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February 7, 2018

Rory McIlroy

Pebble Beach, California

DOUG MILNE: Like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room here at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Thanks for joining us. Making your first start of the 2017-2018 on the PGA TOUR and first start here every at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. But you haven't been away from the game with your second and third place finishes last month at Abu Dhabi and Dubai. With that said, just some thoughts on our you're feeling and being here this week.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it's good to be back in the States and playing again. I'm feeling healthy and I don't think I could have picked a better week to come back over here. It's obviously beautiful. It's been a nice few days of preparing, seeing a couple of golf courses that I've never seen before. So, yeah. No, I'm excited to be back, I'm excited for this year. The last time I sat in an interview room on the PGA TOUR I wasn't feeling too good about myself, but, yeah, I'm really happy to be back and looking forward to starting a busy run over the next few weeks leading up to the first Major of the year.

DOUG MILNE: Speaking of that, just a couple of comments on, you really have stacked your schedule for the near future. Just some comments on how that process, that decision process was.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it was just more I feel like I haven't played a whole lot over the past 18 months for various reasons and not really making up for lost time, but just missed playing, missed playing competitive golf. And I feel like there's nothing in my way, there's nothing stopping me from playing a pretty full schedule. So it's nice to start here in California and work my way back East and play a couple of tournaments that I've never played before, so excited for that. And, yeah, I think that once I get to Augusta, one excuse I won't have is not being prepared and being under-golfed and I'll have played a lot of tournament golf leading up to it. So just feel like it's the sort of -- I wanted to do it last year as well, I wanted to play a heavy schedule, but the injury didn't allow me to do that leading up to Augusta. So hopefully I can fulfill that this year and play a lot and get into contention a bunch of times and get my confidence up at the start of the year.

DOUG MILNE: Take some questions.

Q. A tournament you've never played. I'm curious, two things: Why you chose to start here on the PGA TOUR and who do you think's played more golf in the last year, you or your father?
RORY MCILROY: So I would say one of the reasons we came here is, obviously, I'm playing with my dad, so that's a part of it. It's nice to be able to come here and play with him. But I think with the Middle East run ending a week earlier and having a week in between here and -- or Dubai and here, that helped as well. So we could fly back to Florida, sort of get settled, get everything sort of set there and then make our way over to the West Coast. So I think just that extra week has helped. And it's a tournament that I've always watched and I've always thought one day it would be really cool to play with my dad and fortunately we were able to get him in and play. And we've played the last three days and it's been a lot of fun and just hope he hasn't tired himself out. He's got a lot of golf left over the next few days. But, yeah, so that was really the reason. And yeah, he's definitely played more golf than I have in the last year.

Q. Do you remember the first time you played a round of golf with Gerry, how old you were?
RORY MCILROY: A full round of golf? I was probably about six or seven. Like a full 18. I would play nine holes and have all the ambition in the world to try and finish 18 when I was four or five, but he would end up playing the last sort of six or seven holes by himself and carrying my golf bag as well. So, yeah, probably seven, I would say.

Q. Do you remember the first time you beat him?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah. Yeah, I do. I remember feeling bad. I remember feeling a little bad about it. Probably like 11 or 12.

Q. At Hollywood?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, at Hollywood, yeah.

Q. How much confidence did you get over in the Middle East run?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it was good to see. I was a little bit anxious to see how I was going to play. Being away from tournament golf for nearly four months, just, not necessarily how I hit it or just more of getting back into the mode of tournament golf and thinking the right way and scoring and all that sort of stuff that you can't practice until you're out there playing. And that came to me very quickly. So I was very happy with that and got into that tournament mode quite easily and quite quickly and I played well. I took a lot of confidence and two pretty strong fields, two chances to win, obviously didn't win either, but I thought it was a really strong start to the year and I was really happy flying away from Dubai after those two weeks.

Q. You talked earlier about always wanting to go play here. Why didn't you? Was it just the schedule, the fact that it was right after Dubai? And with your dad, did you approach the tournament, did they come to you with that idea, how did that all come together?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think mostly schedule. So to play the couple events in the Middle East and then fly straight to the West Coast, it's a 12-hour time difference, it's -- I would rather get to at least get to home base in Florida first and get everything set there and maybe have a week to adjust and then come over. So it worked out perfectly that way.

And, yeah, I'm not sure how I -- I think we made the call and I said look, I'm going to play, would it be possible for my dad to join me. Yeah, no, the tournament have been really accommodating and really helpful and it's going to be a really cool week for both of us. We have played in the European equivalent of Dunhill Links a few times before and we have done well at it, but this is a little bit different. So it will be nice to, a nice experience to hopefully play four rounds of golf with him. Obviously we're going to, first thing is to try and make the cut so he can play on Sunday. But, yeah, it's going to be a great week.

