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April 8, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back, Rory. Great round of golf today, tough round, five birdies, 2, 3, 13 15, 16, amazing second shot at 15 and a fabulous putt at 16.
Would you like to talk us through the round?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, you just have to look at the scores here and you can see how tough it is today.
I got off to a fast start and I knew that was important. The holes 5, 6, 7 were very tough, and 4, as well. I lost a couple of strokes there.
But then going into the back nine, I knew I just needed to stay patient and make pars and try to birdie the par 5s, and I was able to do that. The putt on 16 was obviously a bonus.
But very happy. I think getting anything under par today with the conditions and some of the pin positions, I'm really happy with that and in a good position going into the weekend. It doesn't really matter what happens or what the leaders‑‑ or what guys do on the back nine now. I know I'm in a good position going into the weekend and I'm happy with that.
Q. When you come off with birdie on 15 and step up to 16, is there any part of you that is reminding yourself to finish strong compared with what you did yesterday?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. I probably would have taken three pars to finish and I would have been happy. As I said, the birdie on 16 was a bit of a bonus, and then a great up‑and‑down on 18, too, for par.
But definitely feeling a lot better about myself after finishing this round of golf the way I did compared to how I finished the round yesterday.
Q. After you got it to 4‑under, and then you went double‑bogey, what was your thought process walking to the 6th tee and how do you stay patient in that situation?
RORY McILROY: I knew 6 was going to be tough because of the pin position. I actually made a good par save there.
And I knew 7 was a bit of a chance because it was playing downwind.
Obviously 8 is a chance, as well.
9 is playing downwind; that's a chance.
I knew if I could hit good shots, there was still some birdie chances coming up. But JP kept telling me, it is really tough out here and pars are good and keep making pars.
So that, as well; someone to have by your side that sort of reassures you that everything is sort of okay and you're still in a good position. Because after the fast start, the course probably didn't feel as tough to me as it was playing. I felt 2‑under through 3, great, I've still got a par 5 to play on the front nine, I can get it going, blah, blah, blah.
It's Augusta National, and especially in conditions like this with pin positions the way they were, it was tough and I just needed to stay patient. I picked some birdies off on the back nine thankfully, and great up‑and‑down at the last for par and happy with where I'm at going into Saturday and Sunday.
Q. Bryson might have something to say about it, but if you have to play with Jordan over the weekend, you've not done that before in a major, would that make any difference to you or be significant in any way?
RORY McILROY: Not really. It would add a lot of excitement and buzz and atmosphere to the tournament obviously. I've been concentrating, I've said this from the start, I've been concentrating on myself out there, because if you start to think about anyone else‑‑ I've only got the mental capacity to focus on me right now and especially how tough it is out there. Just focusing on myself, battling and grinding and digging deep when I need to; I think I'm going to have to do that again tomorrow regardless of who I play with, because it looks like the conditions are going to be similar. Yeah, it would be great for the tournament and create a lot of buzz, but at the same time, I just need to focus on myself and make sure that I play another solid round of golf.
Q. In the context of all your rounds at Augusta, where would that round sit?
RORY McILROY: It's up there. I kept my composure and I played the shots when I needed to. So it's only the second day; there's still two days to go.
But it's a great round and it's nice to be up there near the lead going into the weekend here instead of on the cut line and having to battle back where I found myself the last couple years. I'm happy with where I'm at.
Q. With all the golf you've played, do you ever look up and say, wow, I'm six shots back against these guys, and as good as everybody is, you might not catch them, or do you just try to ignore the scoreboard?
RORY McILROY: You can't ignore the scoreboard. I think you look up and you see it. I think at one point I was maybe seven or eight shots back of Jordan today. It just shows you how quickly things can change, especially here on this golf course and these conditions.
You know, unless someone is playing exceptionally well and really distances themselves from the field, everything sort of evens out. Jordan got off to a very fast start yesterday, got off to another fast start today. The conditions are so tough, it's hard to keep that going. You're always going to make mistakes here and there, and it all evens out at the end of the week. And I just have to‑‑ there's still another 36 holes to go and a lot can happen. There's a lot of players still within a lot of shots, within five or six of the lead that can have a great weekend and contend.
I think the good thing, the most comfortable thing for me on this golf course is knowing that even if you are five or six shots back, things can change quite quickly. I've been on the opposite end of that where things can start to get away from you. But that gives me confidence knowing that if you are a little bit behind, you can definitely make a comeback.
Q. How would you describe the putt at 16?
RORY McILROY: I mean, it's one of those ones, I started it, I don't know, maybe six feet left of the hole and just got it up there, really, really high and basically let gravity and wind take it the rest of the way. I was just looking to 2‑putt, try to get it within two or three feet of the hole, and it was a bonus when it dropped. Definitely wasn't‑‑ obviously the objective is to try and hole the putt, but I would have been very happy if it had finished two feet away, and I made a three.
