Rory McIlroy speaks with the media following a successful opening round 65 at the WGC Championship Mexico to take a 2 stroke advantage over the field.
PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy speaks with the media following opening round 65 and talks new putting style, premiere golf league and more
Q. What was the difference between today and Sunday at the Genesis Open?
RORY McILROY: You know, I think at Genesis, I played 17 holes in 1-under par and then I obviously had a bad hole on the 5th, but I actually took a lot of positives from Sunday. I hung in there. I holed a nice one at the last at Riviera, which sort of gave me a little bit of momentum going into this week. But I changed my putter. I changed my putter when I got here. I went back to my old putter. I was sort of trying out a new putter last week and it didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to, so I went back to the 34-inch. I was using a 35 last week. Yeah, I just felt a little bit more comfortable today and was seeing my lines a little bit better, and yeah, it was a good day.
Q. Seems to me there was a lot of figuring going on with the caddies. You had the altitude, the wind, the greens firmed up. I thought it was a hard day to play golf. Was that true?
RORY McILROY: A little bit. I don’t know if we’ve ever played this golf course in as much wind as today, especially some of the gusts that got up to maybe 10 or 15 miles an hour, which yeah, I can’t recall if we’ve played in wind as strong as that here, so yeah, pulling clubs and sort of trying to figure out how the wind is going to affect the ball up here was a little tricky, but I felt like Harry and I handled that pretty well.
Q. Switching to the slightly longer putter, I assume it was the same model, what was the idea of switching last week?
RORY McILROY: So at Torrey, sometimes with the 34, my right arm can get a little high and my right shoulder can sort of roll over, but with a 35 a little longer, it sort of puts my shoulder and my right elbow into better position, sort of more on plane with the shaft. So it looked really good on video and it felt good, but once I got out there, just that inch difference in the putter, it moves your eye line and you sort of stop seeing your lines the way you usually do, and I especially struggled last week on right to left putts because when it’s a longer putter and the ball is above your feet, you feel like the putter is up in your sort of belt.
I struggled a little bit with it last week. I wasn’t really expecting it. But I saw that the tournament threw with it and it didn’t quite work the way I wanted to, so I went back to the one this week, and did a really good session on Tuesday on the greens, did a few drills, sort of did a few things I maybe haven’t done the last couple weeks, got a little bit more comfortable, and it was nice to see it pay off today.
Q. What reaction have you had to what you said yesterday?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, some nice messages. Yeah, I mean, just sort of —
Q. Did you hope for that?
RORY McILROY: I don’t know. I wasn’t hoping for anything. I was just sort of providing my point of view and getting it off my chest, and that’s what I felt. I wasn’t trying to do anything or prove a point or try to get any sort of raise. I’ve sort of been sick of talking about it for the last few months, and I’m happy that everyone knows where I stand on that, and I’m happy that I know where I stand, certainly, on it.
Q. Did you get any nice messages from the TOUR, maybe Jay?
RORY McILROY: Maybe. (Laughter.)
Q. The height at which you hit the ball, what is that like here?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think with the fairways being so soft, as well, on a couple of the par-5s I teed it up high and sort of launched it. I had a 9-iron into the 15th. So yeah, and then even the drive on the 8th hole, getting it up and over the trees, and I hit a 9-iron in there, where Gary and Tommy were sort of hitting 6’s in, so that’s a pretty big difference.
So with the driver I can tee it up and I can launch it and maybe get a bit more out of it than some of the other guys, and then some of my sort of mid-irons I can — if I want to launch them up in the air, I can get a little bit more out of them.
But yeah, again, I did a good session on Tuesday on the TrackMan, and we did all our numbers and got it dialed in and sort of went from there, and felt like distance control was good today.
Q. What did you hit on your second on the 11th?
RORY McILROY: 4-iron from 275.
Q. Do you feel any different playing as world No. 1? Do you feel it changes your mindset?
RORY McILROY: Not particularly. No, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m confident because I played well. Regardless whether I have a 1 or a 2 or a 10 beside my name in the World Rankings, I’m comfortable with my golf game and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.
