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August 8, 2017

Rory McIlroy

Charlotte, North Carolina

JOHN DEVER: Welcome back to the 99th PGA Championship from Quail Hollow Club. Pleased to be joined by two-time PGA Championship Rory McIlroy. Rory, I think you may have heard the news shared just a bit ago by Pete from The PGA of America and Jay from the TOUR. Maybe you have an initial impression on this.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's great for the golf schedule. I think a May date for The PGA of America is a really good thing, and just from a player's perspective, to now have one really big tournament every month from March, THE PLAYERS, to the Masters to the PGA Championship to the U.S. Open to the Open, and to have the FedExCup most likely at end of August or start of September; it just has a better flow to it, I think.

I've been a big supporter of it from the first time I heard about it, and the announcement today, I think has been very well received by a lot of the players in the locker room.

Obviously it's still a couple years away, but I'm excited to play a schedule like that going forward. It should be good. Especially with Presidents Cup and The Ryder Cup now obviously every year, I think it just gives especially the American guys who have to play a team event every year, as well, it just gives them just a little bit more time. Overall, I think it's a great thing.

JOHN DEVER: As I said, you're a two-time PGA Champion but also a two-time winner here at Quail Hollow. How do you jive with this golf course? And I think you're excited about the course changes here.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've had a lot of success here before. I've always played well here. I've always felt comfortable on this golf course.

You know, the changes are not -- there's a couple of changes at the start of the golf course: The first is a drastic change obviously and the third and fourth holes are a little different. It used to be you got through the first five holes here at 1- or 2-under par and that was a decent start, and now you get through the first five holes at even par and that's when the golf course starts to open up for you. You have the par 5, the short par 4, you have 10, 11 is being made a little tougher with the little bit of length, but then you've got 14, 15.

I still feel like the golf course gives you plenty of chances. It's going to play long this week with the weather. Obviously there's been a lot of rain over the last couple of days. But you know, it will probably play -- it will probably play a couple of strokes harder than it used to play, especially with the par going from a 72 to a 71. But excited to be here. This has been a week I've been looking forward to for a long time and I'm glad it's here and I'm glad I'm showing up for this week feeling like my game is in good shape, as well.

Q. At The Open, you were a 20-to-1 shot and you said those were pretty good odds. What do you think about being a 7-to-1 favorite this week? Is that all down to your record at this course?
RORY McILROY: I told you those odds wouldn't last long (laughter). Yeah, I think it's partly to do with the upturn in form that I've had over the last few weeks, and then my history on this golf course: a couple of wins, beaten in a playoff, a few other Top 10s.

Yeah, I think it's a little bit of both. But I'm definitely -- my form is better coming into this event than it was going into The Open obviously coming off the back of a couple of missed cuts. I'm coming off the back of a couple of top 5s; things are a bit different than they were a couple of weeks ago.

Q. You've had a lot of success here at this course, but when you broaden it out, what are your impressions of Charlotte as a host city for the Wells Fargo, and now it's first major championship?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've always loved coming to Charlotte. It's always a welcoming city. It's becoming a bigger city but still has that small city feel.

I've always enjoyed the area. So much so that we came to a wedding here last year and we were contemplating even thinking about getting a place here at one point. That didn't quite work out. But I've always enjoyed it here. I've always felt comfortable in the surroundings.

It's got a nice mix. It's got the mild winters but it's got the sort of look that would remind you more of the northeast a little bit with the trees and everything.

We really like it here. It's good to be back.

Q. Since we're talking about the schedule, would you as a player and the sport in general benefit from having downtime where golf, the game, went dark for awhile? Like as the Champions League, NFL, etc.?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think that's one of the things that benefits the NFL so much is the exclusivity of it. They play, whatever it is, 16, 18 weeks a year. But for the other 30-odd weeks a year, everyone's still talking about it. They are talking about what's going to happen next season. The anticipation, the hype builds.