Q. Given how you'd finished yesterday, what did you maybe tell yourself last night or this morning? And secondly, how important was the up‑and‑down on 11, I think it was, just given where you were at that point?
RORY McILROY: Probably up‑and‑down on 10 maybe. Yeah, very important. I didn't want to drop another shot. I ended up dropping a shot at 11, but I think more guys than not are going to drop a shot at 11 today with the way it's playing.
I didn't really tell myself anything last night. I was happy with how I played. I was a little bit disappointed, but I knew that the start of this golf course, if you can make par on 1, 2 is going to play downwind, 3 was playing pretty easy with the pin position. And I could get those shots back straightaway, which I did. I gave those back straightaway at the next.
But I knew there's chances out here, and you just have to keep telling yourself that, and knowing that if you hit quality shots and stay patient, chances are going to present themselves and hopefully you can take a few and make some birdies.
Q. You talked a little bit about chasing some of these guys. Obviously you started last yesterday, others had already posted scores, and obviously with the stumble there today, does it matter, though, when it's Jordan Spieth at the top of the leaderboard? Does that make a difference in terms of when you're chasing?
RORY McILROY: I don't think so. I mean, if anything, I don't really look at the names on the left of the leaderboard. I'm looking at the number that's on the very far right just to see how many shots I'm back. Doesn't make a difference to me who it is up there.
I want to win this golf tournament and I want to finish on the lowest score possible, and whoever that is ahead of me at that point, I just want to finish one better than that. So it doesn't make a difference who it is, to be honest.
Q. You made the point on Tuesday that 3‑over through 27 and you had given the field too much of a start; how much confidence are you going to take from the way you played the weekend last year?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, if I can have a weekend this weekend like I did that last weekend, I'd be very happy. Obviously with the position I was in last year going into the weekend, there wasn't much pressure. You could go out there and free‑wheel it a little bit and try to make as many birdies as you could and the conditions were more benign, so you could go after the course a bit more.
But I've played this golf course well on the weekend the last couple years, and I have to take confidence from that. You know, hopefully it's a third year in a row and a third weekend in a row where I can post a couple of good scores and see where that leaves me at the end of the week.
Q. You've come here with a changed putting stroke. After 36 holes, how is it?
RORY McILROY: It's feeling good. I changed for a reason. I felt like it was better for me. I felt like it was a more consistent roll.
I've probably missed a couple of putts that I should have made this week, but I've held at least one or two that were bonuses that I maybe mightn't have made on another day.
But it feels good. I feel like it's more consistent. I feel like my speed has been very good this week. A lot of putting, especially on these greens, is visualization and just seeing the ball dropping into the hole‑‑ so my putting feels good, like it really does. It feels much better than where it was at in February. So progress report is good, and I still feel like there's room for improvement, but it's definitely trending in the right direction.
Q. How did you get the ball out of the trees on the 18th and how much of a calculated gamble was that shot to make sure you got the par to get in there on that number?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a gamble. I'm not sure how calculated it was, to be fair. It worked out in favor, I guess. There was a little bit of a gap, and I only had 160 yards to the front of the green and I took a 4‑iron knowing that I needed to hit it hard enough that if it did hit something, it would just get through those trees.
It's actually the second day in a row I've had a shot like that. I had the same shot sort of on 11, and I didn't make very good contact with it. I think I was sort of‑‑ my head came up a little bit looking for the ball before I actually made contact. I didn't get enough club on the ball to get it right out there.
But I actually left myself a nice yardage and it was really important to get that ball up‑and‑down, to make par, and to finish on 3‑under; I knew no one had finished in the clubhouse at 3‑under and that's what I wanted to do, and thankfully I was able to do it.
Q. With so much of the pregame talk, and you got asked as well, about the notion of the next big three and you being part of that, can you in light of that, sort of just realize the excitement? I know you mentioned it a little bit, but if you and Jordan do, in fact, end up being paired together tomorrow, is that something ‑‑ do you want to be paired with Jordan, just the idea of what it is?
RORY McILROY: I don't think I can‑‑ I don't think I can get wrapped up in that and buy into the big three. Of course, it's great for the game. But whenever I'm out there playing and competing, that's absolutely not what I should be thinking about. I should be concentrating on myself and thinking about what I need to do to win this golf tournament, regardless of who else is up there.
I really need to focus on me and focus on everything I need to do well to hopefully be sitting up here on Sunday with one of those on (looking at Member's green jacket).
Q. You mentioned being seven or eight behind today on a Friday. If a player was four or even five shots behind going into the back nine Sunday, would confidence that he could still win come from the course or from the history of seeing what all has gone on here over the years?
RORY McILROY: I think both.
Q. Which has more weight, do you think?
RORY McILROY: I would say the course. I think I've shot 30 on that back nine before. On Sunday, you know where the pins are going to be. I think Sunday, as well, it's going to be slightly less windy, so people can go at flags a little bit more, be a little bit more aggressive.
The course is set up on Sunday to make birdies and eagles on the back nine; the ball feeds into pins and if you hit good shots, you're going to get rewarded. So I think if I was standing on the 10th tee Sunday four behind, I know that there's a 30 in me, and whether that 30 is good enough to win or not, we'd have to wait and see. But at least I'd be confident knowing that I could produce a score that would at least challenge.
Q. Knowing that this is the major that perhaps means the most to you now, what kind of impact that has on you Saturday and Sunday?
RORY McILROY: I don't think it should have any. Look, I'm really trying to block that out. It's another golf tournament I'm trying to win. I'm trying to beat guys on this leaderboard that I've beaten before, so I need to take confidence from that and know that I've been in this position before. Maybe not on this golf course, but I've been in this position before in big tournaments and been able to get the job done.
So that's the way I need to approach it. Look, I know it's a very big weekend for me. I know that. But when I'm out there on the golf course, I just have to be completely 100% focus on the task at hand, and if I can do that and stay in the moment and be completely focused over every golf shot I hit from now until Sunday night, then hopefully everything will work out the way I want it to.
Q. You've said a bunch the last couple years that JP is one of your best friends. How does his kind of chill personality benefit you when you're sort of feeling maybe a little anxious and grinding? You said earlier that he said par is a good score. What does JP's personality do for you?
RORY McILROY: Just a reassurance. He's been out here a long time, as well, so he knows the game. And I think in these conditions today, he probably knew what a good score was.
So just knowing that and having that reassurance out there, just little comments here and there; you know, par is a great score on this hole; you've got a couple of chances coming up the next few holes, things like that.
Yeah, it's nice to have someone on the bag that has been on my bag for the last seven or eight years, continuity and having the same thing and hearing the same voice every time, it really helps.
As much as I probably give him a little too much crap at times on the course, he's a help to me.
Q. You mentioned focus. You had I think six birdies, six bogeys, an eagle and a double through your first 29 holes. Is there something, standing on 12, that you said to yourself to remind you to stay in the moment?
RORY McILROY: On 12, all I was thinking about was trying to get the right club, to be perfectly honest with you. It's one of those tee shots that I saw in the group in front of us, Shane Lowry hit it way off left in the azaleas and it's a tough tee shot if you don't get the club selection quite right.
Luckily I hit a good shot in there, and I knew that tee shot on 12 was probably going to be one of the toughest shots I hit for the rest of the day. So once I gotthat under ‑‑ hit a good shot, I didn't quite make the putt, but I knew I had some chances coming in.
So I was happy to make 3 on 12 and move onto 13 knowing that there was a birdie chance there, and there was also a birdie chance on 15.
Q. The second shot on 13 and 15, what was the club, distance and your thinking on those shots?
RORY McILROY: On 13, I had 194 yards to the pin. It was in off the right, bit of a downhill lie, and I felt like a 5‑iron was going to struggle. So I hit a 4‑iron, but it came out like a 2‑iron; it came out so hot and went to the back of the green.
But actually missing it long there with that pin wasn't too bad. All I needed to do was maybe chip it six or seven yards to the ledge in front of me and the green would do the rest.
And then on 15, I had 235 yards. I hit 5‑wood and it was in that first cut of rough, so it wasn't‑‑ I knew that it would spin. I mean, 235 for me into the wind is ‑‑ 5‑wood is way too much. I think that experience of playing around here so many times, I know what the ball is going to do and I know how it's going to react. It spun up for me and spun up into the wind and landed softly on the green and another 2‑putt birdie was nice.
Q. You've played with Bryson a couple times now, he's 3‑under last time I looked. Playing as a young 20‑something, what can he expect going into the weekend being near the top of the leaderboard?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, he's probably going to feel a few things emotionally that he probably hasn't experienced before. But you know, Bryson has been playing a lot with us recently on Tour. I played with him in the third round in Abu Dhabi. I played with him in the final round at Bay Hill, and he played very, very well then.
I said to him on that last green, "If you keep playing like this, I'll be seeing a lot more of you."
What he's doing today is‑‑ he's playing very well. His game is very well suited for not just this golf course but professional golf, and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's still quite young, but he's very mature and very smart. I think he'll handle it very well.
Look, he's playing with Jordan the first two days and he's keeping pace with him and he's doing a great job. There's no reason to think that he shouldn't do that over the next couple of days, as well. I'm sort of looking forward to see how he does, too, because he's a great talent and obviously has his own unique way of playing.
I've gotten to know him pretty well over the last few weeks and he's a good guy and he seems to work hard and he's playing very well at the minute.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Rory.
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