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March 2, 2016

Rory McIlroy

Miami, Florida

STEVE TODD: Rory, warm welcome back to Doral. First WGC of the year. Give us your thoughts on coming into the week.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's always good to get back to Doral. Doral has some nice memories for me. I've been coming here since I was eight years old playing in junior tournaments. Yeah, it's always nice to get back.

The golf course has obviously changed a lot over the years, but it's nice. It's nice, it's really the first event of the year where all the top players in the world are assembled together; it's good to get that.

And obviously to play four rounds and see where your game is and see what you need to work on or what you might need to improve leading up to the bulk of the season.

So yeah, good to be back and I'm excited to get going tomorrow.

STEVE TODD: Speaking of the top players, I believe it's only the second time you, Jordan and Jason have played together, so that's going to be a fun three-ball.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it is. I've played a lot with Jason and a lot with Jordan over the past few years, but as you said, we haven't really played much together in a three-ball. So the next two days are going to be enjoyable. It will be good out there, hopefully a little bit of buzz around that group. So very much looking forward to that.

Q. Are you going left-under? We saw on Twitter.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a drill that I've been doing for awhile because I feel like my left hand sort of controls my putting stroke and that's the sort of lead hand for me, and I felt like over the past few weeks, my right hand was becoming a little bit too dominant.

Practiced over the weekend just with left below right and it felt really, really good. I'm going to give it a try this week and see where we go with it. But it felt really, really good. Roll of the ball is really good. The contact is much better, and it really just takes my right hand out of it.

And that's really what I wanted to do, because -- and everything that I have done in my putting the last few years is all to try and lead with the left hand and really just have the right on there as more of a guide than anything else.

But I felt like my right hand was becoming a little bit too active in the stroke. So this is a perfect way to sort of deactivate that, and I really just feel like I'm controlling the putting stroke with my left hand only.

Q. Have you ever used in competition, amateur or anything?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I did. I used it back my first year on Tour, 2008, for awhile.

But it's a drill that I've always done. It's a drill, and I've putted a lot just with my left hand. It's one of those things where the drill started to feel a little bit better than the real thing, so I'm just going to stick with it.

Q. Off of last week, how shocking or surprising was your play to yourself? You seemed pretty frustrated.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was more the mistakes I was making, mental errors, and got myself into a decent position on Friday. Played the first nine holes pretty solidly, and I hit a good one tee shot on the first hole, which is our 10th, and I think I've got like 120 yards to the pin in the middle of the fairway with a wedge and I make bogey. I hit a pretty poor second shot just sort of the left side in the fringe. Sort of it was a little bit tricky because the ball was against the collar, ended up making five.

I made a double on 15. I make a triple on 5. So there's loads -- there's a lot of good in there. That's the thing, I made more birdies the first two days than Rickie did, and Rickie is leading the tournament.

So if I can limit my mistakes and not make these silly mental errors and just play a little more, I don't know if it's smartly or conservatively or take an extra couple of seconds just to think about what you really need to do with it. Instead of, I'm a very instinctive player, so I step up and I hit it. Sometimes that can work for me if everything is going with me and I have momentum. But also if I'm battling and grinding, that can work against me sometimes.

It's trying to find a balance. But I still felt like there was enough good in there to at least be there for the weekend and play. You make nine birdies in the first two rounds, but you make -- there's 13 dropped shots in there, it's never too good. So it's really just about trying to limit those mistakes this week.

Q. If you'll forgive a news reporter's question, this tournament, obviously there's a 500 pound gorilla in the room, being played at a resort owned by Donald Trump, a very controversial candidate for President of the United States. There are rumblings amid some of the PGA that this event should leave Trump's facility because of some of the controversial, some believe, offensive remarks he's made regarding Mexicans and others. What are your thoughts on that?
RORY McILROY: I'm not American. (Laughter) (applause).

Q. But were you? And as a golfer, to what extent is this, the political, um, shenanigans, going on around you a distraction at all?
RORY McILROY: No, I mean, he's not going to be the leader of my country. Look, it really -- it doesn't bother me too much.

Look, I've been following it and it's -- yeah, I really thought I knew what politics were until I started to watch some of these presidential debates. I mean, not saying that the political system in Northern Ireland is too strong at the moment either. It is, it's shocking. Yeah, look, I can't vote, and if I were to vote, I'm not sure I would want to vote for any of the candidates. (Laughter).

Q. Players that I've talked to over the years have tended to take confidence from a portion of their game that sort of seeps into the rest of their game. And conversely, when something is not quite right, it leaks through the other way and you lose a little confidence. Is putting important to you that it leaks backward into things you might be trying to do or conversely, is there something like driving, that actually makes the rest of your game stronger?
RORY McILROY: I think if anyone, if there's a weakness in any part of your game, it puts pressure on the other parts to make up for what you're lacking, whether it be not driving the ball well or whether it be putting, for example, or -- if you have weakness, it does put pressure on the other parts of your game.

