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August 12, 2015

Rory McIlroy

Kohler, Wisconsin, USA

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to the 97th PGA Championship here at Whistling Straits. I would like to thank Rory McIlroy for carving out a little bit of time to spend with us here today. Rory, welcome to your 7th PGA Championship. But let's go back one night. Can you tell us a little bit about the Champions Dinner and what was on the menu for you.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think one of the cool things about being a past champion of this event is being able to go to the Champions Dinner every year. Luckily I was able to host last night, being the defending champion. So, yeah, it was a fun night. I went with sort of a Wisconsin theme type meal. There's a few things in there from the local area. But tried to make sure that there was something in there for everyone to eat. I didn't want anyone going hungry.

But yeah it was good fun. It's always a, obviously, always an honor to be able to host, that means you're the defending champion and to be able to do that for the second time meant a lot to me. And even just to be here to host the tournament, I was very grateful for that.

So, it was a wonderful night to get most of the champions together and a nice sort of way to kick off the week.

JOHN DEVER: Beyond your two championships here in the last three years, you've played over time better in the PGA Championship than any of the other four Majors. Is there any secret to that or why do you think that is?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, my record at the PGA Championship has been the best out of all the Majors. I think more than anything else the golf courses that we have played in this tournament have been set up in such a way that it suits my type of game and it really rewards good driving. If you drive the ball well, I drove the ball really well at Kiawah, drove the ball well last year at Valhalla but even before that, you go to places like Hazeltine and back here in 2010 and even somewhere like Oak Hill in 2013, places that put a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway and hitting it quite a long way to take advantage of that.

So I think it's usually a fair test of golf, somewhere within 10 to 15-under par usually wins this tournament. So it's not like it prevents the guys from making birdies, but it still penalizes you if you don't hit good shots and I think that's testament to the PGA of America and obviously to Kerry Haigh who sets the golf course up. I think he does a fantastic job.

JOHN DEVER: Questions?

Q. When you were flying here, were you more concerned about your ankle or your form? And how is your form right now?
RORY McILROY: I guess more -- yeah, I guess more worried about the flight in terms of the ankle, just to see how -- if it would swell up at all. But luckily it didn't. And even -- it was a nine hour flight from Portugal to here and we had to stop in Vermont just to clear immigration and customs, so it was nice to get off the plane, move around a little bit. I've been using a couple of machines to compress it and ice it. So I was able to take advantage of that on the plane as well. So, kept the inflammation down to a minimum. When I got off the flight I was good to go.

Q. In terms of the injury and how it happened, a lot of people seem to think you should be sitting at home doing jigsaw puzzles instead of playing football with your mates. How do you balance trying to live a normal life in comparison to what you do?
RORY McILROY: Any time I go back home it's one of the things that I regularly do with my friends is play football. That was like the fourth or fifth time in a 10-day period where I had played football. I enjoy it. We all enjoy it. And it's unfortunate that it happened. It can happen walking off a tee box. It can happen falling off a curb on the side of the street. It can happen doing anything. And unfortunately, my foot just got stuck on the turf and went over on it. And I was out for a few weeks.

But luckily it wasn't -- it could have been much worse. It could have required surgery. Luckily, that wasn't the case. And I've done a lot of rehab and a lot of hard work to get back as quickly as I could. I was always going to do that. I wasn't trying to focus on any one event to try and get back for, I just wanted to try and get back as quickly as possible and it just so happened that this is the event that I felt a hundred percent ready to come back and play.

Q. Are you going to stop doing what you've been do you think in terms of football?
RORY McILROY: Not at all. I might take some precautionary measures next time. Because I rolled my right ankle at the end of 2013. Obviously I did it a little bit worse here to my left, but maybe wear ankle braces on both ankles. But apart from that, I'm not going to stop doing what I do. I enjoy that part of my life, I enjoy having that normality in my life, something that I've done since I was a kid and I won't stop doing that, no.

Q. Relating to that, how serious did you fear the injury was when you first did it?
RORY McILROY: I thought I broke it. Because as soon as I went over on it I heard like a snap. Obviously that was the ligament that snapped. And then as soon as I got back -- as well as that, I tore the joint capsule, so that's why it got -- I looked down and 30 seconds later it got the size of a tennis ball, basically because all the fluid came out of the joint capsule, so it just filled up.

So there was that and then when I got the scan that night as well it showed that obviously I totally ruptured one ligament and I had a grade two in the other. And if that had been a total rupture in that then that would have required surgery. So luckily that wasn't the case.

But I mean it was -- for as injuries go, it could have been worse. I was lucky that I didn't do more damage and thankfully after five weeks of hard work and rehab I'm back playing.

Q. So this week are you on pain killers, is it still hurting? Are you strapped up?
RORY McILROY: No, I mean I went for a 20-minute run this morning. I've been basically progressing and working my way up to it. I was going for sort of an hour to two hour walks maybe two weeks after it happened. So sort of the week of the Open Championship I was out walking again. Still had the ankle brace on, but then whenever I was rehabbing it, in the gym, I would take the ankle brace off and try to basically strengthen it up as much as I could. That ligament that I ruptured, I don't have that anymore. So I've only got two ligaments on the outside of my ankle instead of three. That ligament is basically just scar tissue now.

So it's just about trying to strengthen the ankle and maintain as much integrity in it as possible. So for the rest of my career it's going to be a matter of maybe doing a few extra single leg stuff in the gym and rubber cushion stuff just to maintain the integrity of the ankle, but it's really not anything to be concerned about in the long-term.

Q. For a year or two there you were pretty clearly the man and then there was everybody else. Are you surprised at how quickly it's become Rory and Jordan? And then secondly, what do you feel about playing with him the next couple days?
RORY McILROY: I mean I'm not surprised at all that the narrative has went from me to Jordan and to both of us being here. Jordan has played phenomenal golf for the last 12 months. And even to win the first two Majors of the year, have a great chance at St. Andrews, he's taking up a lot of the limelight this year which is deservedly so. I mean it's one of the best years of golf that we have seen in a long, long time.

I guess as well, it's such, we live in such a world that everything's so reactionary and everything happens so quickly that a year ago after I won this tournament it was the Rory era and then Jordan wins the Masters and it's the Jordan era. And eras last about six months these days instead of 20 years. But it's just the way the world is. With social media and everything having to be instant, it's the world that we live in.

And I am looking forward to being a part of that group this year. I was a part of it last year, being in the Major winners group and Jordan winning two of the Majors this year, obviously it gets me back into that grouping on Thursday afternoon. So it's something I'm excited about. I knew I wasn't going to have a low key return to the game and this definitely isn't it.

Q. Given the short-term attention span or the media sea that you were talking about just now, could you describe what it was like to be so far removed from the British Open and this World Golf Championship event, when you're the defending or the reigning champion at both?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I honestly thought it was going to be harder than it was. I thought I was going to miss it more than I did. But if anything, having to sit those tournaments out, especially The Open Championship going back to St. Andrews, which is probably my favorite venue in the world, it gave me a huge sense of perspective. When you're playing week in, week out and you're thinking about winning these tournaments, you get so wrapped up in what you're doing and your own little life and your own little bubble, sometimes you forget there's a bigger wider world out there.

No matter whether you win a golf tournament or not, people are going to get up on Monday morning and go to work and do their daily things and honestly not a lot of people care. It's like, you know, obviously it means a lot to you and it means a lot to people involved in this game and in golf, and in sport in general, I guess, but it just gave me a big sense of perspective that even though it does mean so much to me and so much to a few other people, in the big scheme of things, it's not life or death. And that's something that I can bring in with me this week, knowing that, okay, it's a big deal, but no matter what happens this week, only a very small percentage of the population really care.

Q. To piggyback off that question, you said when you won the match play that you were kind of motivated by what Jordan had done at the Masters. Are you now motivated by the season he's put together and the gap he's closed in the world rankings?
RORY McILROY: Of course. Whenever you see someone put together a season like this, of course you become motivated. But as well you're inspired. I think the performances that he put in at the Masters and the U.S. Open and even at St. Andrews when he was so close, you know, they were inspirational performances. That's something to really, for him to be proud of, especially how he handled everything at St. Andrews going into all the Grand Slam talk and everything. He handled it so well. I think even though I'm not that much older I think if I was -- he was 21 at that point -- I probably wouldn't have handled it quite as well as he did.

But yeah, it's motivation. Seeing guys like that, seeing Rickie win The PLAYERS the way he did. Again inspirational performance but again gives me some motivation to go out and try to play even better.

Q. You had two wins going into the U.S. Open. You're coming off injury coming into the PGA. How would you describe the difference in your sort of level of expectations based on that?
RORY McILROY: Expectation levels are the same. I have played quite a number of rounds of golf. I've been practicing for over three weeks getting my game ready, getting my game sharp. I feel like I'm playing well. Hitting it well on the range. I've taken that onto the course in practice rounds and from there it's being able to take it from there into tournament play with a card in your hand.

But I expect to play well. I don't see any reason why I can't bring the sort of form that I've shown in practice rounds and on the range to the tee on Thursday afternoon.

Q. Quickly back to Jordan. On that head-to-head with the eight rounds you guys have played together, the fact is you clearly have been the better player. 22 shots better. Do you attribute that to you simply being the more comfortable of the two or what do you point that to with that lead?
RORY McILROY: I really don't know if you can look into that at all. I guess the eight rounds that we have played together, a few of those came before he has done what he has done this year. We played together at THE PLAYERS for the first two days and he struggled. And it happens. We're all going to have bad days and it just so happened that Jordan had a couple of off days whenever we were playing together.

But I really don't think you can look too much into the head-to-head when guys are playing together, especially in the first two rounds. Okay, maybe if it was a final round and we were in contention to win you can maybe look into it a bit more, but first two rounds, somewhere else, I don't -- I wouldn't put too much importance on that.

Q. How much practice were you able to get in with your boot on and what kind of things did you work on?
RORY McILROY: Just hit a few putts, it was sort of more just to try and keep some sort of feel in my hands. Hitting some putts. Because obviously with the boot my left foot was a little more elevated than my right. So a lot of my weight was on my right side. But more just to get a feeling in my hands and just keep that same feeling of gripping a golf club, of feeling what it was like.

So I mean I got some practice in, but whether it was beneficial or not that's probably another story. But I was always thinking about trying to keep some sort of feeling in my hands for the golf club. So that's why I started to putt and chip a little bit in the boot.

Q. Regardless of rank, just from your perspective solely, who is the best player in the world?
RORY McILROY: I mean if you were to go by this year, you would have to say Jordan. I would say if you go over the last two years, I would say it's probably a toss up between Jordan and myself. That's a hard one. It's all -- okay, we have got the rankings there, but it's all a matter of opinion. People are going to place importance on different aspects of the game and if people place more importance on some of the parts of the game that I'm stronger at, then they might say that I am. But if some people place more importance on some of the attributes that he is a little stronger than me then they would say he is. So it's all a matter of opinion at this point.

Q. Your opinion.
RORY McILROY: I'll tell you at the end of the week.


Q. At any point was there anything you were able to do during your down time that you felt made you a better player for this particular week?
RORY McILROY: I guess that I probably dedicated a little bit more time to my short game in those first few weeks because I wasn't able to make full swings. We went from putting to chipping to pitch shots and wedges and then just worked back from there. It was all a stage of progression. But I guess if anything I dedicated a little bit more time than I usually do to my short game and my putting, so hopefully that pays off.

Q. At what point did you think it was realistic that you could play in this tournament?
RORY McILROY: I had to -- I played 72 holes walking in Portugal last week and once I completed that, that was basically like my fitness test. Four days in a row, 72 holes, playing with no pain, no swelling, no anything like that. Then we knew that, okay, you're ready to go. And if I hadn't have passed that test, I wouldn't have been here. We did contemplate maybe trying to do that at the Bridgestone, but doing that in front of guys in the media, the eyes of the world, it probably wasn't a great idea. So to do it behind closed doors and to see how it reacted, we thought that was a better idea. Once I was able to complete that then I knew it was the right decision to get on the plane and come here.

Q. When you did suffer the injury there seemed to be outside medical opinion that it could take anything up to 12 weeks to heal. I wondered whether you were given that sort of diagnosis as well and whether there was any temptation just to write this year off?
RORY McILROY: Not at all. It was a six to eight week injury, that's what it was from the very start. But with the advancements of medical science, the advancements of physiotherapy, everything, I mean 10 years ago, someone ruptures an ATFL, they have surgery. Now it's just a program of rehabilitation, trying to get the inflammation down as quickly as you can, get the range of motion back in it, and then gradually strengthen it up. So it was always a six to eight week injury and then it just depends on each individual and how fast they heal. So an average person with a that goes to the physio three times a week and gets it seen to, they will probably take between six and eight weeks. But I had Steve MacGregor who I think is one of the best in the world at what he does. He was with me 24/7 since the injury happened. So, to have his watchful eye over me the entire time, that's why I was able to get back in five weeks instead of six. So okay maybe I was one or two weeks ahead of what I was told at the start, but I don't think that's any surprise, given this day and age and everything that is at our disposal in terms of treatment and machines and everything, so.

Q. Looking back at your past wins here, when you win this event they give you a massive trophy. What are your memories of receiving the trophy and can you share some of your stories about the trophy in general?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, whenever I won it first in 2012, the worst thing is I mean it's obviously like it's great winning this tournament, but having to take all those photos at the end holding this thing, it's quite, it's a good arm workout at the end of the day. It's heavy. I made a pretty good catch of the lid last year when it was dropped. I've never attempted to fill it. It's too big to try and fill or take any sort of drink out of it.

But look, it's one of the most iconic trophies in our sport and to be able to get my hands on it for two years out of the last three is quite an honor. And to try to make that three in a row this year and three out of the last four is an honor.

Q. What are you doing better in 2015 than you did in 2014?
RORY McILROY: Limiting my schedule. What am I doing better? I'm not sure, really. I haven't -- consistency-wise, if you look at the stats I'm probably very similar strokes gained tee to green. I'm probably hitting a few more greens. My proximity to the hole isn't quite as good, but I think that's because I've become a little more -- I've tried to stay a lot more patient on the golf course in terms of when to attack and when not to.

So I think every year you're always trying to improve, but I think gaining experience each and every year and moving on and trying to learn from that, you always, you try to become a better golfer from that. But from a driving standpoint, I felt like I drove the ball great last year, just as I have this year. The fractions and the percentages of improvement at this level of the game are so small, so you're always trying to just inch your way up and inch your way up and always trying to look at some ways to improve. But I don't think -- I've said this before -- the way I was able to hit a 6-iron or a driver two years or three years ago, I'm no better at doing that now, but it's just a matter of doing it repetitively and doing it over and over again and gaining more consistency.

So, I think with experience you become a better player and if I said there was any part of the game that I want to improve on, it would be my wedge play. I give myself so many wedges into greens and if you look at my stats this year, I haven't been quite as good as I was last year and that's something that I want to try and address for the rest of the season.

Q. I'm just wondering, did you watch any of the Open Championship and if so, how difficult was that, given I'm sure that you wanted to be there to defend your championship and if you had any thoughts on when it looked like Jordan might win three in a row.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, whenever I knew I wasn't going to play I was saying to everyone, look, I'm not going to watch it, it's going to be too difficult. But once the tournament started, I was fine. I didn't -- I mean I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I don't know. But I watched everything. I didn't watch the playoff. I watched the last nine holes on Sunday and then I had to go and do some rehab, so I couldn't watch the playoff. But it was an exciting final nine. It was basically -- it was a story of two nines that week. The front nine was playing looked like ridiculously easy, everything was down off the right. And then the back nine seemed ridiculously hard. Everyone was just trying to hold on. There was very few chances on the back nine.

And it was an exciting finish. Jordan holes that big putt on 16, there was -- everyone was in there with a chance and it did, it looked like Jordan had his had one hand on it and just wasn't meant to be. Felt like he played 17 as good as he did and just missed his putt low and that was that.

It was such a bunched leaderboard that any number of players could have won and obviously it was the playoff and Zach started the playoff incredibly well and held on. So, it was a good championship. It was an exciting one. I think it would have been great for the game of golf if Jordan had of prevailed but I think Zach was a very worthy winner.

Q. 12 months ago you got handed the Bridgestone Invitational trophy. Wondering what your thoughts now with the European Tour's policy not to sanction the event next year and can you sympathize with Shane Lowery two days after he wins the tournament now he's got the question to whether he's going to defend the Bridgestone or play the French Open?
RORY McILROY: It's a awkward one. Obviously with the Olympics being included in the schedule next year it's made it very difficult for the European Tour on the PGA TOUR to schedule their events. And some events are going to lose out because of it. And some events are going to gain from it. Next summer is going to be very condensed. We're going to have a lot of big tournaments in a very short space of time. And it's a difficult one. You've got the French Open, which is the oldest national championship in continental Europe. It's a big event on the European Tour. And obviously they don't want to go up against a World Golf Championship. It's not going to happen. The European Tour are too loyal to let that happen to them. So, it's a tough one.

Shane, I mean, it's obviously great going back to defend a title. I've heard rumors that the French Open is going to count as two tournaments on the European Tour next year for guys that play both tours. They're going to increase the prize fund. Does that mean that the French Open's going to become more attractive to the top players? Probably not. Bridgestone's a great tournament. And whether it's a World Golf Championship or not, they're going to get a very strong field, just because of the golf course and because of the history it has on this side of the pond. But, yeah, I mean I don't think you should blame the European Tour or the PGA TOUR for this one, it's more of the Olympics has been put into the schedule and everyone's had to accommodate because of it.

JOHN DEVER: Rory McIlroy, thanks for your time. Best of luck this week.

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