I've always thought that an off-season in golf would be good. Not just for the players to get a little bit of rest and work on their games and whatever, but just from a fan perspective. You know, create a little bit of hype before the season starts again. So I'd be a big advocate for an off-season, if we ever had one.

Q. Obviously a lot of talk about you being the odds-on favorite this week. But what kind of threat do you see coming from Hideki Matsuyama, especially after his season and the great Sunday at Firestone?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, what Hideki did on Sunday there was pretty impressive, 61. I mean, I don't know if I saw 61 out there on Sunday. I definitely thought someone could shoot something around 63, 64 and win the tournament. But it was awfully impressive.

And he's been playing very well for, well, for the last few years, but especially the last 12 months, 18 months. He's won a lot of times. He got on that great run at the end of last year, continued it into the start of this year and a big win last week.

He's playing well and he hits it plenty long to contend around here. His confidence is high coming into this week. I'm pretty sure he'll be a factor this week.

Q. When you shot your 61 around here, you said at the time that you felt you were the best player in the world at that time when you needed to go out and prove it. I just wonder whether you feel you need to make a similar statement, especially with the other guys in the world's top 5 having won majors or WGC events this year?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't want to -- I definitely don't want to be in the mind-set this week of wanting to make any type of statement or go out and prove myself. I'm past that point. I've proven myself enough over the last nine years of my career. Obviously I wouldn't have won as much as I would have liked this year, and there's been a few components to that, injury-wise, changing equipment and stuff. It has been a bit of a transitional year.

But I feel like everything's settled. You know, my health is pretty much where it needs to be. So no, I just want to go out there and play well this week. It's a golf course I've played well on before. But I'm definitely not going out there to try to prove anything to anyone. I just want to go out and play my game and hopefully that will be good enough.

Q. Golf gets a treat in that three consecutive majors, players will be chasing the career Grand Slam. What did you take out of a couple tries at Augusta doing that, and did you feel different on those weeks when you chased it?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I didn't feel that much different. I guess for me winning at Valhalla in 2014 and having that long wait till the Masters in 2015, it's a very long time and it plays on your mind a little bit. I think that's where Jordan doesn't have to deal with that coming into this week.

It's great to be able to ride on the crest of a wave and just sort of keep it going. But I didn't feel any different. I guess, as well, I haven't really gotten myself into proper contention at Augusta. I've had four Top-10s but I haven't really had a great shot at winning it.

Yeah, maybe if I got into contention it would feel a little bit different and it would start to play on your mind. Everyone in this room knows, from when the first tee shot is hit on Thursday to the back nine on Sunday, there's a lot of golf to play, and a lot that can happen.

So it doesn't really enter your mind then. But I'm sure once I get into contention at Augusta, hopefully next year, it might feel a little bit different than the previous four. But have to wait and see and I'll be able to tell you a little bit better when I do get myself in that position.

Q. Your track record here speaks for itself. What is it about this place that just suits you?
RORY McILROY: I don't know, just there's certain golf courses that you -- just you can see yourself shoot a score on. Even last week at Akron, I felt like I played okay. I drove the ball well. But I feel like a top 5 was sort of nearly the worst I could have done. Just there's some golf courses you go to that you just -- it gives you that feeling. It gives you that -- you don't really have to have your best game and you still feel like you have a chance to win, and that's sort of how it feels here.

Obviously there has been a few changes and there's a couple holes that look a little different. But for the most part, 15 of the 18 holes are pretty much the same. I just feel good around here. I don't know what it is. I've shot a couple of really low scores. I've got some great memories. I think once you go back to a place where you do have great memories, all that starts to come flooding back to you and it makes you feel good about yourself. That's sort of how I feel around here.

Q. Where do you feel like you stand with your short iron play right now and what have you done the last couple days to try to shore it up after last week?
RORY McILROY: Sorry, I didn't get the first part of that.

Q. Where do you feel like you stand with your short iron play today and what have you shored up?
RORY McILROY: I definitely feel like it improved as the week went on. I hit some better wedge shots on Saturday and Sunday last week.

