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August 7, 2018

Rory McIlroy

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the 100th PGA Championship. Pleased to be joined by two-time PGA Champion Rory McIlroy. Welcome to Bellerive and what is your 10th -- as we turn 100 as an association, you turn 10 with us, this is your 10th championship. I guess I want to ask you, you've obviously had some great successes with us during the championship. What is it about a Kerry Haigh PGA Championship layout that agrees with you.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's hard to believe this is the 10th one. But, yeah, I have always enjoyed PGA Championship setups. They seem to suit my game style pretty well, sort of modern layouts that reward good driving, reward good ball striking.

I think I haven't seen much of Bellerive this week, for obvious reasons, with the weather, but from what I've seen it does remind me of somewhere like a Valhalla type of golf course where there's quite a lot of mounding. The bunkering is pretty good, but it's a big, big long golf course. And Kerry and his team set the golf courses up really well. I don't think they really care whether the winning score is 5-under par or 20-under par. They sort of just let the conditions dictate what happens, and I think all the players appreciate that. We all like to play golf courses that are tough but fair, and I think that the PGA present golf courses like that to us each and every year.

THE MODERATOR: So on Thursday and Friday you'll be playing with Justin and Tiger, and get some -- I'm interested in your thoughts on being part oftentimes -- and you've done this before -- but being part of the mega group like that, and does that change your mindset or mentality going into the round at all?

RORY McILROY: You certainly get thrown at the deep end straight away in a group like that. I think what Justin and I -- even as Justin won last week, and you just have to accept that 75 percent of the people that are out there watching are watching one guy in that group and that's it. So as long as you know that and you're going to expect a little bit of movement, and there's a lot that goes on around a group that involves Tiger, so you just have to be in the right place mentally to accept it and go with it.

But it's going to be fun. It's nice to play in groups like that and I guess it focuses you straight away. It's going to be a big atmosphere out there, and I'm looking forward to that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Jordan has a chance to complete the career Grand Slam this week, which is something you've had a couple of cracks at at Augusta, and I just wonder if you can relate to the pursuit of that and relate also any pressures or things that you've tried to take off of yourself while you've tried to do that and get that done?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely having had a few goes at it, I think that less expectations is better. Trying to take pressure off yourself, trying to treat it like any normal week, just trying to win the golf tournament that week, sort of put it out of your head that what winning this golf tournament would mean in terms of your legacy and your place in the game. So, yeah, I mean I can probably relate a little bit to what he's feeling, but it's a great position to be in. Not many people have a chance to do something like that.

So it's really cool to be a part of that conversation, and I think you have to embrace it, you have to relish it, you have to just go at it and know that, if you do win this week, you're going to join a very, very elite club. But, yeah, I'm sure Jordan feels a little bit different this week than he does the other three Majors, but that's normal.

It's a big deal, but I think, once you get out on the golf course and you start the tournament, all you're thinking about is trying to shoot good scores and hit good golf shots. So he's shown over the past few years he's mentally very good, so I'm sure he won't have a problem.

Q. As impressive as Tiger has been in coming back so quickly, from the general fan base there's still this super high expectation of him winning soon. Do people, do you think, in general, realize how hard it is and how far he has come back and how difficult it is to compete with you guys week-to-week now?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, look, there's a lot of different layers to what Tiger has to go through to win again. He's put himself in position -- well, first of all, he had to learn how to move again. He had to learn how to swing. Geez, I mean, 18 months ago the guy couldn't walk. He was in bed. He just had his fourth back surgery, so to get to this point is a phenomenal achievement already.

And all it will take is just -- he's got all the components of the game. He's learned how to make a swing work for him again. He's learning how to compete again. He's learning what you have to do on the back nine of a Major on Sunday. All those things he's been through. So he has got it all there. He's building up all that, I don't want to say experience, but even though he's won 14 of these things, you still, if you haven't done it for awhile, you still have to re-learn a few things, and I think he's going through that stage.

But as we saw at the last, at the last Major a few weeks ago, he's right there, which is an unbelievable achievement. To think that he's already won his 14 Majors with basically three to four different golf swings. This is sort of his fifth. So if he could go ahead and win another Major with his fifth golf swing, I mean, that's unbelievable.

Q. Thomas Bjorn was in here this morning and he said, when he was asked about your game, he said that he thought you were really close and that, if you did get one win, you could go boom and you would win quite a few tournaments again in a row. Is that how you feel about the state of your game at the moment?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's certainly close. I mean, I've kept giving myself chances this year. I haven't closed out those tournaments as I would have liked, but at least I'm putting myself in position, and that's all I can do. I can just keep putting myself in position and learn from those experiences, good or bad, and try to use what I've learned and put it into the -- put it into practice the next time, I guess.

So I've done well, I'm slowly getting back up the World Rankings. I started this year at 11th, I'm back up to 5th. I've done a lot of good things. The only thing I haven't done is win enough. I've given myself a lot of chances. I played in a lot of final groups and I haven't played well enough when it's counted. So that's something that I'm just trying to go through and try to figure out what I need to do to make that little step from contending and getting into final groups to lifting trophies.

So I don't think it has to take a round like I played at Bay Hill to win golf tournaments. Even looking at playing with J.T. last on Sunday there, he made a lot of pars, he didn't put himself under that much pressure, and he did what he needed to do to win. And the thing as well, I haven't had -- I don't think I've had a lead going into the final day, or I might have been tied for the lead at Wentworth, or maybe even Dubai, but a lot of these final rounds that I'm playing in final groups, I'm still two or three behind, so I'm always feeling like I'm under pressure to make a fast start and try to make up ground.

And sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, but right now I would love to take my chance in a final group here on Sunday again.

Q. Two-part question following on that last answer. So you prefer to play from ahead? Because a lot of players will say they actually like being behind and being able to not have to hold a lead, to chase the lead.
RORY McILROY: I guess I've done it both ways. I like -- if you're in the lead, you've got the best -- you're in the best position you can be in. So I don't think that's something you should shy away from. And, yeah, I mean, honestly this year I've just -- in those final rounds I felt under pressure to get off to a good start to just get a little bit closer and to make my job easier over those last 9 holes or 12 holes or whatever it is.

Q. 2014 it would have been hard to imagine that you would not have won another Major. In 2018 you've become a much more patient player, but has your patience been tested with every Major that's gone on?
RORY McILROY: Yes and no. I mean, even from 2014 I've given myself some half chances at Majors. I think my best chance since Valhalla was at The Open at Carnoustie, but in golf you just have to be an eternal optimist. You have to make the most of everything you have to see the positives and just move on and forget about it and that's what I've tried to do this year is the times where I haven't won and I haven't played my best, I try to learn from it and I move on. There's no point in reflecting on it too much or dwelling on it.

You just have to turn up to the next tournament, and it's a fresh start. And even this week's a fresh start for me after what happened on Sunday. It's another chance to give myself a chance to win a golf tournament.

Q. What would you take if you were offered a year where you won one Major, missed a dozen cuts, finished 25th a couple times versus something like this year which has probably been the most consistent results year of your professional career. But what one would you have, and what would be part of the frustrations attached to the other one?
RORY McILROY: I definitely would have this, I would take this year over the one where you win a Major and because it's not -- look, it is about the results at the end of the day. People aren't going to look back at your career and think of the journey and it was consistent and whatever. They're going to look at if you one or lose. But I think within myself I would be happier to play the golf that I'm playing because I'm giving myself chances nearly every week that I tee it up.

I would rather do that than have one hot week and, yes, you win a Major, but I would rather have the year that I'm having and persevere with it and hopefully it all -- not turns around because it's not as if my game's in bad shape at all, it's just I just haven't won as much as I would have liked, but there's still plenty of time to change that. This is the last Major of the year. Obviously, you've got a lot of great tournaments coming up after this, but I think with a good week this week, it just puts a different spin on my year from being what some people see as disappointing to back on track and another Major and going forward again.

But where my game is, I feel like I've done as well as I could with what I have. It's still a work in progress. I'm still working on a few things in my swing and trying to iron a few kinks out, but as long as I can keep working at it and focus on just trying to become a better golfer, that's all I can do.

Q. What is the biggest challenge of these greens? Is it the size, the undulation, the conditioning? And do you think we'll see a little less separation between the good putters and the not so good putters this week?
RORY McILROY: I've only seen three of the greens, so I can't really give you a great answer on that one. I mean they look like they're greens within greens. It looks like they're big targets, but depending upon where the hole locations are, you're hitting into a much smaller target to get it on the right level.

And in fairness, the greens, they look a little worse than they actually putt. They look slower than they are. They putt really well. Even today when it was raining and it was soft, the greens were good in terms of how they putted. I think the big thing is how the ball's going to react on the greens, because there's not a lot of like base underneath the grass and there's not a lot of root system. So you're not going to see wedge shots spin a lot. You're going to see them stop dead, but you're also going to see a 6-iron stop dead.

