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April 9, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the media center.
Rory, I just wanted to ask you, 2019 has been extraordinary. You've had seven Top‑10 finishes, winner at THE PLAYERS, what changed in your preparation or your demeanor that made that happen?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't know, look, it's been a wonderful start to the season. Definitely consistency levels have been as good as they ever have been. You know, I don't think I've ever started a season this well in terms of finishes, and even stats‑wise, looking at all my stats, they are right up there with some of the best years that I've had.
I think if anything, it's just, you know, focusing on the small things and not living and dying by results, and not getting caught up in trying to play perfect golf. Sort of maybe a little more acceptance, and a little bit of change in attitude, which I think has been one of the biggest keys to how I've played for the first few months of the year.
THE MODERATOR: You've been working a little bit with Brad Faxon. Can you tell us what you've been working on?
RORY McILROY: Yes, even this time last year, I had already started working with Brad, so it's been just over a year. We do a little bit of work out on the course and on the greens. I think one of the nice things I like about Brad is he's been a player, won eight times on the PGA TOUR. He knows how it feels. He's been in that arena. He's been in that cauldron. Some of the stuff that we do is we catch up over a coffee and we chat for an hour, and those are some of the best pieces of work that we've done and it's away from the golf course. It's more mental side of the game and how he approached it, so he's been a wonderful sounding board and has become a very good friend in the process, as well.
Q. Your record here is so good. Is there anything about this course that you still kind of look at and think, well, I still haven't quite totally 100 percent figured that part out?
RORY McILROY: This is my 11th year here. If I haven't figured it out by now, there's something wrong.
Yeah, look, I'm very comfortable with this golf course. I think one of the great things about this course is it forces you to be creative and I like that side of the game. I like to see shots. I like to visualize.
So you know, the massive tall pines, the contrast between the green grass and the white bunkers, the yellow flagsticks, there's so many, you know, so many things to look at and be aware of and it paints a picture for you.
I think that's one of the great things about Augusta National is it almost‑‑ you can't help but be creative and see things, and that's one of the really fun things about this, this place.
Q. How much difference is there in carry needed to get over the bunkers on 5, and what, if any difference strategy will you use this year to previous years?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, so I think 5 has been a very good change in terms of, you know, it puts driver back in a lot of guys's hands that wouldn't necessarily hit driver on that hole.
You know, it's a little‑‑ in previous years, if you hit driver, you would‑‑ if you hit it up the right side, you would run out of room very quickly, and now it's‑‑ you know, the longer hitters might still be able to run out into the rough but even if you hit it right you're not going to run out into those trees and the pine straw. So it encourages guys to hit driver, and you need to hit driver; because I came here last Wednesday, played in the morning, it was a little cold, a little damp and I hit 4‑iron into the green, driver, 4‑iron.
Yesterday I played, it was a little warmer and I had driver, 7‑iron.
If you hit 3‑wood and you're 30 yards back of that, you're on the upslope and you can hardly see the green. So you have to hit driver, which I think is a good thing.
And they have softened the 5th green, which it's meant now for 180, 190‑yard approach shot, so they have softened a couple parts of that green, which makes it a little easier going in there with a longer club. I've always felt like the front nine here plays a shot harder than the back nine, and now it probably plays about a shot and a half harder because of the added length on 5.
Q. At THE PLAYERS, you mentioned something like the difference that you were trying to work out between Rory the golfer and Rory the person, or away from golf course, where you just spoke about the attitude that's changed a bit here, and considering all the success that you've had so far in the past four months, how much of a confidence boost has it been for you before you come to Augusta this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think that it's‑‑ you always feel like you're on, or for the most part, you're on the right path, and whatever you're working on is the way forward. But to get that validation, the win at THE PLAYERS, the close calls, the good play that I've had over the first four months of the year, it just proves to me that what I'm doing, you know, are the right things for me.
They mightn't be the right things for other people, but I think I've found a formula that works for me, and I'm‑‑ you know, I'm going to persist with it and I'm going to stick to it.
Yeah, you know, it's helped me play some of the best golf of my career so far this year, and you know, hopefully that will continue.
Q. Since Tiger came back last year, you've had a number of encounters with him on the golf course, TOUR Championship, Match Play, Bay Hill, you were not head‑to‑head but competing for a win last year. How much would it mean to you, if you could get together, on a weekend here, like I guess you did in 2015 and play with the stakes and this type of atmosphere?
