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July 9, 2014
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Welcome back to the Scottish Open, five years, I believe.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's been a while.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Give us an update. Big couple of weeks out there. How is it looking out there?
RORY McILROY: It's been great. I haven't been out on the golf course, but from what I've heard and what I've seen, it looks in great condition, and it looks like we get even a tougher test this week than next week at Hoylake.
I was down there at the weekend, and you know, coming to this place, I think it will be good for some of the guys, because it's definitely not a gentle introduction to links golf this year.
I'm looking forward to it and it should be a great challenge. I think we are going to get a bit of everything this week. Looks like a couple of days are nice and a couple of days aren't so nice. Proper links conditions and a proper links tournament.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: I suppose that's why you're here.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, and not just because of that. I think The Scottish Open in its own right is a very big event and assembled possibly one of the strongest field the it's ever had. You know, with most guys with an eye towards next week, but just to play some competitive golf on links is going to be great.
Yeah, I think I'm fourth in The Race to Dubai. So it will be nice to contend here this week and push up there a little bit, try to get to the top of those rankings and go into The Open obviously next week with a bit of momentum.
Q. Welcome to Aberdeen. What are you expecting this week?
RORY McILROY: As I said at the start there, I'm expecting a tough test. It looks like it's going to be a tough golf course this week. And you know, I don't really know. I'd love to say I expect to get into contention and see how my game feels under pressure on this sort of golf course, but I'm just going to go out there and try and play the best that I can and just get used to playing a bit of links golf I think.
But yeah, I feel like my game's in good shape. I've been practising a lot the last sort of week or so on some of the shots that I might face this week and next and getting more and more comfortable with those, trying to keep the ball flight down a little bit. Yeah, we'll see how it goes.
Q. Just wondering, traveling the world and playing the same courses year after year, how exciting and almost how dramatic, if you like, is it to come to a new course that you've not played and almost try and get‑‑ I would not say back into rediscovering the joy of playing golf, but almost to enjoy the thrill of the unexpected.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely, you know, as you said, we do go to the same golf courses week‑in, week‑out for the most part. Even though the last few weeks, I've played courses that I've never played before, Pinehurst being one of them, and Fota Island at The Irish Open and here.
But it is; it makes you a little more concentrated in your practise round or Pro‑Am just to figure out where you need to leave the ball on certain greens or what lines you need to take off tees.
That's one of the fun things about playing new courses is trying to figure out how to play them and what the best way is to play them and sort of figure out a strategy. Going to go out there in the Pro‑Am this afternoon after this and try and do that.
Q. Obviously it's been a few years since you last played The Scottish Open. To some golfers, they see this kind of links experience as essential preparation to The Open Championship; others don't. Where do you stand on that? And does the fact that you're playing this year ‑‑ do you feel to have a crack at The Open, you need a stern links test the week before?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, that's the reason I'm playing The Scottish Open this year. I missed out on Castle Stuart the last few years because I didn't really feel like it provided a true links test. I mean, it's‑‑ even though I haven't been, I watched on TV, it was quite an American‑style golf course, big, wide fairways, big undulating greens. I didn't think it would prepare you as good as maybe going and playing some of the other top links courses there are in the area.
So that's why I sort of took the week off before The Open the last few years and played links golf at home in Northern Ireland or went and prepared at whatever course the Open was at that year.
But now that the Scottish Open is here at Royal Aberdeen and it's a true links test, I think a lot of guys have came to the realization that to play competitive golf and to play it on a course like this, could really benefit you going into next week.
Q. How much do you think Phil opened up people's eyes to maybe the benefits? He did not have a great Open record before he won last year, and also, quickly, just when you grew up, where you played the most, was it mostly links golf where you grew up?
RORY McILROY: No, it wasn't. It wasn't mostly links golf where I grew up. I grew up on a parkland golf course and a lot of the Amateur events I played from sort of 14 to 18 were on links courses.
But Phil definitely opened the eyes of a lot of guys I think. Me personally, I played with Phil the first two rounds at Muirfield, and I could see he was just‑‑ he was ready. He was sharp. He played a competitive week the last week. He had won obviously but he just looked like he was ready for the links challenge and everything that it was going to present us with.