I always have felt like my ball-striking and my driving and iron play has been the strongest part of my game and in that way, my putting has not necessarily needed to be as strong, but at the same time, you're going to have weeks where your ball-striking isn't as good and it's always nice to have that backup there if you need it with your scrambling and your putting. It's about finding a balance.

And then the weeks that I do get on a run and I hole putts, then I have chances to win. But yeah, I'd rather just have every part of my game as strong as I possibly can and go from there.

Q. You, Jordan and Jason are sort of bucking a recent trend of being developed by one coach and then when you turn pro, going to someone else. When you were at the stage where you were turning pro, did you have many people in your ear telling you you needed to move on from Michael? Why have you stayed with him all these years? What works in that relationship?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, honestly, yes there, was a part of me when I turned pro, I contemplated going elsewhere and maybe having someone that was already on the road a lot and someone that I could see more often. But I had a think about it and Michael knows my swing better than anyone and knows my swing better than me, basically.

He has videos from, I was eight or nine years old all the way up until now, and I still don't think there's anyone better to instruct me in my golf swing. I really believe that. You know, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

And I feel like with Jordan and with Jason, you're seeing more and more guys adopt this approach that if it has worked all the way through your junior and amateur career, there's no reason -- these are the people that got us to this stage. There's no reason why it's not going to work going forward.

It's great to see that a lot of these young guys that are coming up have stuck with the same coach and the same technique, because you know, golf's a lot about repetitiveness and consistency, as well, and continuity, and if you're jumping from one coach to the other, I just think that's counterproductive.

Q. Jack Nicklaus was talking about his relationship with Jack Grout, and he said Jack's philosophy was you need to learn how to fix things yourself. Is that what you have with Michael?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I definitely feel like Michael has allowed me to take ownership of my swing. I feel like if -- I'll never get in front of you guys and say, you know, make an excuse, well, Michael is trying to get me to do this and that's why I hit it there. I'll never say that, because Michael is not out there swinging the golf club for me. That's me. And I've played this game long enough to know if something is not going right in the middle of the round, just try to adjust something or fix something or whatever.

At the end of the day, it's my golf swing and it's the positions that I put the club in. No one else is doing that. I feel like Michael's helped me along the way to get to that point, but I feel like I've swung a golf club enough times in my life to know when I do it right and when I do it wrong.

Q. Karen mentioned that Jack Nicklaus, a few of us were chatting to Jack Nicklaus last Sunday and he mentioned how much he enjoys chatting with you and how much of a good kid you are, etc., etc., and when the subject of Augusta came up, he said you never asked him about Augusta and he said he would welcome to sit down with you and talk about playing Augusta. Wonder your thoughts are when a guy who has won six Augusta green jackets said that and would you consider talking to him if the opportunity arose?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've talked to Jack a lot about just golf in general, winning golf tournaments, what he did when he was in contention and what he -- and I feel like I picked a bit up from that. But this is going to be my, I don't know, seventh, eighth time going to Augusta, and I feel like I've improved each and every year.

I don't feel like anyone needs to tell me how to play the golf course. I feel like I've been there enough to know that. It's just a matter of -- I know what I need to do to win at Augusta. I know what the game plan is. I know I don't feel -- obviously no disrespect to Jack and his six green jackets. I feel like I know myself what I need to do, and it's just executing that game plan that week and hitting the right shots at the right time. So yeah, but I mean, you know, if he was to offer it to me, obviously I would listen, but I would never go and seek it out.

Q. You had said last year towards the end of last season that golf is in a really good spot and those who cover golf extensively believe that because of the young guns like yourself, Jordan, others; do you feel it's sustainable for years to come to keep this in a good spot where people want to watch on television, people want to come out to the courses?
RORY McILROY: I definitely think so. You look at the guys that are the top of the World Rankings, the three of us and Bubba's 4, Rickie's 5, we are all still in our 20s. But then there's the generation after that, sort of Jordan's generation of the kids that are coming through that are 21, 22 years old, kids that are just in college.

I feel like the standard and the fields get deeper every few years, so I don't see any reason why this group of great young players can't inspire the next generation and so on and so forth.

So I think it's very sustainable. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be with the access that players have now to coaching and the knowledge that's out there. I feel like more and more kids are playing golf and getting into golf, and that's a great thing, as well.

Q. Do you believe, you personally, it came at a right time, considering people that didn't know what was going to happen with Tiger, who had all the attention at one point?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I like the era that I'm in. I don't know if I would change that or try to go back in time. I'm comfortable with where I am. It would have been or it would be, depending on what your views are, nice to still have a battle with Tiger down the stretch and see where I measure up. Obviously he has to get healthy. He's started to hit balls again, which is great.

But I feel like right now my main rivals are the younger guys and the people that are playing week in, week out and putting in good performances. I have to concentrate on myself and try to play the best that I can and hopefully that's better than the people that are around me at the minute.

Q. Jason was just in here talking about this particular golf course and when you're a long hitter like you and Jason are, it's hard to dial yourself back; that it almost tempts you into doing things and making stupid mistakes. Is this the kind of golf course that it's difficult to sort of play a little bit more conservatively?
RORY McILROY: It is, because you stand on some tee boxes and think because of my length, I could really have an advantage here. But yeah, I think there's a lot of holes here where a lot of guys are going to be playing shots from the same areas, the same distances. And it is, it's a very risk/reward type of golf course with a lot of water, and if you take it on and hit the right shots, it can give you an advantage.

But again, you have to pick and choose your spots where to be aggressive and where not to. But there's four par 5s and par 5s that you can be aggressive on and the longer hitters can reach.

So you want to take advantage of those. But then the par 3s are tough. Yeah, it's a golf course where it's not just bomb's away, but at the same time, I think a little bit of length can give you an advantage.

Q. You look at what Jordan did at Augusta last year, and you touched on the depth of the field of all the kids, even younger than him, coming up. When they see that, what is it about the younger players, the fearlessness, and what would that do for the Masters going forward?
RORY McILROY: I think younger players are getting on Tour and they are ready to play. They are ready to win. There's no adjustment period between whether they go to college and then come out on tour or whether it's the amateur -- the amateur stuff and going on tour.

I think I played ten or 12 professional tournaments before I turned pro, and someone like Jordan, he was playing in PGA TOUR events since he was 16 years old. I feel like those experiences help us and we are more ready to come out here and be competitive sooner, and that goes all the way back.

I mean, you even see a lot of the guys that were in sort of -- Justin Thomas, Patrick Rodgers, those sort of guys that have come out on tour and are ready to play right from the start.

As opening up Augusta, do you mean --

Q. Just anybody could win it, not just a handful of players.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I still think it's more likely the players that are going back there for their second, third, fourth, fifth visit are more likely to contend rather than a guy that goes there for his first time. Because there is a lot of local knowledge and there is a lot of course experience that plays a part of that.

Q. On going left-hand low tomorrow, if it goes well, how long can you see yourself sticking with it, and if it goes poorly, how quickly do you abandon?
RORY McILROY: I feel like it's something I'm going to stick with regardless of what the outcome is tomorrow or this week or next week. I really do feel like it helps me put a stroke on it that I want to. It's a great feeling. I feel like it gives my putting stroke a bit more of a better rhythm, as well, a better flow.

Yeah, look, if it doesn't work right from the get-go tomorrow, you're not going to see me on Friday morning putting conventional again. It's something I'm going to stick with for awhile.

Q. When did you consider? What was the trigger?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I missed a couple of putts on Friday at Honda that I felt even before I made contact with the ball, that my right hand had -- and I missed it left. So it was, I need to do something here. Was sort of, you know, playing around with a few different grips on the putting green over the weekend. This one felt more natural to me because I've done it before and I do it quite a lot when I'm just practicing in drills, as well. I thought, why not give it a go.

Sent JP and Sean a couple of videos yesterday and said I'm going with it. Said I'm going to stick with it and go with it. It's felt good, so we'll see how it holds up tomorrow.

Q. Same putter?
RORY McILROY: Same putter, yeah.

Q. I just wonder how a missed the cut as a 26-year-old multiple-major winner affects you or resonates with you, compared to if it had been at the start of your career or earlier in your career. How does it bother you otherwise?
RORY McILROY: I feel like I'm at the point where it's easier to accept it because it's going to be -- it's a part of it. I've missed enough cuts in my career to know that it isn't the end of the world. And it's great, in golf, you have the next week, you have an opportunity to go back out there and rectify it and play well.

Yeah, it's a lot different. I remember missing the cut in, I think I played in China and Korea my first year in 2008 on The European Tour, and I think I missed both cuts. Those weekends are very long, sort of hitting balls on the range while you're seeing guys go out to play in the final groups on a Saturday or a Sunday.

I think I was probably saying the same thing last year. To miss a cut isn't nice, but if you miss it and you get to go and stay in your own bed and not have to go to the course the next day and see everyone go out there to play, it makes it a bit easier. It's all part of it. It's definitely not the last cut I'm going to miss, but I've accepted that and that's golf. You're not going to play great all the time, and as long as they can be few and far between, I think I'll be okay.

STEVE TODD: Rory, we'll let you go and practice. Thank you for joining us.

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