Q. How cool was it, the tournament in recent years has strengthened the field in part by giving pros, such as yourself, the amateur partners you want. Did that help convince you to come here?
RORY MCILROY: Not necessarily. I think that one of the great things about golf and being in the position that we are, a football player can't go and play football with the CEO of a certain company. So there's opportunities out there for us to meet these people and to develop a relationship that might turn into something along the way. So as golfers we're very lucky, we get to do that every Wednesday anyway and then -- so I don't mind that. You know coming into this event that it's a pro-am and the rounds might be a little bit longer than what you're used to, but at the end of the day that's what you sign up for. But, yeah, look, I'm really excited to be paired with my dad, but it doesn't mean I won come back and be paired with someone else in the future.

Q. As you mentioned, you've gotten off to a strong start but just curious, when you see those other big names winning early, how much does that maybe ratchet up a desire to want to answer and then I just have a quick follow-up.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, look, again, like I'm not into -- it's great that D.J. and Jon Rahm and these guys have won early this year, but the last thing on my mind is those two guys when I tee it up on a Thursday morning trying to go and play a golf tournament. I'm trying to play as best I can and I realize the position I'm in in the world of golf. And I know if I play well and I do what I can do and control what I can control, I'll have chances to win golf tournaments. So it's great for the game to see the top players in the world play so well, but I don't feel like I need to answer anything or I don't feel I need to retaliate in any way. I just need to go out and play my game and if I do that, I'll have chances to win.

Q. The follow-up is just, when you have a big marquee pairing like you'll have this week, how much does it matter?
RORY MCILROY: I'm looking forward to it. I haven't seen Phil in a while. Phil's playing with a good friend of ours, Jimmy did you know, and it's going to be a good few days. Yeah, so I love playing with Phil. I always enjoy my time with him. We have some pretty good conversations about some obscure things and it's good fun.

Q. How exactly did the conversation go with your dad when you guys talked about this? How long did it last?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, no, look, I think we have played five or six Dunhill Links together, so it's not new for us. We have done it before. And I think that it was -- I always thought like around the time he was maybe turning 60 or something like that would be a nice 60th birthday present for him. It's come a year early, but doesn't mean we might not play again next year. But yeah, it was just more, it was, I was thinking of playing it and I said, would you want to play, and he said, of course. And we sort of tried to just figure it out with the tournament and see if it was possible and it was. And it's been on his radar for quite awhile now, he's been practicing over at Seminole for the last couple of months and getting himself ready and, yeah, his game looks pretty good.

Q. Did he ever ask you before, maybe kind of prod you a little, like, hey, I would kind of like to go to Pebble Beach one of these days?
RORY MCILROY: No, not at all, he's not like that at all. It's more if he's asked, he would obviously love to do it, but he's not the sort of guy to try and do something like that, I guess. I just thought it would be really fun to play with him and, yeah, it sort of all worked out. So it's good.

Q. Coming here this week and coming off Dubai as you were and how brutally honest you were, as you always have been with us, can you use that sort of result in Dubai and also like the great result in Abu Dhabi as a motivation this week or is it a clean slate this week in terms of that?
RORY MCILROY: It's a bit of both. It's a little bit of motivation because I had two chances to win golf tournaments and I didn't. Or maybe one and a half chances. I was maybe tied for the lead with nine holes to go in Abu Dhabi and Tommy played an unbelievable back nine. I was two ahead with eight to go in Dubai. I should have won that, I let that tournament slip. But again, they're great building blocks. So I don't want to dwell on them too much. I take them for what they are, which are good performances and a couple of pretty solid golf tournaments. I'll go from there. So if anything, they were just two good confidence builders going into this part of the season and now that I'm over here in the States I've got six weeks out of the next seven to try and play well and give myself chances to win. And I feel like where my game's at and how I'm feeling, if I do what I know I can do, I'll have chances.

Q. You mentioned a busy schedule. A lot of reason for that is so that you can't say you're not prepared for the Masters. Have you ever entered the Masters unprepared and is there, if so is there a particular year that sticks out?
RORY MCILROY: No, I don't feel like I've been under-prepared, but there might have been times where say for example Augusta would have been my sixth event of the year and maybe in those previous five events I might not have got fully in contention or had a chance to win a golf tournament. So I feel like the best way to prepare you for a big week like that is in contention, feeling those nerves down the stretch. And so I feel like the more I play, the more chance I'm going to give myself to be in that position. So that's part of the reason. And I already have. I was in the last couple of groups in Abu Dhabi, I was in the last group on Sunday in Dubai. Hopefully I'm in a couple more last groups before we get to April. So that's really the reason. So, no, I don't feel like I've ever been under-prepared for it, but sometimes maybe it would have been nice to just get into contention a couple more times before going there.