I'm actually going to go to a different wedge setup this week. Instead I had four wedges in the bag last week, but I feel like a 3-iron might be a pretty important club for me with a couple of the par 5s this week, and the sixth hole being such a long par 3. I'm going to put the 3-iron back in the bag and just go with three wedges.

So I've sort of just been trying to get a few different numbers with that middle wedge and try to -- because there is a bigger gap between, I've got a 48-degree, a 54-degree and a 60, so that gap between the 48 and 54, I just need to try to bridge that.

So just working on TrakMan and getting some different distances and numbers. I'll be working on that the next couple days to make sure I'm comfortable when I play on Thursday.

Q. Switching gears slightly, how has your diet changed since you've become a professional and obviously ascended through the ranks? What are some of the foods that you avoid and make a point of eating both when you're on and off the course?
RORY McILROY: Everything in moderation is my motto. I don't cut out anything. If I feel I want some chocolate, I'll have some chocolate. If I want a burger, I'll have a burger, but I wouldn't have a burger every day. So everything in moderation. I'm not very strict with my diet. Probably should be a little more strict, if I'm honest.

I think everything in moderation. You're allowed a treat every once in a while, so try to keep it like that.

JOHN DEVER: Carolina barbeque?

RORY McILROY: I'm not a big barbeque fan.

JOHN DEVER: We'll work on that.

Q. They have done this on The European Tour, but what are your thoughts on shorts this week?
RORY McILROY: If it was sunny it would be great (laughter). Obviously it's raining out. Still I don't get why people are wearing shorts. I know it's pretty warm out there.

I think it's good, especially when you come to hot climates like this. It makes the guys a lot more comfortable. Geez, I know walking 18 holes around there, if it was hot and humid and in the 90s, as it is here sometimes this year, shorts are very much appreciated.

Look, it took a couple of weeks to sort of seem normal on The European Tour. Just because you have guys walking down the fairway and you're like, even though there's one carrying the bag that has shorts on, and the other, I sort of -- I don't know, it's hard to recognize them at some point.

I think it's good. I think the game's moved on and we're playing in warmer climates. I was about to say, I don't know if I'll be wearing shorts in Rochester 2023, but I think it's a good thing. I don't think there's anything wrong with professional golfers showing the lower half of their leg.

Q. Do you feel like you have to play a little bit of defense instead of offense?
RORY McILROY: I think you have to be very -- yeah, I think 17 is the most difficult of the closing stretch. Especially off that back tee, you're raised up and you've got that very skinny green. You're looking down on it and you've got the water on your left. There's a bit of a bail-out area on the right. I'd say that's the only hole that you can sort of play defense on. You have that little bit of area on the right side where you can try to get it up-and-down from there.

16, you have to be aggressive off the tee. You have to take on that bunker on the right and try to get it down there as far as you can. It's a long enough hole.

And the same thing on 18. I think aggressiveness off the tee; you can reward yourself with a little shorter iron shot in and be able to take on something a little bit more on the green. It is, it's a tough stretch, one of the toughest stretches that we play all year. I've had my fair share of, you know, good runs on that stretch and bad runs, actually.

But it will be an exciting finish, I think, with 16, 17 and 18, and even with the drivable par 4, 14th, as well, in there. You've got four of the last five holes with water and excitement, and I think it will be an exciting finish to the tournament if there's a few guys up around the lead at that point.

Q. Could you put into words the run that Jordan is on, and what you think makes him so good and just maybe put a finger on the knack that he has for the big moments?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, you know, obviously starting at the Travelers and holing that bunker shot to win, and then going to, he took, I guess, three weeks off, was it, after that before coming to The Open, and then he does what he does at The Open. He pulls himself out of another hole.

He has got that knack. I call it resilience. I don't know if there's a better word to describe what it is that he has. But he has got this resilience where he gets himself in positions in tournaments where you don't think he can come back from, and he does. It's awfully impressive.

It's a mental thing. You can stand and hit the shots that he was hitting for those last five holes at The Open on the range, no problem. But being able to do it under those circumstances, under the pressure, that's what makes him so good, being in those situations.

