. It should get me in the PGA. Obviously nice to add events like the Match Play and FedEx St. Jude as well. And let’s be honest, if I have aspirations of making the team at Whistling Straights, I’m not going to be able to do it if I’m not in though those events. So it really maps my schedule out. It gives me an opportunity to pick and choose where I want to play, get myself ready for the events I want to be ready for and peak for. Schedule’s everything. When you’ve got that top-50 schedule, which I’m right on the borderline of having that again, and it just really makes the year so much more planable and really allows you to be able to peak better and rest up where you need to and just know that you’re going to be playing against the best players in the world more often.

Q. And lastly, is your schedule for the next month set in stone or would you make or be willing to make any alteration if you needed it related to Augusta?
GRAEME MCDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, Augusta’s the only moving piece of the puzzle the next couple months. I have to be top-50 in the world the Monday after Match Play. You probably know that more than I do. It’s not going to be the be-all and end-all for me. I love Augusta. It is my favorite course in the world. It doesn’t love me very much, though. But if I’m not there, it’s not going to, it’s not going to dampen any spirits or anything that’s happened in the next three or four months. It will get in the way if I play the kind of golf I know I can play the next few weeks. And I would love to be there. I want to see my kids in boiler suits. That’s kind of the visual. I haven’t had a chance to do the par-3 with my kids yet because I haven’t played the last few years. So I want to have the kids up at Augusta this year. That would be fun. But like I say, it’s not going to change my life here in the short-term.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Graeme. Thanks for the time. Best of luck this week.

GRAEME MCDOWELL: Thank you. Thanks, guys.

Orlando, Florida

March 4, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Categories
Team Ireland

PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy Talks to Media About 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preparations

Current World number 1 Rory McIlroy speaks to the media ahead of his start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational about what it means to be number 1, the Olympic games, and Master’s Preparations.

PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy talks Arnold Palmer Invitational

THE MODERATOR: Welcome back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2020. Just some thoughts on being back here as the No. 1 player in the world.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, sort of feel like this was the start if sort of like a two-year journey to get back to this point. I came here two years ago off the back of a missed cut in Tampa and sort of a little lost with my game, especially a little lost with my putting and spent an afternoon with Brad Faxon at the Bear’s Club and then came up here and, obviously, something stuck with me from that afternoon and was able to win and that was my first win in 500-whatever days. So I feel like this place is a lot of special memories to me. It was definitely the catalyst to sort of do what I’ve done over the past two years and ascend back to the top of the World Rankings.

So good to be back. Course is in phenomenal shape. It’s as good as I’ve seen it. It’s nice to get back on Bermuda greens after the few weeks that I’ve started off on the poa annua. So, yeah, everything’s good and game feels in good shape and looking forward to getting going.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll take some questions.

Q. How much do you use ShotLink data for your course management, how they change what you do or affect anything about going about it?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I use them a lot. All of the, it’s one thing I keep harping on about to the TOUR is actually how ShotLink data on every round that we play, like North Course at Torrey Pines doesn’t have it, the other three courses at Pebble when we play there doesn’t have it. I think a lot of the guys are starting to use ShotLink data to, it’s course management, but it’s also how you practice. So I got a stats report last week after the three weeks that I’ve had at Torrey Pines, at Riviera, and Mexico, and that’s what I base my practice off going into the next few weeks. My bunker play wasn’t up to the same standards it needed to be. I needed to get better from 6 to 12 feet. It’s stuff that you sort of know anyway, but it’s nice when you have that objective data in front of you. So I use it for a lot of different things. It is very important.

Q. With specific reference to the Olympics, are you relaxed about it, how do you get enough information, something you’re going to keep an eye on —
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it’s something that we’re trying to stay on top of. I mean, it’s something that if the organizers and the Olympic Committee believe it’s safe enough that athletes can go and compete in the games, then you have to take their word for it and you have to, they’re obviously liaising with the people that are the best at doing this, whether it’s the CDC in this country, whether it’s the World Health Organization, whatever it is. If they’re speaking to those people and those people are the best in their field, then you have to trust that their judgment is the right one.

