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March 6, 2019

Rory McIlroy

Orlando, Florida

JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome our defending champion, Rory McIlroy to the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. First of all, we'll get you to take us back to last year, you birdied five of the last six holes and won a tournament that I know meant an awful lot to you just with Mr. Palmer and his memory. Just get some comments on that victory, please.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it was awesome. I first played here at Bay Hill in 2015 and once I played here I sort of felt to myself, why haven't I played here sooner. Arnold would write me all these letters after wins and hoping to see you at Bay Hill next year and I could never make it for various reasons and it was nice to finally be here and play and get to spend some time with him, have dinner with him, and I sort of said that year that I would make a real effort to try and be back here every year. Now that I'm a past champion of this event, it obviously means a little bit more to me again. So it was great last year, I have not had a win worldwide for nearly 18 months, so to sort of get that win and get it in that fashion last year was obviously very pleasing, but it's always been a golf course that ever since I played it I felt very comfortable on. The four par-5s, it sort of green complex, it suits my eye pretty well, so I always felt like I had a good chance to do well on this golf course and it was nice to get that win last year.

JOHN BUSH: Talk a little bit about your form coming in, four consecutive top-5 finishes, so just talk a little bit about the state of your game.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, playing well, just seems like one or two people play a little better than me every week I tee it up, but I'm in good shape. I played well in Mexico, D.J. played just a little bit better than everyone else. So I'm in a good place with my game doing all, doing everything pretty well and just got to try and keep continuing on that path and if I keep working on these things and keep doing the right things, hopefully sooner or later I'll turn all these good finishes into a win.

JOHN BUSH: Great. Open it up to questions.

Q. As well as you have been playing, how do you prevent some level of frustration from setting in? Is it just a matter of telling yourself, well, if I hang around long enough I'll get one of these?
RORY MCILROY: Pretty much. I guess it's, what is my, what is my goal? Obviously the ultimate goal is to win tournaments, yes, but that's, there's little mini goals that you need to set yourself within those weeks and for the most part every time I've teed it up this week I've achieved those. But it just hasn't been -- it's tough to win on TOUR. It's the nature of what we do, we're playing in a very competitive environment with the best players in the world and you sometimes feel like you'll play well and you just didn't play well enough or someone will play better. So I'm very happy with where everything is. It's about trying to take the little personal wins. Leaving the golf course whether it be in Mexico or Riviera or Torrey Pines, I left happy. Even though I didn't win the golf tournament, I left happy with where my game was when I left and was in the frame of mind that it was step in the right direction. So that's all I can really do.

Q. You stole my question, which he always does, but I'm curious if you can differentiate levels of frustration when you're playing poorly and playing well and not winning and on the second end of that part, if you've ever found yourself having to exert a little bit more patience, not to force anything, when you know you're there and not getting results?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, for sure. So I don't think -- so there's a difference, right, at the end of the day it's golf, whether you're playing for something or not playing for something, you're not going to get frustrated playing good golf. At the end of the day all you're trying to do is get that ball in the hole and if you feel like you're doing that pretty well, then what's there to be frustrated about? And, yes, I've had to tell myself patience at times. Even back in 2010, felt like I was playing myself into contention through three rounds and then I would have -- this was sort of the early part of 2010 -- and then I shoot 73, 74, 75 on a Sunday and fall back. And that's when you have to really preach patience because you know the golf is in there, it's just letting that golf come out when it matters most. And that's when you have to be, that's when I need to almost take your foot off the gas and just let it happen. And that's obviously easier said than done.

Q. What gear are you in right now?
RORY MCILROY: What gear? I'm not a car or a bike, so I don't know.

Q. You have never driven a stick shift, have you?
RORY MCILROY: I have. That's called a manual transmission where I'm from. I don't know what a stick shift is, but...

Q. Justin Rose was in here earlier and he said one win in 12 months obviously is unacceptable, given your standard. But he said one thing about you is whenever you're questioned something kind of snaps inside you and pushes you. Is that kind of your mentality? And then he was like, I'm going to be careful not to say too much, because he doesn't want to motivate you.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, again, if I'm on this path, which I think I am, and to becoming a better golfer and a better player and having a better mindset and trying to come to terms better with perceived losses, whether they be second place, third place, fourth place, if I know, if someone were to tell me you have to go through 12 or 18 months or 24 months of this, but come out the other side of it and you will have those five-win seasons, six-win seasons, these 12, 18, 24 months will have been worth it. So again, it's trying to get away from being results oriented and be more focused on the process and on the present and just trying to be better. I feel like I'm on that path to improvement and becoming a better golfer and I can feel I'm a better golfer right now than I was a couple years ago. I might have won more a couple years ago, but I feel like I'm putting things in place to get to a point where I'll get back to those four-win, five-win, six-win seasons, but you can't just turn it on like that. It's a, it takes awhile, it takes time, but I think I'm doing all the right things to get back to that point.