Q. Two things: One, the optimum schedule for you. Have you ever really figured it out in regards to how to attack, not just Augusta, but the four Majors? And then secondly, in a next life would you want to come back as Gerry McIlroy or Rory McIlroy?
RORY MCILROY: So I'll answer that second question first. So it would probably be Gerry McIlroy post-50, because the first 50 years of his life were a little tougher. Working three jobs and trying to raise me. So, yeah. But, yeah Gerry McIlroy post-50 is pretty good.

Sorry, what was the first part of that question?

Q. Your schedule.
RORY MCILROY: Oh, schedule. Yeah, no, so look, I've won Major Championships by playing the week before. I've won Major Championships by not playing the week before. It really depends -- I think that the scheduling in golf is such a, it's a fluid thing and it can change from week-to-week and how you're feeling. If you feel like you need to have a week on the range, you have a week on the range. If you feel like you need a week playing competitively, you do that. So I don't think anyone has ever found the perfect schedule. I don't think that exists. It's all about how you're feeling at that given point and that given time. Right now I feel like playing a lot of golf and that's what I'm going to do.

Q. You committed to a bunch of tournaments, so doesn't that make it difficult in this world today about having to commit that far out to something when maybe you might get to that point and it really doesn't fit your schedule but people are pushing you to --
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, no, I get your point. But again, as I really enjoyed Travelers last year. Yes, it's after the U.S. Open, but we don't have to travel far. U.S. Open's at Shinnecock, Travelers is in Hartford, it's not too far to go. I enjoyed the course, it's a -- I don't want to say a low key event, but it feels -- it's a nice tournament. I had a really good time there last year and it was something that Travelers came to us and said would you be willing to play it again this year, and I said yeah, no, I would love to, it's definitely a course that I want to go back and I feel like it's a course I can do well on. And then Tampa, really the reason I'm playing Tampa is because if I didn't play Tampa I would have two weeks off in a that middle stretch there because I'm not going to Mexico and I don't feel like I want two weeks off. One week at home is enough and I can get a lot of work done and get a little bit of rest after the three weeks that I've had and I'll want to go again.

So, but, yeah, I know where you're coming from. But look, I feel like I've, I know what my schedule is up until the Ryder Cup and then it's a little more fluid, depending upon how the bulk of the season has went.

Q. Can you see yourself going back to Mexico next year when they go L.A., Mexico and then Florida?
RORY MCILROY: I think that's definitely a better way to do it, to go L.A., Mexico Florida. To go L.A., Florida then back is, look, it is what it is, it's not too big a deal. I guess I didn't do L.A. last year or Honda, I just went straight to Mexico as my first one back. But, yeah, it makes sense. It makes sense to do it that way.

Q. It's a little early for this, maybe, but when you talk about this being different, I would be curious in the three days you've been here what differences you've noticed between this and Dunhill.
RORY MCILROY: Not much. There's a lot of amateurs around. Yeah, just not even just here, obviously being in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and those being the first weeks back, I'm feeling much better about myself.

Q. Not so much about you, I'm curious about atmosphere-wise. The Dunhill links to Pebble Beach that's kind of different.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, sort of similar in a way. Weather's a little nicer here. But, yeah, no, it's sort of the same. It's a nice environment. It's good to be back at golf tournaments. Everyone's excited to be here because of the courses, because of the weather, so, yeah, it's not much different, I guess. I'm feeling a lot different in myself because I feel like it's the start of something and not the end of something. I was just sort of ready to call it quits for the year after the Dunhill. But I'm, with how I sort of dejected and wanting to get away from it I was then, to how rejuvenated and optimistic I am now, it feels a lot different that way.

Q. I asked Jason Day about your game and sort of what he sees earlier and he said how explosive you are and he has the tools to be Tigeresque, I think the biggest thing for Rory is the desire part and how much do you really want it. You mentioned being rejuvenated. How much do you feel like your desire and your motivation is back now? And how much different, I mean for everybody is changes from 21 to 30 or whatever. How much different is it now for you in that regard?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it is. It's different. I certainly want it. There's no doubt about that. I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game when I decide to call it a day. And I know with the right dedication and working on the right things that that could be achievable for me. So, yeah, there was a little bit of, I don't want to say a refocus over the last few months, but just a recalibration of what I need to do to be at that level. And, yeah, I think I have a great window of opportunity over the next 10, 12 years to play great golf and to leave my mark on the game, I guess. But, yeah, there's some other great players and everyone has chances to win every week and the fields are getting so much deeper, so it's just about putting yourself in the position and the more you do that, the more comfortable you are in that scenario. So, but, yeah, the desire's definitely there. Look, like everyone sitting up here in front of you guys that plays the PGA TOUR has a very comfortable life, so that's not an excuse in any way. It's not that -- that's not the reason that I'm out here to play, I've got everything I need. It's just about gathering trophies and trying to be the best golfer that I can be.

DOUG MILNE: Okay, Rory, we appreciate your time as always. Have a great week.

RORY MCILROY: Thank you.

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