It's going to be -- it's the quintessential target golf, sort of. That's what it is this week. Where your ball lands is where it's going to really stay.

Q. With this being the 100th PGA Championship and all the greats that have played in this tournament over the last century, what's the significance for you playing this week, or is it more significant for you playing in the 100th PGA Championship?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean it's a big milestone for the tournament. It's a big milestone for the PGA of America. And it's going to be cool. Look, we have the Champions Dinner tonight, and you have, I'm sure there will be a video played and a look back through the hundred years of the tournament, and to be a part of that history and to get my name on that trophy a couple of times is very cool. And if I was able to win this week, that would be three times out of a hundred, which 3 percent's a pretty good ratio in this tournament, if I were to be able to do that.

But it's cool. The 100th year of anything is a big deal and, yeah, I'm glad to be a part of the history of it.

Q. As brilliantly as you've driven the ball in recent times, you not necessarily have taken advantage of the great driving, and Dustin Johnson went through that in his career where he didn't take advantage of his length. Somebody told me this morning they think that you are aware that have you a mechanical problem with your wedges that you sort of work through, it creeps in and out of your game. Could you talk about your wedge play?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean look, I think, obviously, last week highlighted a couple of things. And, yeah, for sure, I think what makes me so good with the driver is sometimes what makes me inconsistent with the wedges and hand speed and body speed and rotation, and the fact that sometimes you need a lot of separation in your upper and lower body with the driver in your hand but you don't need that separation with a wedge in your hand.

So I think that looking at, I had a good chat with Thomas Bjorn about it last year in Scotland, and he said one of the reasons that I'm such a good wedge player is the same reason that I'm not a very good driver of the ball, and it's the opposite with me. So it's just about trying to find that blend. I've definitely become a little more rotational in my swing over the past couple of years, and some of that is through bad habit and some of that is through injury.

And I'm trying to get back to the way -- the last time I won a Major in 2014 at Valhalla, I think that's one of the best times I swung the club really well at that point in time. And the feelings that I have now, it's just hard for me to get into those positions, and if I do get into those positions, it will make me a better wedge player. But it's a process. I've gotten into a couple of bad habits, as you said, and that just makes it a little tougher for me to be consistent with a shorter club in my hand.

So I'm working on it and doing my best to get all parts of my game a little bit better each and every week, but, yeah, for sure last week definitely highlighted a couple of things for me that I need to work on.

Q. Today is PGA Junior League Day here at Bellerive. I know you and Rickie are involved in that. How important is that to you to be involved in that, and how important is it to grow the game among our kids today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean I'm happy -- look I'm very happy to be involved with the PGA Junior League. I think it's a great initiative to get kids into golf and especially introduce them to golf through a team environment instead of -- golf can be a lonely pursuit at times. So I think for kids to get involved with their friends. They get a number on the back of their jersey. There's a lot of cool stuff that goes on with the PGA Junior League, and I'm obviously very happy to lend my name and support to it. And I've seen it grow so much since 2013 when I came on board, and five years later and it's one of the biggest junior golf programs in the country. So it's been fantastic to be a part of and to watch it grow and looking forward to spending some time with the kids today.

Q. Yesterday you hit some balls down by the arch. Just wondering what do you know about St. Louis? What do you think about St. Louis? Anything you're looking forward to doing or you've heard about in the city, the sports, the culture the food, anything like that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, honestly not much. There's two things I know about St. Louis -- that Nellie is from here, the rapper, and you got a pretty good baseball team. But, yeah, I haven't -- it's cool to come to new cities. It's not very often that I go somewhere that I haven't been before, so it was nice to get down there and be by the arch, and it's such an iconic -- whenever you think of St. Louis, that's what you think of.

So it was cool to see that, and Sergio, Tommy, and I hit a few balls down there. I'm not sure if that will be done again, so it was cool to do that. But, yeah, I think with how much we travel, we see the golf course that we're playing, we see the hotel we're staying at, and we don't necessarily make the time to go and experience the culture or experience what that city has to offer. So it was nice to at least get one afternoon to go downtown and see what it was like.

But, yeah, it was cool. As I said, it's cool to come to, go to new places, and if I win on Sunday night, maybe I'll get to see the nightlife and bring that Wanamaker into some of the bars.

THE MODERATOR: Good plan. Thank you for your time and please have a good week.

RORY McILROY: Thank you.

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