That's when I sort of‑‑ even back to this time last year, I was sort of thinking, you know, I think I might play the Scottish next year. I think that's not just me. You look at the likes of Justin Rose, even though Luke has played‑‑ bumped into Rickie Fowler this morning at breakfast, Jimmy Walker. There's a few guys that I think Phil has really influenced to come over and play some links golf, competitive links golf, before The Open.
Q. I would imagine an awful lot of people have been impressed how you've handled yourself over the last couple of months, you've dealt with a lot, and you won the BMW PGA Championship. What have you learned about yourself the last couple months?
RORY McILROY: I don't know really. Just sort of going day by day, living my life. You know, the PGA was great. It was great to get a win. This year I felt like I had been playing well enough to get that win and haven't quite put my foot through the door but then I was able to do it there.
But yeah, I don't know, I'm sort of spending a little bit more time back home. Stayed with my parents back home in Northern Ireland which was nice and played a bit of links golf at Royal County Down. Yeah, I'm just‑‑ as I said, living my life. Haven't really thought about it that much. Just sort of focused on my golf and trying to play well and practise.
There's a big second half of the season coming up, and there's a lot to play for, obviously two majors, FedExCup Playoffs are coming up, Ryder Cup obviously back here in September, October time and I'm up there in Race to Dubai. I want to try and win that again, also.
So just really back to focusing on that and trying to practise and prepare really well to give myself the best chance to play well in some of these big tournaments coming up.
Q. How have you chilled out away from the actual golf?
RORY McILROY: I went on holiday after The Irish Open with a few of my mates. Seven of us went to Ibiza for five days which was really nice. Then got back and really just wanted to get back into it.
So I had a really good week of practise and training last week and really that sort of rejuvenated me. I sort of needed it. I felt a little flat playing six tournaments in eight weeks. So those five days away were nice.
Got back into the gym and on to the range and on to the golf course the last sort of nine or ten days, and it's been really good.
Q. Purely as a tennis fan, did you go to Wimbledon at all to watch the tennis?
RORY McILROY: No, I didn't. I obviously watched a lot of it on TV and listened to the final on the way up from Hoylake here on Sunday. Actually just got to Archer Field for the final set. Yeah, it was an unbelievable final like it always is. Novak actually went to Ibiza the week after The French Open, so hopefully‑‑ well, I went to Ibiza, I can do the same as what he's done, win The Open next week, we'll see (laughter).
Q. You mentioned plenty to look forward to but how important is it to focus on this one event, try and win it and move on to the next one?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I did an interview on the 18th green and the Claret Jug was behind me. And Sam Torrance was in the hospitality thing, and he goes, "It's right behind you."
And I said, "I'll focus on that next week."
It is, it's really important to really focus here. You always, especially the week before a major, you've always got one eye on it in some regard but you're focused on Sunday afternoon, if you're coming down the back nine, you have a chance to win this tournament, you're not thinking about anything else but trying to win The Scottish Open.
It would be a great title to win. I felt‑‑ so the of felt like it was like a couple of months ago to win in front of not quite hope fans but fans that were really supportive. It would be great to have that same feeling again this week.
Q. It would be great to get a run of victories together, as well, and get back up those World Rankings?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it would. The World Rankings at the minute are so bunched, they really are so bunched, and a couple of good weeks by anyone in that Top‑10, you can really shoot up them. So you know, a lot of big events and a lot of points to play for the next few weeks, and yeah, hopefully get myself up near the top again.
Q. This is Richie Ramsay’s home course, have you spoken to him at all about it during amateur days?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I know they played the Senior Open here and Walker Cup, as well, didn't they? So I don't know much about it. JP walked it the last couple of days.
Actually I wanted to go play a few holes last night. I practiced over at Trump during the day and wanted to come out, because it's light until like midnight up here, isn't it. So I wanted to go out and play a few holes later on but they close the course at four and didn't get a chance to go and play.
I'll get a good look at it today but from what I've heard and what I've seen, the course looks fantastic. It's in great shape obviously and I think it will really provide a real strong test this week.
Q. And about this Ibiza holiday, conjures all sorts of images in people's minds. But is it difficult for a guy of your profile to go away on a lads holiday and just relax?
RORY McILROY: We didn't do the way a normal lads holiday (laughter) we had a nice boat and we were staying on that and we would go out to sea every day, so it wasn't quite your typical lads trip. But it was nice, really nice just to get away from things for a while. Had all my mates there. It was nice. Obviously we still did a few of the things that lads do but it was needed.