RORY McILROY: I guess the cliché answer is it would mean a lot to me, but it doesn't matter who it is. You know, what other people do and what they‑‑ it's none of my business.
You know, I have to look after myself and control what I do, and, you know, that's all I really have to focus on.
Q. Just a couple quick ones. How different are your sort of thoughts and emotions, or even expectations and pressure towards this place now, compared to maybe some of those early years here?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's different. I think it takes awhile for to you get comfortable in this‑‑ on this golf course and the surroundings. But I have, I've got that comfort level now and it took maybe five or six years to get to that point.
With the golf course, getting to know the members, getting to know the staff at the club, all of that goes into just being more comfortable.
And I know I've played well enough and I've shot enough good scores around here over the years that, you know, if I can put my best effort forward, I'm going to have a good chance to do well here.
But it's definitely different. My mind‑set is a little different in terms of, you know, I'm still practicing. I'm still getting better. I'm not getting ahead of myself. Not thinking about the tee shot on Thursday or thinking about, you know, what is to come this week, and that's something I probably will never stop trying to learn or to practice. But I'm in a good place with it.
Again, you know, I keep saying this, I would dearly love to win this tournament one day. If it doesn't happen this week, that's totally fine, I'll come back next year and have another crack at it.
But I'm happy with where everything is, body, mind, game.
Q. You were witness to a pretty good round back in 2009 there in the second round. Just curious what you remember about that day with Anthony?
RORY McILROY: With who? Sorry.
Q. With Anthony Kim.
RORY McILROY: I guess he shot 65, with a double or a couple bogeys, something.
You know, I miss Anthony Kim. The Tour was a better place with him in it. He was exciting. The first time I won at Quail Hollow, I played the final round with him.
I remember quite a lot about that round. Again, you're trying to focus on what you're doing, but you can't help but notice this guy's going on a bit of a run here, and he could do that. That was something that was pretty cool. You saw him at The Ryder Cup in Valhalla in 2008 doing what he did.
Yeah, it was cool to be a part of. It was cool to see. It's good to know that it can be done.
Q. What's the best book you've read in the last year?
RORY McILROY: Sorry?
Q. What's the best book you've read in the last year?
RORY McILROY: Either The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino, that's one that I sort of refer back to every now and again. Either of the Ryan Holiday books are pretty good, The Obstacle is the Way or Ego is the Enemy.
Just started on Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, so getting into that. There's four.
Q. You've talked a lot in the last month or so about this separation between wanting to win, being different from needing to win. It would seem that if you got close to this goal, if you were right there on Sunday or the back nine Sunday, that that separation would shrink a little bit. Have you thought about that and how you would approach that?
RORY McILROY: No. No, I haven't thought about it. I guess there's a lot of bridges to cross until we get to that point.
So you know, I think all the work that I'm doing and everything that I'm trying to put into my game and to my life in general, you know hopefully, not everything will be ingrained, but I have mechanisms and thoughts to draw on that can at least try to separate those two or give me some perspective on what's happening out there.
Q. When you said that small changes in attitude, or things like that, are they ever tailored specifically to here? Do you think in the back of your mind, you're making sometimes those changes in the hopes of winning at Augusta, because it is the one to complete the Grand Slam and you obviously do want to win it, or would that be not a good place to be in?
RORY McILROY: No, it's definitely not a good place to be in. It's to make the most of the next 20 years of my career. It's not just about one week. This is a lifelong journey of trying to improve and learn and try to master my craft, which is golf. That's what I've chosen as what I want to do, and with my life. That's a lifelong pursuit. It's not just one week a year.
Q. Have you found a formula to ward off hayfever and allergies here?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I sort of‑‑ I cut dairy out of my diet about eight months ago. That helps. That's definitely made me not as clogged up and as stuffed, so yeah.
Q. Is there something involving honey?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, usually you can start to supplement the local honey a few weeks in advance to try and build up some sort of immunity to it, but this year, I haven't. I've just been pretty strict with not consuming‑‑ maybe not completely cut out dairy, but definitely limiting it to very small doses every now and again.
Q. You mentioned your record around here, which is really good, but you have a handful of rounds that I would describe as like elimination rounds, high rounds. In those rounds, would you say your swing let you down more, or was it a combination of your patience and resolve that let you down?
RORY McILROY: I would say, depending on which of those rounds you're talking about, it was either or both at the same time. I think the last round last year was probably a little of both. I alluded to the fact that I didn't have a great warmup, so I was sort of missing everything left on the range, and then I hit my first tee shot 40 yards right, so that wasn't a great start.
But then I think back to maybe the third round in 2016, when I played with Jordan in that final, and that was definitely patience and resolve. It was a tough day. We sort of played very slow, and I got out of my rhythm a little bit and it cost me, and I definitely think now‑‑ it was a great learning experience, because now if I get to that point, I'll definitely be able to deal with it better.
But they are two‑‑ they are two that just stick out in my mind because they are more recent. Different reasons why. You know, there was a high score in there, but I think for the most part, if you look at those rounds that have been, you know, 75 or over or whatever, it's been definitely more patience and resolve that's been the lacking characteristic.
Q. So Rory, you started off today talking about, and you've talked about this before, about a change in attitude and not focusing on results as much. Is there anything else, or is it primarily that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's that, and it's‑‑ you know, I alluded to it at THE PLAYERS a little bit, as well, that it's not‑‑ look, you still want to win. It's not‑‑ but there's ways to do it and there's mechanisms that you can put in place that help you achieve your goals, that aren't just about the result. It's about the process of getting to that point.
So it's not as if I'm coming here not to try and win the golf tournament, but I know if I have the right attitude and I have my goals that I want to achieve this year, the by‑product could be winning this golf tournament.
But yeah, I think the big thing is my‑‑ I am not my score; I am not my results. That's been one of my big things, and that's‑‑ it's perspective. It's perception. I always talk about these P's that I try to practice, and it is. I think I've had a healthy dose of perspective this year, and that's helped, either with great results like THE PLAYERS, or undesirable results of not being able to finish a tournament off; being able to put both of those things in perspective have been a good thing.
Q. Going back to what you said about having been here last Wednesday, for you, what's it like to be here when it's not tournament week? I know you're working, but do you allow yourself a chance to just soak it in and enjoy it?
RORY McILROY: It's lovely. My best experiences of Augusta have been when it's not Masters week. It's quiet. It's serene. You know, it's a very‑‑ there is a bit of‑‑ you could describe it as a spiritual place. I feel like when you get on the grounds at Augusta, when it's not Masters week, it's very similar to walking into an empty church. It's just got that aura, that feel, and it's a really nice place to be.
But at the same time, last Wednesday, you're trying to figure out, you know, what are the little changes they have made to the 5th hole. You know, the putts are going to be different. There might be a new hole location over on that left side. So it's a balance of being very grateful to be here in this place but also prepare to play the golf course the best you can.
Q. This path to kind of introspection, how did it start? I mean, did you have to decide to do it, or was it a time in your life? Did somebody tell you, you thought you should? How did you arrive at wanting to search more?
RORY McILROY: I guess I've dabbled in it over the years and I've needed it from time to time. But I never fully immersed myself in it. You know, even last year, dabbled with meditation. But until I found‑‑ and again, it's searching until you find what resonates with you. You know, maybe what resonates with me is isn't going to resonate with someone else, but I found what I feel is the best path forward for me and I've committed to it, and you know, it's still so early in the process. I'm only a few months in to trying to get to a point where all the thoughts that I try to have and all the P's that I try to practice are all natural and subconscious.
So very early stages, but I just felt for me to live a healthier life and not just with my career, but away from the golf course, as well, I needed to‑‑ I just needed some of this. I needed some perspective and I needed to separate the sort of two lives that I have.
Q. I know your focus is on this week but there was an event maybe a couple years ago that I think you and Rickie Fowler were going to be a part of in the Detroit area, maybe with some celebrities involved. What do you remember about that event, why it fell through, and can you give us any insight as to whether any future events like this coming up on the heels of the match between Phil and Tiger?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, so I think with that sort of‑‑ you look at other sports, you look at something like boxing, for example, where fighters own their own shows, they own their own promotional companies. It was sort of taking a little bit of a leaf out of that book. It was going to be‑‑ Rickie's a partner with Quicken Loans, and they are obviously big in the Detroit area and that was going to be a part of it. And yeah, honestly, I don't know why it fell through or why it didn't happen.
But you've seen obviously the Tiger/Phil match coming along. I guess Tiger has announced some other stuff he might be doing internationally, as well, in terms of a series of matches. I think if the demand is there and the desire is there for it from the fans, then it would be great to be a part of.
But yeah, I can't really tell you any details of why it didn't happen or why it didn't fall through. Just one of those things.
Q. This week is obviously very different in the way that we consume the tournament, not having phones out there, not having devices.
RORY McILROY: Wonderful, isn't it.
Q. It's great. How much as a player do you notice that among other players, or even among the Patrons, and is that a reprieve for you? How do you view that?
RORY McILROY: I mean, playing a practice round yesterday, I said to Harry out there, "How good is it that people aren't looking at their phones." Yes, there are people with cameras, but they don't constantly have their face in the device. It's refreshing.
And I think other, not other walks of life, but there's‑‑ you know, there's something to be said for that, and I think people can learn from that. There's actually a book I'm reading at the minute called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and that goes into all that and how device are, there are obviously so many wonderful things about them, but only if used in the right way. I think it's cool to see that and see that Augusta has upheld that tradition. I think it's a great thing.
Q. The patience and resolve and the three P's, where did you get those from? A friend, a sports psychologist? And how do you employ them?
RORY McILROY: From books‑‑ there's loads‑‑ obviously this isn't all me. I've had some help on the way. I started to use a facility down in Jupiter called CIHP, and the medical director there, Dr.Clayton Skaggs, you know, we chat a lot, and he's with me this week a little bit.
Yeah, that was‑‑ it came from Brad Faxon. Brad has been going there for a couple years, and then he recommended them to me. I was at a point last year where I didn't really have anyone specifically looking after my body, looking after my exercise. So he sort of said, why don't you go and see these guys and see if they can help, and that was the start of this journey.
So yeah, there's been a few people along the way that have helped me over the past sort of eight or nine months, and you know, it's been a fun start to it and I'm looking forward to keeping going.
Q. You mentioned you dabbled in meditation. Is that something you're still doing, if so, how will it sort of manifest itself this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, nothing‑‑ look, I'm not going to go and live with the monks for a couple months in Nepal, but just to be able to get your mind in the right place and be able to focus and to center yourself. There's so many Apps out there, talking about devices, there's some great stuff out there, the Calm app, Headspace, there's a lot of great, guided meditations out there, whether it's for trying to go to sleep or you're trying to concentrate or just get your head in the right place. It's ten minutes a day. It's not as if I'm being consumed by it. But definitely something that has helped from time to time. Especially in situations where you need your mind to be right.
Look, I meditated for 20 minutes on the Sunday morning of THE PLAYERS. My routine now consists of meditation, juggling, mind training, you know, doing all the stuff to get yourself in the right place.
It was actually cool. I was watching the Women's Amateur over the weekend and I saw a few women on the range juggling, so it's catching on.
Q. How many can you do?
RORY McILROY: Like how many balls can I juggle? Just three. I'm a rookie.
Q. Can I ask about the role that Harry has played, a very underplayed role, given the success you've had lately, and how much of a calming influence or what kind of influence he is when he's on the bag?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. Look, when I asked Harry to sort of caddie for me, I thought it was going to be a temporary role back in August 2017, but he has done a wonderful job. I think one of the great things about the relationship with Harry and I is we're very close, we've been close for a long time. He was best man at my wedding. I was best man at his.
But over the course of the last eight or nine months, he has been with me every step of the way on this journey of getting to this point where I'm almost making more time to practice my mind‑set rather than to be on the range. He's been with me and he's been congruent to that idea and that's been a big help, as well, because he's bought into it and he is a very calming presence out there and we really do feel like a team when we are out there trying to shoot good scores and win golf tournaments.
Q. You alluded to it, but talking about Brad, I just wanted to get a little more specific about what you and Fax have been doing in addition to, we all think of him as putting being the preeminent thing, but sounds like he's really talked to you and worked with you on many aspects of the game. Just curious, a little more detail on that?
RORY McILROY: I don't know if there really is any more detail than that. It's having chats. It's talking to him about his experiences, whether it be, you know, final round of the PGA at Riviera in '95, he needed to go out and shoot a good score to make The Ryder Cup Team that year; and talking about all the thoughts and the feelings going through at that point.
You know, just all the stuff and all the experience that he's had over the years. He's played, you know, I don't know, 600 PGA TOUR events and he knows how it feels and he's won and so, you know, just to pick the brain of an experienced guy like that, who was obviously a very exceptional putter, but at the same time, took the mental side of the game very seriously and did a lot of work that way, and you know, some little mechanisms that might have worked for him. You know, if he has ten and nine don't work for me but one does, that's one more thing that I can add to my arsenal that can help me out on the course.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Rory, best of luck this week.
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