Yeah, resilience, mentally tough, strong, whatever you want to call it. That's his biggest asset. Being able to forget about a bad shot and move on to the next one, that's his greatest weapon.

Q. You were full of compliments for what Harry did for you last week. Have you been approached by many TOUR caddies for the position? And I also wanted to ask you, have you been inundated with responses from people to caddie from the general public?
RORY McILROY: I guess, yeah, I've been approached from a lot of different areas. But like I don't really want to, I'm trying to get this -- sounds bad, trying to get this week out of the way before I start to think about that. I have enough on my plate this week with trying to get ready for this golf tournament and trying to win.

Yeah, look, there's been -- we've been inundated with people wanting to have a chance to carry the bag. But I can't really think about that until next week, until I have a week off, and then I can reassess how these couple of weeks have went with Harry on the bag, and then we'll see what I do for the Playoffs after that.

Q. To continue on that, how long did you think about making the change of caddie, and what were you hoping to accomplish?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I guess it was on my mind for awhile. And I said this last week, there's never a good time to change. Especially, as I was alluding to, we don't really have an off-season. So when is the best time to be able to get know someone and work with someone. There's no really good time in the golf schedule to do that.

That's why, for at least these two weeks, I wanted to have someone that I knew beside me and didn't have to get to know them and there wasn't that awkward spell where, you know -- so anyways.

So yeah, it was on my mind for awhile, and yeah, I don't know. It's one of those things. I guess I was trying to accomplish a more like clutter-free mindset on the golf course. Try to take a little bit more responsibility.

I feel like if I make a decision, that's mine and I own it. And even if it's good or bad, I can accept that myself and I alluded to it last week, as well. I was getting very hard on JP and probably shouldn't have been. But it was more, I just wanted to, I just didn't want to have that frustration on the golf course. So that's really what I was trying to accomplish.

Last week I really enjoyed myself with Harry. We had a lot of fun on the course and hopefully we have a lot of fun on the course this week, as well.

Q. Just wondering if you had managed to stick with your self-imposed Twitter ban? I know there have been a couple of posts, sort of promotional stuff. Have you found it easy to stay away from social media?
RORY McILROY: Very easy. Yeah, I don't miss it at all, actually. It's nice to get away from it. Again, trying to have more of a clutter-free sort of head and not really see anything. Yeah, obviously everything that gets posted from my social platforms is not for me at the minute. Obviously it's a lot of promotional stuff. I would think that's what it will be for the foreseeable future.

Q. Both Ernie and Phil are playing their 100th major this week. Can you fathom that type of longevity? Quick math shows you need another six years of playing each of the four majors every single year.
RORY McILROY: Feels like I've played a hundred so far. That's pretty impressive. So a hundred -- that's more than 20 years of playing majors, wow. 25, yeah, I guess. Hopefully I can get to that number. It would be nice to get to that number one day. But yeah, that's pretty -- and especially with how late they have won some majors, as well with, Ernie winning The Open in 2012 and Phil winning The Open in 2013, that's into their 70s or 80s in terms of majors played. That's pretty good longevity right there.

And yeah, if you look at their golf swings, it's sort of quite loose and long and languid. They have had a couple injuries here and there, knee injuries and whatever else, but to be able to keep that run going for such a long period of time, it is impressive.

Q. Just to go back to the caddie topic, where do you stand in terms of the balance of the caddie being the engineer, the scientist and being your best friend, your mate, someone you want to spend 72 holes with?
RORY McILROY: I would be on that side of the spectrum, more someone you get along with. Caddie and player, it's all about chemistry and it's all about how you get along, I think.

They can't hit the golf shot for you. They can give you a number. They can try to persuade you one way or another what shot to hit, what club to hit, but at the end of the day, that is entirely up to you. Someone that you get along with and don't mind spending a lot of time with, that's sort of where I am on the caddie sort of scale.

JOHN DEVER: Thank you for your time. Have a good week.

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