Q. Rickie was in here talking about missing mates weekends now that he's a professional golfer. Do you miss having those mates weekends more often?
RORY McILROY: A few a year does me to be honest. Just doing what I'm supposed to do which is be a professional golfer and focus and practise hard. That's exactly what happened, I took that week off and as soon as I got back home again, I just wanted to go and practise and get ready for links golf and play little shots. We had Steve MacGregor over for the week and was in the gym every morning. It just rejuvenated me in some way. I don't feel like I miss out on anything by being a professional golfer. If anything, I have a better life because of it.
Q. Would it be foolish to write Tiger off winning the Claret Jug next week?
RORY McILROY: We have all witnessed what Tiger has been able to do over his career, whether that's come back from injury and win, come back from any sort of off‑course stuff and win. I mean, win the U.S. Open on one leg, really on one leg. Is it foolish for people to write him off? I would say so. I wouldn't sit up here‑‑ if he's playing and he's competing, he's got as good a chance as any.
Yeah, I think it would probably be‑‑ give him time I guess. I'm sure he wants to start to play, and he's missed a good chunk of the season and wants to at least get into the FedExCup Playoffs and try and push for a Ryder Cup spot maybe.
But yeah, we'll see what happens next week. But you know, I wouldn't write him off completely. I still think he can do things that we have never seen from any other golfer. We'll see what happens.
Q. Are you surprised Tiger is coming back so quickly to play a major?
RORY McILROY: I was surprised to see he played at Congressional, but I saw stuff that he was planning to come back for The Open. Yeah, if it was me, would I want start back at a major, under that amount of pressure? But he's done it for so many years and knows how to deal with it well. If he feels like he's 100 per cent and healthy to play and I read some of the comments from a couple weeks ago, said that he felt great and he hit some good drives. So if he feels healthy, his doctors give him the go ahead, then why not.
Q. You said you're looking forward to playing a couple of days in wind and rain; do you mean that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a challenge. You've got to relish the challenge. I'm trying to adopt more of that mind‑set, especially for these couple of weeks a year. It's not like I haven't played well on links courses before and in links conditions. Just getting back to that. And I think the more you play, the more sort of used to it you are, because back when I was 15, 16, 17, playing links golf all the time, it wasn't anything to putt your wet gear on and play and sort of‑‑ where now, we're so spoiled playing in great conditions. Any time there's a bit of rain in America, it's a thunderstorm so you go in any way.
Yeah, it's nice to get back and play in some conditions like this.
Q. A few years ago, The Scottish Open was played at Carnoustie and a lot of the players were mentally worn outgoing into the open. Do you feel there's any danger of that?
RORY McILROY: I think if conditions got really bad‑‑ I think physically it would just be a tough week. It would just be a long slog out there with the wind and the rain and everything. But you know, take the Monday off of the Open and then get back at it Tuesday, Wednesday, you should be fine. I don't think that's going to be a concern for anyone this week.
Q. On a slightly different tack, what do you make of this eternal fascination in certain sectors of the media with your social life?
RORY McILROY: I don't know, I'm obviously not playing well enough, people don't want to talk about my golf.
It's just going to be like that. It is what it is. Look, I'm‑‑ yeah, again, I just live my life and people can say or write whatever they want. I'm very single and very happy at the minute, that's all I can say.
Q. What was the last really hard shot you pulled off under pressure?
RORY McILROY: Maybe the last tee shot on the 18th at Wentworth was a big shot for me, because I knew having to ‑‑ knowing that I needed to make two birdies coming down the last two holes, it's not really the easiest drive for me to hit like a hard cut. So to be able to pull that off was very satisfying.
Q. Does the thrill of that ever diminish?
RORY McILROY: No, never. Never. Not when you turn around‑‑ like I would say to JP, okay, I'm going to do this or I'm going to cut it off here, see the shot and tell him what I see, and then all of a sudden you stand up and you do it. You turn around and hand him the club back and you're like, yeah. (Laughter) that never gets old.
Q. Something similar. Rickie was saying that his Saturday round at St. George's convinced him he could play links golf. You played with him that day, didn't you?
RORY McILROY: Did I? Maybe. I'm not sure.