Q. I think there was a time where you said you would check the rankings every Monday morning. Are you still doing that?
RORY McILROY: It’s funny when you’re on top that you don’t really do it that often. But yeah, I did it. I sort of last Monday I wanted to know what that putt on 18 was worth at Riviera, and it went from a .03 of the lead to .05 of the lead actually. But again, as long as I don’t think about it during my play and I track it on Monday morning, then I forget about it again, then it’s fine.
Q. With the type of grasses here, does this almost feel like a continuation of last week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, a little bit. There was a couple of lies that I misjudged out there. That hole that I made bogey on, I felt like it was going to come out knuckly and it actually came out with spin, and a couple of lies around the greens I thought were going to spin and they didn’t, so I misjudged a couple of lies, but yeah, it definitely helps playing Riviera last week and then coming here because the ball does react pretty similarly.
Q. When you putt as well as you did today, especially with the minor equipment change you talked about, how much optimism does that give you for the rest of the week, especially on these greens?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, if I keep putting like that, I’ll be very happy. I’m not expecting to gain three and a half on the greens every day this week, but if I can keep my strokes gained numbers in the positive and putt better than the field average on greens like this, then you’re doing something right. But it was definitely validation to going back to the putter I’d been using for the last 14 months, I guess. A little blip last week, but I’m back, and I putted well today and hopefully continue to.
Q. Is it the same grip on the putter?
RORY McILROY: No, I actually changed the grip. I went to a slightly thicker grip. So the thicker grip gets your hands more facing each other and for me gets that right arm tucked in a little bit better and then gets the arm on the shaft clean, and I just stroke it better.
Q. If things had gone your way on Sunday and you had managed to win, would you have change putters?
RORY McILROY: Harry asked me that actually on Sunday night. He goes, if we won this week, would you change your putter, and I said, yeah, I probably still would have because I just didn’t feel quite as comfortable as I thought I would.
Q. Does that make you stubborn?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it does.
Q. When you got to the first and second hole, you had a long period to way there. How do you manage not to lose your rhythm and stay within the game?
RORY McILROY: Actually I had a lovely conversation with Doug Ferguson there, so that was what I did. But no, honestly, I like to talk about something else and get my mind away from the round, so yeah, we talked about all sorts of stuff over there. Actually I wasn’t quite ready to hit the tee shot, so I had to rush a little bit. Yeah, no, we deal with it every week on TOUR, and guys deal with it differently, they go and stand on their own or chat or they converse with someone. But I like to get my mind off it and sort of chat about anything else.
Q. You told Woodland and Fleetwood an anecdote on hole 2 and you had them laughing. What was that anecdote you told them, do you remember?
RORY McILROY: I don’t know, I tell so many. I’m a funny guy. I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Q. They showed your yardages on the telecast today. I’m just wondering how vast a difference are they this week from Riviera?
RORY McILROY: I mean, I was hitting little 7-irons from 155 yards at Riviera last week. It’s very different. It’s very different. Even when you get a shot into the wind here, it doesn’t affect it that much because into the wind the ball stays in the air longer and has a chance to fly further. So even into the wind there today on that last par-3 we played, the 7th hole, I pitched a 6-iron 230 into the wind. It plays a lot different. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just a number, so if I know that this week my wedge goes 170, then that’s what I do, and I just have to trust that that’s what it goes. My 9-iron goes 180 in, my 8-iron goes 200, my 7 goes whatever, and as long as you trust those numbers and know that it is going to go that distance, it doesn’t really matter what club you’re using.
Q. What was working so well for you out there?
RORY McILROY: I putted a little better today than I did in Riviera last week, and I took advantage of how I drove the ball. I drove the ball well, took advantage of the par-5s, and yeah, I mean, I made one bogey. I misjudged the lie on the 4th hole there, but apart from that, just really solid on the golf course.
Q. Talk about the 11th.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a 4-iron from like 275. Yeah, it was really good. I was in between 4 and the rescue I’m carrying, but the wind just died down a touch and I was able to hit a good 4-iron in there.
Q. 275 with a 4-iron, just checking?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, that’s sort of what the 4-iron is going this week, which is nice, and it was really nice to hole this putt, see this putt go in early on. That’s one of the things I wasn’t doing last week at Riviera, so that was really nice.
Q. Last week kikuyu greens, this week kikuyu, as well. How much does that help you this week that you saw a little bit of this last week at Riviera?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it does. It prepared us. It’s a little softer here than it was in Riviera, especially at the weekend, but yeah, I went back to my old putter this week. I was trying a new putter last week that was 35 inches. Went back to my old one, which was 34, which I used all last year, and it worked pretty well last year, so going to keep it in the bag, and it worked really well today.
Q. When you switch putters, what are you looking for in that regard?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for me it was sometimes my right arm position can get a bit high, and the 35 with it being a bit longer, my right elbow sort of tucks in a little bit better. But it just — on right to left putts, it just felt as if the putter felt a little too long, but this was really nice, a little downhiller, a little right to left, and obviously a nice way to finish off the day. Yeah, happy to have the old faithful back in the bag, and it worked out today.
Q. Last year you played so well but you got beat. There’s two ways of not getting a victory on the PGA TOUR; you either lose or you get beat. Last year you got beat by Dustin Johnson. How do you come back to a place like this with good vibes knowing you played so well here in the past?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the first year we came here in ’17, I think I had the lead after 36. I didn’t end up winning but played well. Last year finished second, and then obviously off to a good start this year, so I like this place, and I like the golf course. I’ve always played pretty well at altitude for whatever reason that is, and yeah, as you said, I got beat last year, I didn’t lose. I played pretty well. Hopefully this year I can do one better.
Q. Big game, big field, No. 1 player in the world. How would you evaluate your performance?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was good. All aspects of my game were working pretty well today. I drove the ball well, and I took advantage of that. I think the big thing was I putted well. I didn’t putt so well at Riviera last week. Went back to my old putter, was trying a new one last week. It didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was comfortable on the greens today and holed some nice ones coming in today.
Q. A lot of players find poa annua greens difficult to putt on. What are you doing that’s allowing you to putt so well?
RORY McILROY: I think I just saw so many putts missed last week that it sort of — what else can happen? You’ve got to read it as well as you can and try and start it on your line, and if it goes in, it goes in. If it doesn’t — that was sort of the saving grace last week. I knew everyone was struggling on the greens. Yeah, I guess if a putt misses and you hit a good putt, then you just have to step up to the next one and have commitment. That’s what I did today. I had a really good attitude on the greens, and it paid off.
Q. What is it you like about this golf course?
RORY McILROY: I’ve always played well at altitude. I’ve played well in Crans over in Europe a few years. I finished second there last year, I obviously finished second here last year. I think I’ve got the altitude pretty figured out. I think I have a pretty good formula for it, and I can hit the ball a long way here, which helps, and then my distance control has been pretty good. That combined I’m not really guessing too much over things. Certainty goes a long way, especially around this place.
Q. Catching headlines yesterday around the world of golf and categorically saying that you were out with regards to the Premier Golf League. You explained yourself really well about your reasons behind it. We just really want to know about the timing. What was the thinking being the first player and saying what you have said around here?
RORY McILROY: Honestly, the chat has sort of been going since the end of last year, and it got to the point where I like to have certainty on things, and I sort of made a decision last week. I was like, you know what, what they’re proposing isn’t for me. I’d much rather pick and choose where I play and have that freedom and autonomy, as I said yesterday. I’d rather just get it off my chest and get it out there and tell everyone how I feel, and maybe that sways guys one way or another and makes them think a little bit, and that’s sort of what I was trying to do.
Mexico City, Mexico
February 20, 2020
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports