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July 15, 2014

Rory McIlroy


MIKE WOODCOCK: Good morning. We are very pleased to welcome two-time Major champion Rory McIlroy to the interview room this morning. Rory, you had a good last week at the Scottish Open, four rounds on a traditional links course. Do you think that sets you up and gives you some momentum coming into this Open Championship week?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm glad I played up in Scotland last week, definitely. I feel as prepared as I ever have coming into an Open Championship, just because four competitive rounds on links, and playing in some different conditions up there. Yeah, I mean, it was -- it was a good week in terms of preparation for this week at the Open. A little disappointed with how I finished. I mean, I had three good rounds, and obviously one not-too-good round. But the game feels in good shape. I feel like I got a lot of good links practice last week, which will hopefully help this week.

Q. Rory, is there a part of the course that you think will be particularly crucial on the weekend that might be the one that separates the winners from the losers?
RORY McILROY: I think the par-5s. I think the par-5s are a big key this week. If you look back at '06, I think Tiger played the par-5s in 14-under par. So the majority of his scoring was done on the par-5s. There are four really good opportunities to make birdies out here. Par-5s are going to be crucial. And then there's a couple of tough holes on the back nine, if you can just sort of make par there you're going to do well. Yeah, par-5s, I think, there's a few birdie opportunities on this course, and you want to try to make as many birdies as you can on those holes.

Q. How much do you expect to use your 2-iron this week?
RORY McILROY: I'll use it a bit. I'll use it on the first two holes, definitely. I think it will be an important club. I might use it like four or five times during the round. I'll probably use a 2-iron just as much as I'll use the driver. I'll hit the driver four or five times and the 2-iron about the same.

Q. How much do you use it the rest of the year?
RORY McILROY: I usually carry a 5-wood instead of a 2-iron. But I just think for this terrain and the conditions and the wind, the 2-iron just goes that little bit lower, and there's a bit of a better flight on it, which is obviously better for these conditions.

Q. You were here for a few days before you went to Scotland. How much has the course changed since then? And what do you think that means or how might it even change more in the next two days?
RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I haven't been on the course yet. I'm going to go out after here. But from what I've heard it's still pretty lush. It was quite green and quite soft the weekend before the Scottish. And then from what I've heard you guys saying yesterday that it's still pretty soft. But, you know, I don't think they're expecting much rain the next couple of days. I know there's some rain coming in the weekend. It might firm up a little bit. But definitely a different test than what the guys faced in '06.

Q. With pretty easy access from Northern Ireland, you must be hoping for quite a bit of home support?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it is. It is pretty handy to get to. You can get here on the boat. It's a quick hop over on the plane. I'm sure there will be quite a lot of home support this week, which will be nice.

Q. Are the problems that you've had on your second rounds, are they starting to mess with your mind at all? Seems to be a recurring problem, doesn't it?
RORY McILROY: Yes, it does. One that I'd like to try to stop this week. I think it is. It's more I just got it into my head. And I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday. I think I just got into my head. It's something that I need to go out and pretend like it's a Thursday again or go out and just -- I don't know, but it's more going out and thinking about it and really trying to get off it to a solid start instead of just going out and trying -- just play. Just play and play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way. So hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores.

Q. When you were at the Congressional, are you somebody who needs to see a course before you think you can produce your best golf?
RORY McILROY: No, not really. I won at Wentworth, and everybody knows it wouldn't be my favorite course in the world. I don't think it -- I think it always helps whenever you see a course and you're really comfortable with it and it fits your eye. But I don't think it really matters if you play well in any given week. Most of the guys in this field can win on any golf course; the guys are that good.

Q. In terms of your form, is that something else that never seemed to bother you? You can bounce back quite quickly, can't you?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. It just seems like I've just been caught out this year by a bad stretch of holes every tournament. And I shot 3-over for the front 9 at Wentworth on the Friday. But recovered shooting 4-under on the back nine, and being able to shoot something under par. So if I can just eliminate that. And I think it's easier to eliminate some of the bad stuff than it is to try and find some of the good stuff, because the good stuff is in there, obviously, with some of the low scores I'm shooting. I just try to need to keep it a little tighter when things aren't 100 percent on the golf course.

Q. How do you think you've evolved as a links player now compared to perhaps in your amateur career?
RORY McILROY: I think because I played so much links golf in my amateur days, I was probably more suited, more -- I was used to playing the shots that you need on links courses a little bit more. And then when you -- I guess when you go on Tour and you play, especially you play the majority of your golf in the U.S., you start to neglect some of the shots that you might need in conditions like this. So if anything, I don't think I've evolved that much as a links player, but I've been trying, especially the last few weeks, to play some shots, really practice hard on some of the shots that I might need this week. But hopefully I will evolve as a links player and go forward and improve. And The Open Championship is a tournament that's very important to me. And my record in it hasn't been as good as I'd like. I'd love to improve on that.

Q. We are really excited to see you play here. I had a question about the Japanese player, Hideki Matsuyama. How do you feel about him?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure, I think Hideki is a very good player. It was great to see him break through at Memorial there a few weeks ago. I've played with him a number of times and he's very impressive. He's a great ball-striker, a very good putter, very aggressive putter. And he impressed me this time last year when I played with him the first two rounds. So, yeah, it seems like Japan are producing some good, young players. It's great to see. I'm pretty friendly with Ryo Ishikawa as well. Good to see him play a little better, too. Looks like Japanese golf is in good hands.

Q. Do you think it's possible for a player to win here again the way Tiger did in '06 by just laying back from all the trouble or are you forced to take on some?
RORY McILROY: I think with the course conditions, I don't think it's going to be an option to hit iron off every tee box. I think you're going to have to be slightly aggressive off the tee, and take some things on. Especially, as I said earlier, we've got four par-5s that are all reachable. If you take a driver off the tee. Even 10 is probably reachable without having to hit driver. But the ball is not going to run too much on the fairways. It's going to run little bit. But everyone is different. But I feel like you've got to be slightly aggressive off the tees here this week, just because it's not as firm as it was back in '06.

Q. You were understandably a bit fragile earlier this year with what happened off the course. Are you in a better place at the moment than you were a few months ago?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm just focusing on my golf at the moment, and making that the No. 1 priority. So, yeah, I mean am I in a better place? I'm happy with everything that's going on. As I said, I'm just really focused on my golf. I've got a big stretch of tournaments coming up. I've got obviously this week and then go back over to the States and World Golf Championship and then the PGA and all the FedExCup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. So there's a lot to keep me busy and just looking forward to that stretch of golf coming up. So yeah, I'm happy.

Q. Going back to Wentworth, on the final day, it was really, really tight at the top, and you kept your nerve and your form as others fell away. Will you use that experience as confidence if you're in the same situation again this Sunday?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. That's been the real pleasing thing about even if I haven't won as much as I'd like to the last couple of years or 18 months. When I have got myself into contention, I've really played well, whether it was down in Australia with Adam Scott at the Australian Open at the end of '13 or coming down the stretch at Wentworth a couple of months ago. Disappointing at Honda Classic where I didn't quite finish it off, but was still able to produce some shots down the stretch when I needed to. Yeah, it's been one of the pleasing things about my game the last sort of 12 to 18 months. If I have given myself a chance to win a tournament, I've played well under the pressure. So hopefully I'll get myself in a position like that again this week.

Q. This is your first Major this year that Tiger will be competing. How important is it for the game of golf to have Tiger back and competing?
RORY McILROY: It's important. Tiger Woods has been the face of our game for 15 or -- nearly 20 years, I guess. So to have him playing, have him back is important and obviously to have him competing. It's a good opportunity, as well, for some of the other guys to stand up and be counted and win tournaments, either in his absence or if he's coming back and isn't quite back to 100 percent form. But it's great to see him back. It's great to see him healthy for a start. He always adds a lot of buzz and excitement for the tournament. It's great to have him here this week.

Q. Your close friend Nadia Forde was involved in a car cash yesterday. Do you believe she's okay and have you had a chance to talk to her?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I saw that she was. And, yeah, obviously if anyone's in a car crash, you're glad to see that they're okay. But, yeah, obviously it was a pretty scary incident. Yeah, everything's good.

Q. Just what would this mean to win -- obviously you're after your third Major, but what would it mean to win the home one?
RORY McILROY: It would be very special. I remember growing up watching The Open on TV and watching Faldo win. Watching even like Darren having a chance at Troon, I guess. Watching a lot of the Opens growing up, and even going to a couple of them to watch when I was a kid, it's special. It's the only one played outside of the States, as well. And it's played on links. It's the oldest and probably has the richest history of all of them. It would be great to put the name on the Claret Jug one day. If I was to win my third Major here, it would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam, as well. Not many golfers have done that, either. So it would be special. It would be very important. Hopefully by the time I hang up my boots, I'd love to be able to get my name on that trophy.

Q. I see Padraig Harrington describe Tiger's win in 2006 as Tiger's best Major win at that time, his best performance. Would you rate it that way? Do you remember watching it? Were you in the North of Ireland that week?
RORY McILROY: No, I was actually on holiday in Spain with my parents. I just played the European youth's tournament in Sotogrande. Would I class it as his best of all time? I'd probably go 2000 at Pebble Beach, winning by 15. That was probably a little more impressive. But I remember watching it and I remember how good he was down the stretch. I remember Chris DiMarco making a run at him on the back nine, and Tiger just being able to make the putts he needed to to keep him at bay. But there's been 14 of them and, they've all been pretty impressive.

Q. Were you fascinated by the fact that even at that age that he left the driver in the bag?
RORY McILROY: Not really. If you don't need a driver, there's no reason to hit it. He played the course the way he felt comfortable playing the course, and he obviously has the talent and was good enough to be able to make it work.

Q. What is the best Major win of all time that you've seen in your lifetime, what one would you say, yeah, that was it?
RORY McILROY: I guess either it's Tiger at Pebble or Tiger at the Masters in '97. That was the one that -- that was his first Major. And that was the one that I remember watching. There's been so many unbelievable moments and huge putts that have been held and whatever. I count myself there as being pretty impressive (laughter). But, yeah, either '97 at Augusta or 2000 at Pebble were probably the two most impressive Major wins.

Q. Is there a tendency or danger of coming (inaudible.)
RORY McILROY: No, I mean I think that the driver, it is one of the best clubs in my bag and I do hit it well, and when I'm on, I can take advantage of that length and make golf courses pretty short for myself. But there's different ways to play different courses. I'll always try and play the hole the best way I think possible, and whether that's taking driver and taking it over a corner or laying back because I just don't feel comfortable hitting driver. You just to make your game plan so that you're comfortable with it and you don't deviate from it. Okay, maybe if they move the tees around one day you might want to have a go or lay back or whatever, but I wouldn't say I'm addicted to the length that I hit it. Yeah, I guess I hit it long off the tee, but not always straight. So I'd rather hit it 290, 300 in the fairway every time. That would make life much easier.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Rory, thank you very much for your time this morning, and best of luck this week.
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