Among the players, Rory McIlroy is considered one of the loudspeakers on the PGA Tour. The Northern Irishman forms an opinion on many topics and tries to classify current events. At the press conference before the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy explains why he thinks it’s important to express his opinion and what he thinks of the current discussion surrounding PIP and Phil Mickelson. Read the complete interview here:
Q: Rory, you’re going to be making your eighth start here. What is it like to be back, especially as a past champion?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it’s always good to be back at Bay Hill. I didn’t play this event for the first few years of my career and finally came here in 2015, and I don’t think I’ve missed a tournament since.
We all know what Arnold Palmer means to the PGA TOUR and to the game of golf in general. So it’s always nice to be here and try to sort of remember his legacy and remember what he meant to everyone. He was probably the catalyst with maybe a few other guys of why we’re here today and why the game of professional golf is at such a high level.
So nice to be here, nice to pay our respects. Looking forward to another good week.
Q: And as you stated, you haven’t missed a tournament since you started, have five consecutive top tens here. What about this course and this tournament really clicks with your game?
It’s one of these courses that I don’t feel like I have to do anything special to compete. I can play within myself. You take care of the par-5s here. You play conservatively the rest of the way, especially how the golf course here has been set up the past few years. You play for your pars, and then you try to pick off birdies on the par-5s and some of the easier holes. If you just keep doing that day after day, you’re going to find yourself around the top of the leaderboard.
Yeah, it’s been a course that’s fit my eye from the first time I played here, and just one of those courses that I enjoy coming back to and feel like I can contend at.
Q: Rory, congratulations on finishing third, I think, on the PIP.
Q: Do you understand exactly why you ended up third, and were there any surprises on the list for you when you saw the top ten?
Not really. I mean, you look at the ten guys that are on there, and they’re the ten guys that have been at the top of the game or have been around the top of the game for a long time. Obviously, everyone’s seen the five metrics that go into it and how everyone ranked in those metrics. I feel like it’s a pretty self-explanatory system. That’s how the numbers sort of rolled out.
Yeah, it’s certainly not something that I’m checking up on every week to see where I’m at, but I think it went the way most of us expected it to go.
Q: Also, as you ramp up for this big stretch of golf tournaments, what are you kind of waiting to see in your game. What is it you’re kind of looking for as you do the run-up?
Just consistency. I mean, I felt like the three tournaments that I’ve played this year, I’ve played pretty well. I had a pretty solid week at Riviera without doing anything really special. I had a good weekend.
I think just more of the same. I’ve driven the ball pretty well. I’ve seen a bit of improvement in iron play. My short game’s been really good. If anything, just getting the consistency to a point where I feel like I can play like that day in and day out.
But the game feels good, so just sort of trying to keep doing what I’m doing.
Q: Rory, given your stature and success in the game, it gives you a voice. Do you feel though that, even if you weren’t a world renowned golfer, you would still speak out about injustices you see? And why are you that way?
Look, I’ll only voice my opinion on things that I believe I’m educated in and believe that I have a right to talk about. So there’s certainly things that I won’t get into just because I’m not completely educated on that topic and feel like giving an opinion probably isn’t the right thing to do.
But when it comes to golf and PGA TOUR stuff, I feel like I’m pretty educated on that stuff. And I guess with that voice comes responsibility to try to do the right thing. That’s all I try to do. I try to make comments or speak about things to do the right thing, and that’s the reason I’m maybe a little more outspoken than other guys in our game.
Again, it doesn’t go much further than the game of golf because I feel comfortable talking about that, but when you sort of delve into other things, I don’t think it’s my place to get into that.
Q: Speaking of education, I thought I read something about you once that you wanted to drop out of school in like the fifth grade?
I did drop out of school in — well, not the fifth grade (laughter). I dropped out of school pretty early, yeah.
Q: What does that say about you, if anything, that you’ve got this appetite for knowledge, for learning, for reading, and hated school?
Learnt my lesson. I didn’t have — I just had no — I had no academic ambitions when I was a youngster. I don’t know, I think I got to a point in golf where I was pretty — all I wanted to do when I was young was play golf. Didn’t care about school. Didn’t want to go. Wanted to just go practice, play golf. And now all I do most every day is go practice and play golf.
So I have other things I want to do and hobbies. I think as you get older, you get interested in more things and maybe just become a little more curious. I’ve sort of become that way. But, again, I’m the first one to say I don’t know — I know a little about a lot, but I’m not as smart on a lot of things as I am maybe on golf and things in and around this world.
Q: One more golf question. Finchem probably back in ’10 had talked about this idea of somewhat of a world tour schedule and also how difficult it would be to put together. They’ve been trying for a long time. Do you get a sense that, given the dynamics of golf right now, that it could be getting closer to that and that it would still be just as difficult to implement?
So I certainly think there’s been steps taken that have got us closer to that point. Obviously, this strategic alliance between DP World Tour and the PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR buying a stake in European Tour Productions, Jay having a seat on the board in Europe, they’re certainly working much closer together, which is a great thing. I think it needs to be that way.
The game of professional golf, everyone needs to be trying to pull in the same direction instead of pulling against each other. I think we’re getting closer to that spot. I think it would be easy for — it’s not as simple as this, but the guys at the PGA TOUR could just literally walk down the street to the guys in the ATP and just have a chat about what they do.
It’s two very, very different structures and different schedules, but I think there is a path where one day there could be — it might still be two Tours running side by side parallel to each other, but basically for — it would be a global tour, a global schedule.
Q: Would it be important for Europe’s identity?
I think so. I think there’s quite a long history and tradition and heritage there. You go back to — yeah, the formation of the European Tour wasn’t that long after the PGA TOUR. I think European Tour was in the ’70s, and PGA TOUR was in the late ’60s. So there’s history there that you would like to keep.
Q: Are you surprised that so many golfers and sponsors have separated themselves, distanced themselves from Phil, who’s one of the legends of the game, or do you think his comments were so volatile that that was necessary? And how unfortunate is the whole situation?
It is unfortunate. I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf, still is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf. It’s unfortunate that a few comments that he thought he was making in confidence or off the record got out there and were — not used against him, but this whole situation is unfortunate.
Look, Phil will be back. I think the players want to see him back. He’s done such a wonderful job for the game of golf, and he’s represented the game of golf very, very well for the entirety of his career.
Look, we all make mistakes. We all say things we want to take back. No one is different in that regard. But we should be allowed to make mistakes, and we should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on. Hopefully, he comes back at some stage, and he will, and people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back.
Q: I know you to be a student of the world and what’s going on and you’ve traveled all over the world. The world is such a tender place right now. What do you do to sort of put that aside so you can focus on your day job?
I try to look at the news once a day and sort of leave it at that. You sort of try to keep up to date with current events and everything that’s happening. I guess I have to understand that sitting in my position right here in Orlando, Florida, there’s not much that I can say or do that’s going to help the situation. So I can just focus on what’s most important to me, which is my family and my golf, and live my life.
THE MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have for questions. Rory, we thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish you the best of luck this week.