Q. Was there ever a round that you played in really foul conditions that you look back on and thought, yeah, this is the sort of thing I'm going to have to play to win Opens?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there was actually quite a bad day at The Irish Open at Portrush back in 2012, might have been the second or third day and I played pretty well in those conditions. And I was playing the shots‑‑ it was more to do with the shots I needed to play for those conditions rather than the actual score, and I was very comfortable with the shots I was hitting and the way I was sort of playing my way around the golf course. That's when I sort of thought, well, this is what I need to do to play links golf the right way in those conditions, because I was saying earlier, like you get a links course in benign conditions and you can just play your normal game, you can go out and‑‑ because that's the real biggest defense of links courses is the weather and the wind conditions. If you get a flat calm day and sunshine, you play it normally, you can shoot a low number.
Q. You mentioned this week could actually be harder than next week in terms of the course you play. Did you actually find Hoylake pretty straightforward?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there is some thick rough. There's been a lot of growth. It's lush. The greens are soft and very green. Fairways are pretty similar. But I think they are going to get a spell of good weather leading up to the Open and hopefully it will get a bit firmer as this week and next week goes.
Relatively flat fairways. Big, flat greens for the most part. Some run‑offs on some holes. But compared to some other Open courses, relatively simple. I think the big thing is keep it out of the fairway bunkers. If you can keep it out of the fairway bunkers, you'll do okay.
Q. Do you think it's a better fit than maybe some of the others?
RORY McILROY: I think so. I think so. It's quite straightforward off the tee. As I said, the strategy is easy. Just don't hit it in the bunkers, and if you can do that, even if that means laying yourself back a little bit more; I've a 2‑iron in the bag I feel will be a big key for me this week and next. I'll be hitting that a lot off the tees. If I can keep that in play and on the fairway, then I feel like I have a decent chance.
Q. Have you taken some lead from the way Tiger won there?
RORY McILROY: I'm still going to hit maybe four or five drivers at Hoylake, but‑‑ and conditions were so different. It was like hitting, the ball was like bouncing down a road on the fairways in 2006.
It's going to be a little different. Still, it's just all about putting your ball in the right positions and as I said, avoiding those‑‑ and there's some thick spots of rough on the course, so avoiding that and avoiding those fairway bunkers. Whether that means hitting 2‑iron off the tee or driver sometimes. If I can just do that, and anyone else can do that, then they will have a good chance.
Q. What's the best bit of advice you've had about having to live your life in a goldfish bowl?
RORY McILROY: Be yourself. I mean, I don't see any other way to live your life than just to be yourself. That's not really advice about living in the public eye or in the spotlight. That's just advice about living your life in general. Be yourself and do the things that make you happy and that's really it.
Q. What's your favourite hole in Open Championship golf and why?
RORY McILROY: 17 at St. Andrews, the road hole, yeah. It's a great hole. It's a bit quirky having to hit over the hotel, but the second shot‑‑ I could hit that second shot all day. It's awesome into that green.
Q. Your conversation with Jack that you mentioned at the U.S. Open, was there anything that you specifically talked about The Open championship there? Did he give you specific advice?
RORY McILROY: Not particularly, no. It was more to do with‑‑ there was a bit of golf in there and he was giving me a little swing lesson at one point (laughter) but apart from that, it was more to do with just if we talked anything about golf, it was probably more about strategy and about how to handle yourself on the course, rather than any particular tournament or anything like that.
And then we talked a lot about like brand and a little bit of the business side of golf, as well, maybe just trying to venture into one or two different things. It was a very beneficial conversation, anyway.
Q. I was out there on Sunday and saw you‑‑ he got most of the questions I was going to ask you‑‑ did you hit a couple balls off the tee or‑‑
RORY McILROY: I varied it. There was some holes that I would start with one club and then I would go to another club and hit a ball. There's a few holes there where you've got different options if you want to lay it short of bunkers or you maybe want to go over bunkers. I think on the yardage book, we sort of plodded out maybe a couple of spots on the fairway you could hit it into if, you're feeling confident and you want to get it down there or lay it back a little bit.
But yeah, I think the course gives you options. It seems like on a lot of holes, there's a set of bunkers, say, 270, 280, and there's a set of bunkers at like 310, 320, so you want to lay short of it and challenge them. There's a few options.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks very much as always and good luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports