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January 5, 2019

Rory McIlroy

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Rory McIlroy into the interview room after a 5-under par 68, currently two shots back depending upon how this thing finishes up. Get some comments on your round.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, another solid round of golf. When we were warming up this morning it didn't look like it was going to be as windy as it turned out to be. Conditions were a little tricky again. And then you sort of had to adjust. But we have sort of gotten used to this wind the last couple, the last three days, and I know tomorrow's going to be completely different. It's going to be coming out of a different direction, it's going to be a little less. So probably a few adjustments to be made. But, yeah, another good round of golf. I drove it well again, iron play was pretty good for the most part, finished out well, holed good putts when I needed to to save par and some good birdies and just need to keep it going for one more day.

JOHN BUSH: Open it up to questions.

Q. Given what you said early in the week about not knowing the state of your game, obviously, since you hadn't played in a while, can you almost take more from the fact that you're playing this well regardless of being in contention, or do the two go hand in hand?
RORY MCILROY: It's nice to see your name up at the top of the leaderboard first week back out. But I honestly didn't play much golf in the off-season. I hit a lot of balls and I practiced and I worked on a few things, but that's obviously very different than going out there and trying to shoot a score. So very pleased with how that's went from range and feeling pretty good on the range to shooting good scores. This is a nice way to start the year. Plenty of margin off the tee, big greens, it's a nice little confidence booster, but, yeah, it's felt good this week. As I said on Wednesday, I didn't really know, my game felt good, but once I got out there on Thursday, yeah, I didn't have many weeks off anyway, but it felt just like it was when I, probably a little better, actually, than when I put the clubs away for a few weeks in November, December.

Q. You're playing in the wind and the way you flight the ball, is that a skill you honed in Hollywood or Jupiter?
RORY MCILROY: Probably a little bit of both. It's been very windy in Jupiter the last few weeks and I've been practicing a lot in the wind. And I've sort of got very comfortable with this little low driver I'm hitting, which is going to be a great shot for me, I think, as the year goes on. Even not when it's windy but just if you're trying to find fairways and trying to put it in play, I wish I was, I had a shot that comfortable say at the TOUR Championship last year, something where you can just put it in play and get it on the fairway. So that's a shot that I've been hitting a lot in practice and it's nice to be able to put it in play here this week.

Q. Would you ever worry that when you perfect that that all of a sudden when you are hitting it well enough where you don't necessarily need to put it in play you just go to it when you shouldn't? You know what I mean?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, no, I don't think so. I don't think that's going to happen. It's not as if I'm going to hit it off the 18th tee here like that.

Q. You probably thought about it?
RORY MCILROY: Well, no, not quite. I would rather, the thing still goes over 300 yards, so I would rather be 300 in the fairway than 340 in the rough, so.

Q. You mentioned the switch of conditions. Could you just quantify how difficult it is to adjust to that in a final round when you've had one the rest of the week?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it's a little different, especially when it's one you haven't played in before. I think I just, Harry and I need to do a good job tomorrow of just hitting it to the right spots on the fairways. So there's going to be a lot of holes where I'm not hitting the same club off the tee as I was the previous few days and it's just about picking your spots to hit at and trusting that this is what you need to do and just trying to be a little more thoughtful about where you're placing the golf ball. I think that's going to be key tomorrow.

Q. And it's tough I guess mentally as well to stay in that head space?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it is, for sure. Especially that's why we play practice rounds to hit in certain clubs off tees, to feel comfortable with that, and get to a point where you have a game plan and that's what you go with. So to not have had that practice and try to go into a final round when you're trying to win a golf tournament, it's a little challenging, but it's going to be the same for everyone.

Q. Is there any frustration with playing those last four holes even par?
RORY MCILROY: A little bit. A little bit. Being 5-under through 14 I thought if I could birdie two of those four holes and I can post 16, that would be nice. After not birdieing the par-5, 15, I was a little aggressive with my second shot on 16. It was actually lucky to get away with a par there. And then that pin on 18's very tricky. You want to go at it, but off where my ball finished on 18 fairway it's a hanging lie and you could turn it over too much very easily. So I bailed out on the right and it was a very tricky up-and-down. So yeah, I think I could have been a couple better, but I've still got myself in a final group first event of the year. So I'm in a good place.

