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February 3, 2016

Rory McIlroy

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Rory, welcome, thanks very much for joining us, as always. Just start us off with your thoughts and feelings on a sort of special venue and a special tournament for you.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's always nice to be back in Dubai, and I guess the last couple of times I've played here, I've done pretty well, so I'm sort of going for three in a row in Dubai with winning here last year, and then with the DP World, just at the end of last season.

So it seems to bring out my best golf. And I've got great memories from the Emirates here, winning my first tournament, making my first cut as a pro. So it's always great to be back. I think this is my 10th year since I started coming here and playing in the tournament, twice as an amateur. So a lot of great memories and get a lot of support here, so I'm obviously looking forward to the week.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: And the game seems to be in pretty decent shape.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, game's good. There's a couple little things that I took from Abu Dhabi and worked on last week. So hopefully you'll see my game just a little bit sharper, and obviously want to try and win again here, win for the third time to join Ernie as the only people to win three times.

But yeah, the game feels good and I'm looking forward to getting started.

Q. Can you talk about how different the course is set up this year, a little bit firmer, the fairways and has it changed the challenge?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's definitely -- I think it's going to make a big difference off the tee. You're going to see a lot of -- not only are the fairways firmer, but they have cut the fairways towards the greens, so the balls are going to be sort of rolling out. It's okay on straight holes, but obviously there's a lot of doglegs on this golf course where you can run through the fairways, and the rough is pretty thick. You're just going to have to be careful with that; where in previous years, the fairways were soft, and just take it over corners and not really worry. It adds a different dimension to the golf course for sure.

And they have made a lot of run-offs around the greens, which I don't know if that would make it tougher or easier, I'm not quite sure. Just because the rough around here is usually pretty thick, and if you missed a green, it was quite difficult to get it up-and-down.

I think the course looks very well. It presents probably a little bit better. They have made a few bunkers deeper. So overall, I think the slight changes they have made have been a big improvement.

Q. Do you think the changes are good for you or bad, and what have you been working on specifically since Abu Dhabi?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, to be honest, it's the sort of golf course that I feel so comfortable on. It's not like the changes are huge that it's going to make much of a difference. But it might just change the way I play a few holes. Instead of taking driver and trying to carry a few of the corners, just a 3-wood or try to play a little more conservatively.

But I don't think that helps or hinders me in any way. I worked a little bit on my putting. Especially with the grainy greens here, if you have any sort of side-spin on the ball, or any sort of spin on the ball, the grain is going to accentuate that a bit.

So just been trying to work a little bit on my putting. I felt like I was sort of cutting the ball a little bit with my left-to-right putts and almost doing the opposite with my right-to-left, so just trying to get a little more consistent with that.

But the ball-striking's right there. I've tried to work a little bit on shaping the driver right-to-left for this week just because there's a lot of right-to-left doglegs.

So yeah, you know, with those slight adjustments, another week's practise, hopefully I can play a bit better than what I did in Abu Dhabi.

Q. Any ankles involved ziplining?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there's no ankles involved, thankfully. It's something that someone suggested that we do at the start of the week, and I had an afternoon off yesterday, so thought I would go and do it. It was really good fun. I've done them before but not quite in a setting like that. But it was really cool. It was good fun to do. Nice way to spend the afternoon.

Q. I don't know if you saw it, but in Abu Dhabi, Rickie, and particularly Jordan, were really strong in Ryder Cup, prioritising that for the year. A lot of people are saying the Americans are even more dangerous this time around because of what they are doing; is that fair, or is it underplaying the success you've had in the last few Ryder Cups?
RORY McILROY: They are a young, hungry team for a reason. There's a lot of guys on that team that haven't tasted success at The Ryder Cup. This is going to be hopefully my fourth Ryder Cup, and going for my fourth win in a row. I'm going to be trying to be part of a team that's won for the last four times.

If they are, they are motivated, they are hungry and I'm sure they don't want to lose again. And you've got a lot of younger players who will make the team, the likes of a Rickie, a Jordan, Patrick Reed, a few of the younger guys over there that really want to make the team.

And especially if they have a backroom team like they look like they are going to have with Davis being the captain and, say, Tiger is a vice captain, Phil is a vice captain if they don't make the team, they have got everything there possible to win it back. Then it's up to us and up to all the people in Europe to try and prevent that.

I would say, I mean, if you look at the last few Ryder Cups, even though we have won them, they have been tight -- maybe not Gleneagles, but you look at the previous two, Medinah and Celtic Manor, they were really, really tight. We were just able to come out on top. They have been closer than people probably realise.

Q. You were saying that two weeks ago, that your legs were not quite fit for public showing off; that they weren't brown enough. Have you been working on that in the last few weeks?
RORY McILROY: Well, I was trying to work on it, but the weather here wasn't that good. It was a little better than Qatar, but wasn't really saying much. Had a couple of days on the beach where I tried to work on it. Played in shorts on Monday and came up here yesterday and practised in shorts, so it's nice.

It's a nice change. It was a bit weird looking down the range and not really knowing who was a caddie and who was a player (laughter). But yes, I think it's a good change. Golf needs to move with the times, and I don't think there's anything wrong with showing the bottom half of your legs.

Q. We were talking to you in Abu Dhabi about going to Augusta and what you're facing there, but in the intervening period, Lee Trevino came out and said he believes you'll win more than one Grand Slam in your career. Does that help you in some ways, even though this is a guy that has not won at Augusta. Does that help take the pressure off your shoulders, as well?
RORY McILROY: Not really. Again, it's just words. It's just someone giving their opinion. But the difference between someone saying that and me actually going out and doing it are two entirely different things.

Yeah, I'd like to think by the end of my career, I'll hopefully have won each major more than once, so, you know -- I don't know if I'm going to do it. I hope I do. Trevino seems to think that I will, so maybe I need to go talk to him (laughter).

Of course I hope so, but I don't think it takes any pressure off going into Augusta. Of course I want to win there one day, but I've got hopefully 20-plus years of giving it a go and hopefully by that 28th year, I'm not going for my first green jacket. Hopefully I'm going for my third or fourth.

Q. How much do you like talking about the Masters at this stage of -- three months before the tournament?
RORY McILROY: I don't mind it. I mean, it's probably my favourite golf course in the world and my favourite -- one of my favourite tournaments, anyway.

Augusta is obviously going to be the most talked about tournament and major because of the gap between the PGA Championship in August and the Masters in April. There's that gap, and, you know, people are -- it's Augusta. It's a big deal and people always want to know who is the favourite going in, what's it going to be like. There's a big wait and there's a long wait, and for the general public, for the people that don't follow golf closely, that's probably the start of their golf season to be fair.

It's always a big deal, and I don't mind talking about it, it's fine. It is what it is. But as long as I don't put so much emphasis on it this early in the year because there are so many other great tournaments that I want to try to win before getting to Augusta in April.

Q. To be in the discussion --
RORY McILROY: Of course, you always want to be part of the discussion, even if sometimes it gets to you or fills your head with thoughts that you don't maybe want in your head at certain points. But it's always better to be a part of the conversation than not.

Q. Where would you rate Andy Murray, a British sportsman, and how difficult do you think it is to come up brick walls like Novak Djokovic?
RORY McILROY: You're not going to find a more driven, more dedicated professional athlete in the world than Andy Murray. He does absolute everything in his power to get the most out of his game. He's Wimbledon Champion, US Open Champion, Olympic Champion. He's one of the best British sports people ever in my opinion.

But he's been unlucky. He's come up in an era with Roger to start, Rafa and now Novak, and Novak looks like he could potentially be better than all of them. He could win more Grand Slams than Roger and could ultimately be the best ever.

So just to compete with that and come up against that the whole time, it must be tough in a way but at the same time, he's the second best in the world at what he does, and he's already proven that he can win at the highest level. I'm sure he'll continue to. But it must be tough mentally.

Q. Given your comfort levels here, your record on this course, would leaving here with anything other than a win on Sunday be disappointing?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it would be, of course. Leaving any tournament without a bin is sort of disappointing, but you try to putt a positive spin on it. I think golfers, that's what we usually do. We are disappointed for a bit and then we realise, we try to put positive spins on it, and the nice thing is there's always a next week in golf.

Yeah, if I was leaving here on Sunday night and didn't win, I'd be disappointed.

Q. I'm intrigued by what you said about Andy Murray. Do you sit back now and think you're glad you didn't have to go up against Tiger when he was at his peak, or would you have relished that?
RORY McILROY: I would have liked to, I feel like -- I sort of feel like the competition brings the best out of me. And I think Phil has even said; that maybe if Phil didn't go up against Tiger in his prime, he would have won more majors, but he always said that Tiger brought out the best in him.

I would have loved to, I would still -- hopefully if he can get healthy, I would still love to have a crack at him down the stretch in a major, I would love that, just once. At this point it's just up to him to get healthy and get his game back, and for me to hopefully keep playing the way I'm playing and maybe one day.

Q. What would be your top three British sportsmen?
RORY McILROY: Wow, I think you have to go with one of the -- Steve Redgrave maybe, six Olympic Golds maybe, something like that. There's been so many over the past few years. That's the thing, where I mean you've got Chris Lloyd, you've got the cyclist, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, you have Andy, you have Nick Faldo, I mean, there's so many. I think it's hard to choose between all those guys. I guess, yeah, it's a hard one.

But I think from current people that are still active in their sport, you know, this is a big -- where do I stand -- (laughter) I'm Northern Irish, but am I one side or the other.

But you know, I'd say Andy is up there; the cyclists are up there. It's hard. There's so many great sports people. I think United Kingdom and Ireland and all British Isles should be proud of the amount of great sports people that they do produce.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Rory, thanks for joining us. Good luck this week.

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