Q. Is it fair to say it's been the pattern a couple times, a couple of those years, of 2014, maybe '12 or 2011 maybe that is that's happened and do you sense kind of some Deja Vu on some levels?
RORY MCILROY: I would like to think I'm more consistent. So in 2012 I had one of my best win seasons, I had five wins in 2012. But I also had like five or six missed cuts. It was either I played well and I won or I played poorly and I -- and obviously too, that's a good, that's a good outcome, to go missed cut, win, missed cut, win, missed cut, win, because people only focus on the wins. And you play consistently and you finish in the top-10 and you're playing good golf, but not getting the wins, that's not going to create a lot of noise. But I look back at my 2012 season and obviously you think of the wins and you think of the good play, but I think of the struggles I had through the summer and the missed cuts and all of that. So I don't know which I would rather have, this sort of consistent run of play or somewhere where it's a little more volatile, people will tell you and I would probably tend to agree that the volatility works in your favor in golf because golf is so top heavy in terms of rankings and points and money and all that, but I think I'm more comfortable playing the sort of golf I'm playing right now where I'm consistent and just waiting for any given week where it is my turn to win.

Q. A lot of golfers that come in here will tell us that they're looking at their stats and their strokes gained in this category, that category, the other category. Are you a person who focuses on your statistics or do you just go out and play and you know your game that well that you can just do that?
RORY MCILROY: No, I definitely look at statistics, but I look at stats more to, yeah, just focus on areas of practice, going into a given week. So, yeah, I think a lot of people pay attention to stats nowadays. I think it is very important. But you need -- you can have all the statistics you want but they have to be in context. So it's no good just looking at a set of stats, you need to also work with someone to decipher them and see trends and put patterns together. And so it takes awhile and it takes -- there's only been four tournaments, I've only played in four tournaments this year and that's not a big enough sample of data to really take any conclusions from. So I'll sort of start to look at them a little more like say post-Augusta, that's sort of the first quarter of the year done and say, okay, where was my game for the last few months and then make a plan going forward from there.

Q. From your interactions with Mr. Palmer, the dinners you talked about, the phone calls, is there an anecdote or story or something that's stuck with you that you kind of pull on when you're on the course or when you're going through your daily business?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I mean I guess my thing with Arnold was he always, no matter who he talked to, whether it was me or a guy in the cart barn or a person in the media, he always looked you in the eye and he always made you feel as if you were the only person in the world at that time. And I think that's something that was really cool. He was so personable and he made everyone feel valued and felt like he was really appreciative to give up a part of his time to talk to them. That was, I think that was the magic that Arnold had.

Q. I remember you being asked about your Masters preparation last August and it got me to thinking, how often are you asked about the Masters in a typical week? Is there a day that goes by where someone doesn't bring it up in any way, shape or form, and how do you deal with that when you want to be looking just at what's ahead of you?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I would like to think there's certainly days where I don't get asked about Augusta or the Masters or that, but certainly this time of the year where everyone's looking ahead to the first major of the season, it's, you expect it. And I, look, I'm still a fan of golf, I get excited to the build-up for it and it's great for the game in general. The more time that we can talk about it, the more eyeballs that we get on the game of golf then that's good, that's a good thing. And I really, I don't mind it. I love Augusta, I love the Masters tournament, I love what Augusta are doing in terms of Drive, Chip & Putt and the Women's Amateur tournament. So there's a lot of great things going on and to be a part of the narrative in some way is nice. So I don't find it in any way detrimental to my build-up or I'm going to prepare just as I prepare for any other event and go there and try to play good golf and if I do that, hopefully it's a shot less than anyone else that week and we'll take it from there.

Q. I am going to ask you about Augusta, if that's okay.
RORY MCILROY: That's more than okay.

Q. What's more important to you at this point in time, winning once or putting yourself in contention on Sunday every tournament like you have been?

Q. No like, yeah, what's more important leading into Augusta contending every week or getting say one win between the start of the year and the Masters?
RORY MCILROY: Again, I think I just go back to like good golf is good golf. So probably getting in, having chances to win. Obviously the more chances you have, the more chances you're going to have of getting over that line. If I just keep the form that I'm on, I would be happy with that.

Q. In the context of all the things you've accomplished already, where would a Grand Slam, completing the career Grand Slam fall for you and having had a couple cracks at it already at Augusta?

Q. Yes. Has it, does it get any easier as you go or does it get more difficult as those go on?
RORY MCILROY: It's definitely taken me time to come to terms with the things I've needed to deal within side my own head and I think sometimes I'm too much of a fan of the game because I know exactly who has won the Grand Slam and I know exactly the people I would be putting myself alongside. So there's maybe a part of that that, if I didn't know the history of the game and I wasn't such a fan it would work in my favor. But that's not me. It would be a massive achievement. It would be huge. But again, I can't think about it in that way. I just have to go out and play the golf course the way I know that I can play it and do the -- and repeat that for four days -- and as I said, hopefully that's good enough to have the lowest score that week and then I'll be able to answer that question a lot easier. If it ever happens.

Q. Does it become more difficult as it goes on?
RORY MCILROY: No, I've become more comfortable with it, I mean the extra stress that I put myself under that first couple of years, 2015 and 2016 of trying to, I've become more comfortable with it. I guess I've become a lot more comfortable with the fact that I'm going to fail more times than I succeed at that certain, whatever, conquest or whatever you want to call it. So I've become comfortable with the fact I've tried four times, I've failed, but Abraham Lincoln lost the first 13 elections he was ever in. He wound up being the President of the United States. So I still got a bit of time.

Q. Another Masters question. Have you taken a trip up there yet?
RORY MCILROY: I haven't. I was actually in Georgia last week but I was at a place called Choopee Match Club, which is in Georgia, I just went up with a few sponsors and partners and stuff, but I'm hopefully going to take a trip up either the week after THE PLAYERS or after the Match Play, but I haven't figured anything out yet.

Q. As you get closer there will you start adding little things into your practice regimen to thinking towards Augusta?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, it's a little practice things or maybe. Like I've been messing around with a 64 degree lob wedge the last week or so. I think it's something that could be beneficial around there. So I've just sort of messed around with it the last couple days to see if it's something that could potentially go in the bag that week. So, yeah, there's a couple little things that you start to do or maybe some shots that you maybe are not quite comfortable with, turning it over on a couple of holes, or making sure that I get my driver turning over, that's something I've struggled with the last couple of years there. Just little things like that.

Q. This is not Augusta related although as it gets down the road it will be. As sports betting becomes legalized here and becomes more part of the culture, obviously the TOUR's embracing what it could be. You've come from a place where I guess it's more familiar than it is here. What do you think that means to the TOUR?
RORY MCILROY: I'm not sure. From where I'm from it's a part of life. You can walk down to your local village and there's usually a betting shop there and you can bet on horses or football or golf or whatever. It's an added interest in terms of fan engagement and obviously that's a big term used by the PGA TOUR and giving fans of golf a better experience. So I think it will be somewhat good for the game. It will be good for even to get casual fans involved that like to gamble on sports to make a bet and maybe get more into it that way. I'm for anything that gets more eyeballs and more people to be engaged with the game of golf. I think that's a good thing.

Q. Do you ever check your odds before Augusta or anything?

Q. Are you surprised at all where we have landed at this point with the new rules and the various controversies that have come up here early in the year?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, slightly. I've never, I mean look we're obviously all heavily involved in golf, so we live inside our own little bubble a little bit. But I've never known a sport to be so like the rules -- like, yes, you had that blown call in the NFC championship game or whatever with the Saints and there was some debate about that, but I've never known a sport to be so tangled up in the rules of the game or the rules of the sport. So like I, they did need to be simplified, I think for the most part they have been simplified. But maybe there should have been a grace period of three months where we'll implement these, we'll get some feedback, but again at the same time -- and I said this yesterday -- this, what we do, professional golf, PGA TOUR, the professional tours, is a very small part of golf. Yes, it's the most eyeballs are on what we do, but there's I don't know how many hundreds of millions of golfers out there worldwide that are probably getting on okay with the new rules. So, yeah the USGA probably did some things that are not -- or not just the USGA, the R & A, the PGA TOUR, everyone that was involved, maybe there should have been appeared where we're going to implement these, let us know how you feel, we might be a three-month period where we can tweak a few here and there, and they have tweaked a couple with the Denny McCarthy thing in Phoenix, but I just, I think that the governing bodies are a very easy target right now in the game of golf and it's very easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and sort of criticize, but all these entities in golf, they're not trying to do anything bad for the game, they're trying to help the game in some way. So I think we all have to give them a bit of leeway here and say, yes, they probably made some mistakes, but we all do. And I'm sure they will get it right eventually.

Q. Why is it important for you to win the Grand Slam?
RORY MCILROY: As a golfer it, I join very elite company, and it would be something to look back on when I hang the clubs up and would be very proud of. As a person, is it that important to me? Probably not because I know that whether I win a Green Jacket or not the people that I care about the most will hopefully not think differently of me if I win at Augusta or not. But as a golfer -- and I feel like I'm pretty good at separating the two -- the person that I am away from golf and the career that I have, so that part of me, it's very important, because I feel like I'm good enough to join those people and that it would just be a very proud moment in my life and something that I could look back on and I would love to sit at the Champion's Dinner when I'm 92.

Q. There is that side of it.
RORY MCILROY: There is that side of it as well. Getting to come back every year. I think that's something that's a great tradition about the Masters.

Q. I'm curious how would you look at the other five or frankly, three for modern times if you start with Jack and Tiger post 1960, do you look at them as different players because it's a small group or does it, or do you lock at them as complete because they won all four?
RORY MCILROY: Both. I think both. Complete because they have won all four, but it's a very, it's a small -- and it could -- look, how good would it be this year if Jordan won the PGA and Phil won the U.S. Open and I won Augusta and three others are put into that? I mean, how good would that be for golf? That would be awesome. But I think just because it is a small list it would be just that bit cooler to join. I don't know.

Q. So you want to do it, but you hope the other two don't this year?
RORY MCILROY: Oh, I would love them to. I think it would be -- if that were to happen -- again, it's all about exposure and golf would be right in the center of all sports stories if that were to happen. Which is great for everyone involved in the game.

Q. Sorry to take you back to Augusta one more time, but can you take us back to the beginning the very first time you ever played Augusta National and what your thoughts, what was the experience, what was the occasion and what did you think of it that day? Did you think, I can play this place?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, well, I mean it was cold and windy, it was a day in March, probably not too dissimilar to today in terms of temperature. And it was just the most awesome experience. Driving down Magnolia Lane, going into the clubhouse, having breakfast, walking out the back, under the tree, 18th green, 9th green, down to the 2nd, down to the 7th, all the way down to the like on 15, it's just such a special place. But, he yeah, once I started playing I was afraid to take a divot the first few holes. I didn't want to -- but then after that, I played that day, I played the day after -- actually it was, the first time I ever played it was Johnny Harris from Quail Hollow that hosted me. And we have obviously developed quite a nice relationship, not just from that but all the stuff at Quail Hollow as well. So but, yeah, just a cool experience, a cool day. And I honestly, I don't think I've really, I think it's only been the last couple of years that I've really became comfortable at Augusta in terms of knowing the staff, knowing the, getting to know some of the members, it's only over the last couple years I've really been comfortable on the property. So and I think that's the reason why I've consistently played better there over the last few years.

JOHN BUSH: Rory, our final question we have a rookie media member here on the third row.

Q. Carson Daly, Daly Family, Today Show. Starting to hear a tremendous amount of buzz, not just in the golf community but also in entertainment, I mean from everywhere, social media, that you have a new podcast, what can you tell me about the podcast on the Golf Channel's Golf Pass initiative that you're doing?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, so, yeah, we're doing new podcast, which is obviously myself and we dragged some other guy in.

Q. Who? Who did, who is this other person?
RORY MCILROY: Carson Daly.

Q. Sorry to hear that.
RORY MCILROY: I don't know if you've heard of him.

Q. He's a hack.
RORY MCILROY: I don't know about that, you had a couple nice birdies today. But, yeah, we're doing this podcast, we're talking about all things golf, pop culture, sort of everything in between. And, yeah it was a lot of fun, we did our first couple last night and we're going to try to do it over the course of the year and see how it goes and it's a good way for me to engage with fans and keep them up to date with what I'm doing, but also try to show another side of me and of golf and looking forward to the opportunity and looking forward to doing it more often.

Q. I am too. Quick follow-up. Did we win today?
RORY MCILROY: I think we were still, we're still -- we did. We won by two I think.

Q. Congratulations. Well done. More importantly to me and my family. Thank you.
JOHN BUSH: Rory, thank you for your time, best of luck this week.

RORY MCILROY: Appreciate it. Thank you.

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