Q. To follow up on just what you said there. Would it be safe to say that when you were thinking about coming here and building a schedule in America that this might be the optimal scenario for you right out of the chute? Is this what you planned to do and want to do?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, yeah, of course. I don't enter tournaments just to show up. I enter them to try to come and win. I worked pretty hard over the last few weeks trying to get ready for this event and get ready for the start of the year. So, yeah, it's nice that everything's going to plan. Again, another final group is great. Especially coming off the back of not being able to play as well as I would have liked in final groups last year. So to get myself right back in contention and see if I've learned anything from last year and try to put that into practice is great.

Q. What you call it, low driver? Where does that come about and then how long did it take you to kind of implement it into your arsenal?
RORY MCILROY: I've had it for awhile. I've been able to hit it but I've just never been comfortable doing it. And I think just like I went to a different setting with my driver at the end of last year, in an M3, and then it was working really well with that. And then I worked with the TaylorMade guys and the M5 and I kept saying to them, I want to have this shot in my bag. When you test drivers you just try to get good numbers and good launch conditions and hit it 320 yards in the air and try to maximize your distance. But I realized last year that I've got enough distance. I need to get the ball more in play. And one of my goals for the year is driving accuracy. I want my driving accuracy to get up into the 60 percent number. At least into the 60s. It hasn't been there in a couple years. So that's when I started to try to hit these shots that I know are going to hit the fairway and are going to get in play. And having a driver with a little more spin where you can launch it lower and it holds its line in that trajectory is something that I wanted a little bit more and that's what the guys built me and it feels very comfortable.

Q. When do you make that decision to do one versus the other, to go after it versus --
RORY MCILROY: When the conditions are like I like when the wind is sort of off the right or into, because I can start it up the left side or up the middle of the fairway and hit that low little cut and it just sort of stays there and hangs in. So it really just depends on the conditions and when I feel comfortable hitting it. There's other times when I can aim up the right side and tee it up and hit my high draw down there. It just really depends on the hole.

Q. Going into the final round in contention, is your confidence level just as high as it would have been five or six years ago?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think so. Since five or six years ago I've won a lot more times and I've closed tournaments out a lot. I've got a lot more experience. So, yeah, I think it is a lot higher than it would have been five or six years ago. But still there's, every time you tee it up you learn something new, you learn something different, and you try to implement that into the next time you play. And I feel like I learned a lot from last year and as I said, it's a great opportunity now to try and see if I've learned anything from that and put it into play tomorrow.

Q. It's exactly that that I wanted to go into more. You keep saying what I've learned and put into play. What have you learned?
RORY MCILROY: I'll tell you tomorrow.


For me I started a lot of these final rounds like two back, three back. Here I'm looking at I was three back of Tiger at TOUR Championship, three back of JT, I was level with Francesco at Wentworth. There was I was three or two or three back of Patrick Reed at the Masters. So just pushing a little too much too early and trying to really force myself to hitting shots or hitting it into positions where I don't really need to and just being patient, it's 18 holes, it's -- a lot can happen in 18 holes. I've been six a hit a with seven to play and just crept over the line or I've been five behind with nine to play and had a chance to win on the last green. So a lot can change in a final round.

Q. So I guess are you saying that you tried to impose your will early in those rounds maybe a little bit too much?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I just forced the issue a little bit too much, yeah. Instead of staying with -- my best round of the year was Bay Hill and I always go back to that and I should have learned from that. I wasn't in the final group but I was two behind Henrik going into the final day and he's -- and I was even par after six or five holes and I could have been 3- or 4-under, but I just stayed really patient and just tried to play golf and let it happen and that patience was rewarded that day. So that's the sort of mindset I need to try to get back into.

Q. When you're walking down the fairway, do you find yourself looking more at the hole or the ocean?
RORY MCILROY: The ocean. I still haven't seen a whale. But it's hard with the white caps my mom said she saw three yesterday.

Q. They were white caps or whales?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, maybe. But yeah, the ocean. Yeah.

Q. Normally just look at a hole, don't you?
RORY MCILROY: Usually that's all you have, that's all you have to look at. So it's nice. It's a nice distraction. There's no way I could think about golf or think about my shot in between shots that whole time, I need something to distract me and usually it's hairy and I talking about football or sport or whatever and this week it's just --

Q. White caps.
RORY MCILROY: Looking out at the white caps.

JOHN BUSH: Rory, best of luck tomorrow.

RORY MCILROY: Thank you.

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