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January 2, 2019

Rory McIlroy

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room making his first career start at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year to earn your invite and just talk about being here in Kapalua.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it's nice. It's a bit of a different start to the year for me. I'm usually, I can usually enjoy Christmas and New Year and not have to think about golf too much. So a bit of an earlier start but it's good. It's always, any time that you're invited to Kapalua is a good thing. It means you've played well the year before and we just wanted to mix things up a little bit this year and here we are.

JOHN BUSH: You mentioned, it is early in the year but talk a little bit about the state of your game coming in this week.

RORY MCILROY: I'll tell you tomorrow. I think I last played competitively in Dubai at the end of November. I put the clubs away for about three weeks and then yeah, just sort of picked them back up whenever that was, sort of like the second week in December. And yeah, it feels good, working on some things and trying to get ready for the rest of the year, but yeah, everything feels okay.

JOHN BUSH: Open it up to questions.

Q. Your first trip here to the Plantation Course. What are your impressions and how does the course fit your game?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it's sort of as expected. I've watched a lot of it on TV over the years. Big, wide fairways. Length is probably a big factor here. If you can get driver in your hand there's some, the four par-5s, but then there's some longer par-4s, but then there's some shorter par-4s that you can get close to the green. So I can see why the scores have been low over the years and why some guys have been able to shoot some great scores, but depends on the conditions this week. The wind is supposed to be up Thursday, Friday, so at least it's coming from the same direction, so I've got a chance to play in that wind and I can get pretty comfortable playing the golf course that way. Then I think it's supposed to calm down a little bit at the weekend. So just sort of hang in there and hopefully shoot a couple of scores the first two days and see where I'm at.

Q. I know you've been asked a lot about your decision to maybe focus a little bit more on the U.S. TOUR, this season, but can you remember when you this sort of dawned on you that this is what you wanted to do? I think you talked about wanting to do what's best for you.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean it's not as if this hasn't been, going back to even 2009 when I got into the top-50 in the world, it's once you get into the top-50 in the world you can really pick and choose where you want to play. And more and more you're coming over this way and being state side. But I think really taking up residence in the U.S. last year, being a permanent resident, I made the decision that that's, this is where my life is going to be, this is where I'm going to live, so. And I think all the guys are trying to reduce their travel as much as possible and maybe just not -- and the schedule doesn't work this way anymore, which is a good thing, but having to hop back and forth from the states to Europe and back again, there's not a lot of that going on which is a good thing. But yeah, my focus has always been the biggest events in the world since I got into that top-50, but then even more so now just because of wanting to travel less and wanting to spend more time at home when I can be at home and that's sort of the reason.

Q. Did it factor into your decision to play this week for the first time because of that decision?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean I wanted to get off to a good start, an early start. Traditionally I played the two events over in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and I might -- at the end of the calendar year -- but the start of the PGA TOUR season I'll usually just play China. I haven't played any of the other Asian events or I've played that Napa event one time. But I feel like every time I show up to the start of the year on the PGA TOUR, I'm -- other guys have played nearly 10 events and I'm sort of playing my first or my second one. So I wanted to try and start a little bit early, get a few more starts under my belt before the big bulk of the season kicks in.

Q. Can you just give us your thoughts of the rules meetings and things that you've had and what you think may or may not happen over the next few days that could be different?
RORY MCILROY: That rules meeting was voluntary and I voluntarily didn't go.


Q. Just your thoughts in general and how the changes may affect the game.
RORY MCILROY: It might help pace of play a little bit. I think it's going to be very strange for guys to tap down spike marks, to tap in with the pin in. There's going to be a few things that are, practicing your drops from your knees. We're saying that Brian Harman has got a big advantage, he can basically place it. Where you got someone like Tony Finau who is dropping it probably from like waist high for me. But I think that they're trying to simplify the rules which I think is a great thing for the game. I've always said that the rules of golf are way too complicated, especially after the debacles and farces we have had at U.S. Opens and all sorts of stuff over the last few years. So I'm happy that they made the decision to try and simplify them and just try to make everything a little bit easier to understand.

Q. So down at that putting week at Bay Hill, I mean how you kind of rank your short game going forward from that point for rest of the season? And what did you think that that win did in terms of your expectations for the rest of the year with those things?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, obviously most of the reason I won Bay Hill was because of the putting. I don't think I had ever come close to having a hundred putts for the week in any other win. I think it's been good, it's been more consistent. The putting had its ups and downs since then but for the most part I thought it was okay. I was pretty good in terms of inside of eight feet on TOUR. That was something that I was focusing on and did quite well. Really my 15- to 20-feet range is what I need to work on, if you look at the stats from last year. And it was really my speed. My speed wasn't very good from that range. I was leaving myself sort of 3- and 4-footers coming back a lot, which is maybe partly a mental thing but also a physical sort of stroke thing and not hitting it out of the center of the putter all the time, so the speed gets a little bit inconsistent. So something I've worked on a little bit over the off season.

But short game-wise in terms of like chipping and bunker play I think it was one of my strongest years last year on TOUR.

Q. Similar question, but if you look at your stats last year compared to the year before it's either the same or you improved in almost every category. What's your process in the off-season to decide what you need to focus ongoing into the new year?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think you just have to recap and look at the stats. And I think the invention or the coming up with strokes gained, it really gives you a great idea of where you are compared to the rest of the field or the rest of the PGA TOUR. So yeah like going into last year I wanted to improve my wedges, my wedge play, and I think I was ranked in the top-10 in most categories inside of 150 yards, especially from like I think 75 to 150 I was ranked in the top-10 of every strokes gained or sort of proximity to the hole category. So that was a big improvement. If anything last year, my strokes gained driving compared to other years wasn't quite as strong as it has been and that was part of the reason especially in the last rounds that I didn't contend more often. I was just putting myself out of position and trying to really recover from there. So but for the most part I have looked at the stats from last year going into this year, set myself some goals, and just trying to work towards them.

Q. What's the most exciting thing you've done this week?
JOHN BUSH: Other than this.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I don't know, New Years Eve. I don't know, yeah, ordered a nice bottle of red on New Years Eve. I was probably as excited for that.

Q. I might butcher this compared to the way you very nicely said it like when you won the Open, but it was something like that when you're playing great you really don't remember what it was like to play bad and when you're playing bad you wonder if you'll ever play good again. Where are you right now?
RORY MCILROY: It feels good, yeah, I feel comfortable. I've been working on a couple of things in my swing over the off-season, which I think have started to bed in. A lot of work in the video and a lot of work indoors, just trying to not even caring where the ball's going, just sort of hitting into a net and trying to get into certain positions and try to get the club to move a little more fluently throughout the swing. So but yeah I feel good, I mean the way I've played out there the last few days has been good and but I guess you never really know until you tee it up. I know it's only been seven or eight weeks since I played, but at least I had those seven or eight weeks to work on some things and give myself some goals to work towards this year.

Q. Is there ever been a time from your first win where you took winning for granted, I'm not sure what I mean by that but maybe felt like wins were expected without realizing how hard it is?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think that I went a period of sort of 10 months from July 2014 to May 2015 where I won seven or eight times or something, so winning once a month is a pretty nice basically or not quite once a month, but, yeah in that period it felt very normal, it felt like, okay, this is what I'm supposed to do. And then fast forward a couple of years and I have still had some wins, I still had seven wins since then, but it's, they were coming thick and fast and regularly and that's obviously a place that I would love to get back to. But did I take it for granted? You know there's probably some wins that I wish I had have celebrated more because you win so much less often than you lose out here and you really have to celebrate the wins.

Q. Did you find yourself appreciating it more when they weren't coming in buckets?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, yeah, I think just the sense of satisfaction and -- yeah, I think so. I definitely think so. A guy that's played 400 times on the PGA TOUR and gets his win it's going to probably mean more to him than the guy that gets his 40th win or whatever it may be, you know.

Q. Who in your life sacrificed the most for you to be where you are today and when did you truly sort of understand that sacrifice?
RORY MCILROY: My parents for sure. I couldn't single out one over the other, because my dad worked three jobs at one time and my mom worked night shifts and so they made a lot of sacrifices, all their extra money and time off was put into me to go and play golf tournaments, so -- and I didn't truly realize that probably until maybe I was out of my teenage years, when I was on my own two feet and I realized that my childhood wasn't the norm and that's not what a lot of parents do for their kids. And so it took me awhile to realize just the sacrifice and the hard work that they put in to just giving me a chance to do what I do.

Q. Did that give you a level of appreciation?
RORY MCILROY: Oh, it's unbelievable, yeah. I mean, I always said I can never repay them for what they have done for me, so just make sure they're happy and comfortable for the rest of their days.

Q. Given the changes to the PGA TOUR schedule this year was your schedule harder to come up with this year because of where everything kind of falls on the calendar and what might it look like?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, yes, yeah, like there's some events that I have played regularly in the past that I'm going to have to sit out because if I don't, if I play those events, I'll be -- I was looking at the summer schedule from basically post-U.S. Open all the way through to after the FedExCup and potentially I could play 11 out of 13 weeks, which is a lot of golf and that's, it's too much for me, I know myself and I know by that fifth or sixth week I'm going to hate the game and I'm going to need to take a break. So there's probably going to be a few events that I'm trying to play week before majors, that's something that I'm, there might be a couple that I might not, but I think that the week before, especially for, there's I think a couple of the majors especially it can really benefit you. So I'm trying to do that. As I said, maybe a couple of extra starts early in the PGA TOUR season, but after that it will be pretty similar to what it has been, I think.

JOHN BUSH: All right, Rory, thank you for your time. Best of luck this week.

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