Q. Based on the conditions out there right now, what kind of tournament do you expect to see this weekend?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, conditions right now, the golf course is playing very nicely. The rough’s pretty thick. If you start missing it in the rough, you can make life a bit difficult for yourself. I think they’re expecting a lot of wind tomorrow afternoon, so the scoring might be tough, a little tougher tomorrow than we have seen in the past. But it looks like the conditions are going to be good over the weekend.

So it’s an exciting golf course. There’s four par-5s. I think people can get it going around here and shoot some low scores. So I don’t see any, I think Francesco shot 64 to win last year. I shot 64 the year before to win. So I would say you would see something similar. There’s going to be a lot of people in with a chance and someone’s going to go pretty low over the weekend.

Q. Just watching everybody out there, like, asking for autographs and pictures and things, I’m curious how much of a challenge it is to you how you sort of divide your time and energy to figure out how to deal with it all, when to say no, when to say yes.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, Wednesdays are pretty hard to concentrate at times because you’re trying to find that balance between treating it like a practice round as well and trying to get something out of the day instead of just being a host for your amateurs and sort of trying to get them around. So I always try to play a game with Harry, my caddie. He sets me a score to shoot that day and says, right, If you shoot 4-under or better I’ll buy you dinner and if you don’t get to that, you have to buy me dinner. And that’s, we do that every Wednesday and it just, it keeps me concentrating on every shot and over every putt and it’s something that I need to do because as you see out there it’s very easy to get distracted and talk to people and basically hit the ball everywhere. So it just keeps me sort of on the straight and narrow.

Q. How did you do today?
RORY MCILROY: I lost by one shot. The target was 4-under. I shot 3-under even with birdieing the last.

Q. When you talk about the two-year journey kind of started here, do you think you’ve grown more from a game perspective or from a mental perspective over those two years?
RORY MCILROY: Mental more than the game. I mean, I think I’m more, I have done things in the game previous to two years ago that were maybe higher than what I’ve done the past couple of years. But from a mental perspective the consistency and showing up every week even when I don’t have my best stuff I’m able to still get in the mix and have a shot at winning tournaments. So mentally over these last few years I’ve definitely gotten better and, yeah, more stability in my life, there’s a lot of different things that go into it, but, yeah, just a lot more comfortable with where everything is.

Q. When you talk about gearing up for the Masters, when does that start and what does it mean?
RORY MCILROY: Honestly, I don’t know when it starts. For some people it starts the Monday they arrive at Augusta. For some people it started in January. I think it’s different for everyone. For me what I realized is I can’t make things too big in my head. So if I started to gear up for Augusta in January, by the time Augusta got around in April my head would be absolutely fried. So I try to push it out as late as possible. I’ve got four tournaments to play between now and then and my biggest concern and my top priority are those four tournaments.

Q. What I’m talking about gearing up, does that mean working on certain shots you are going to need or does that mean getting your game in peak form?
RORY MCILROY: I don’t think anything trumps execution in this game, so it’s just getting your game in good form. Playing enough competitive rounds, getting the — yeah, just shooting good scores, seeing shots. I’m not particularly — like it’s not as if I’m out on the golf course on the, you know, whatever hole here thinking, okay, this is the 5th hole at Augusta, this is the tee shot I need. I mean, some guys might do that, I’m not sure, but for me if I’m playing good golf that’s the most important thing.

Q. You’ve been forthright in talking about the Premier League and also saying —
RORY MCILROY: Football or golf? (Laughing.)

Q. If nothing else maybe it leads to some changes structural and otherwise on the PGA TOUR. What would you have in mind?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, I don’t want to come across as all sort of elitist, but I think there is a some smaller fields, maybe a few more events with no cuts, maybe not necessarily — if you look at the international properties that the PGA TOUR have started to go towards, like Korea, Japan, 70-player fields, no cuts. That’s the sort of stuff where you’re giving the — and honestly, there’s so many — I mean I get playing opportunities — there’s so many tournaments and there might be an over saturation in golf in a way. You look at the NFL and they play 18 games a year, 20 games a year max and people want it all the time. I know football’s different than golf and all that, but I think being a golf fan these days can get quite exhausting following so many different tournaments, different tours, all that stuff. So maybe making it a little, sort of streamline it a bit might be a good way — a good place to start a conversation.

Orlando, Florida

March 4, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports