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May 14, 2019

Rory McIlroy

Farmingdale, New York

JON DEVER: Welcome back. Good afternoon from the 2019 PGA Championship here at Bethpage Black. I'm very pleased to be joined by two-time PGA champion, Rory McIlroy. Rory, welcome to what is your now 11th PGA Championship. A deep dive on your performance in the month of May, and it's a month you've traditionally played well. Do you think that's reflective of the golf courses you used to play a lot in May, THE PLAYERS at Quail Hollow, or is your game usually ramping up at that point.

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think it's probably a combination of both. You know, you're into like the thick of the season, and you've maybe had a few tournaments to iron out a few kinks in your game. But I think, as well, the golf courses that we play and the type of golf courses that we start to play in May, transitioning to courses more like we have here this week, bent or poa greens and getting out of Bermuda into some of the courses up around here.

So yeah, I've had a pretty good record in May. I've won a few tournaments, and I was a pretty big fan of this date change, moving this tournament back to May. I feel like going forward it'll definitely lend itself to going to some new venues. It sort of got a little hot in August in like Southern Hills and those sort of places.

Saying that, obviously we've got to deal with a little bit of chilliness up here, but at the same time, I think it just -- it gives the PGA of America more of a variety of courses to go to, which I think is a good thing.

JON DEVER: So you've played Bethpage Black I think three times we talked about, with mixed results. How do you see your game fitting in with this golf course? Does the length happen?

RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think with the rain we've had the last couple of days, the length will definitely help. I'm just looking at the scorecard here, I actually wasn't sure whether we were playing it as a par-70 or 71, so par-70, the 7th hole can obviously go from a par-5 to a par-4, and the two times we played the PGA TOUR event here it was a par-5, and then the U.S. Open it was a par-4. I mean, 7,500 yards, par-70, it's a long golf course, and it plays even longer with the cold and wet conditions. Length is definitely going to be a big factor this week.

Q. Two years ago you said it was more likely than not that you would not go to the 2020 Olympics. I want to know, have you given it any further thought in the last two years? And today how possible would you say it is that you would consider playing?
RORY MCILROY: Well, I just saw it was announced that the British Masters is that week next year. No, I don't know. More likely than not I will play. I think it would be a great experience. We're going to play the Open and then probably go back to Memphis and then go to Tokyo. So it's sort of going to be one of those deals where we probably get in on Tuesday, tee it up on a Thursday, and then we've got to get ready for the rest of the season. It's just one of those things where it's just in the middle of a really busy stretch.

But yeah, right now in my mind I'll most likely play.

Q. At one point you were the co-favorite to win this event, but I think it was early this morning. What do you think about the odds and your chances this weekend?
RORY MCILROY: I don't think anything about the odds. I think I have a good chance. I've had a pretty good record at the PGA, a couple of wins and a couple other decent finishes.

You know, we're playing at a golf course that I like, that I've had some experience on. I know if I play the way I can, hopefully I'll have a chance.

Q. Obviously this course has got a lot of brutal holes to it. 18 is not one of them. It's not known as a real strong finishing hole. I wonder what your opinion of that is and the times you've played it in competition. Obviously Lucas won here, 6-iron, 9-iron back in '09. What do you make of that hole as it compares with the rest of the golf course?
RORY MCILROY: I think it's -- it's sort of like risk and reward. You can hit iron off the tee, but you're still leaving yourself a 7- or 8-iron. It plays -- I don't know if it's the same length as it was back in '09 or if it was a little bit longer, but still, it's 411 yards. Tee shot is obviously downhill, but then the second shot uphill. I hit driver yesterday and left myself about 90, 95 yards to the pin. But you're taking on a little bit of risk by doing that.

But at the same time, it's not an easy green to go at with a 7-iron. You can get it on the green, but you're not going to necessarily get it as close as you would with a wedge. You've just got to weigh up the option of whether you want to take driver and get a wedge in your hand or play it a little bit more conservatively and take your chances with a mid-iron.

Q. Brooks was in here this morning, and he made the claim that the majors are actually the easiest tournaments to win because more players eliminate themselves based on the elements and the pressures involved. I wonder what your thoughts were on that theory and if you adopt a similar mindset when it comes to tournaments like this.
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think Jack Nicklaus said the same thing a lot of years ago, and he didn't do too badly in them, either. Yeah, I can definitely see that point. Honestly, I try to treat every tournament the same. It's 72 holes, it's 18 holes a day. It is no different than any other golf tournament we've played. I've played hundreds of golf tournaments if not thousands of golf tournaments in my life, and I honestly just try to treat them all the same.

Q. Just to get back to that lengthy question, can you confirm which country you would be representing at the Olympics, and has that played any part in your reluctance and uncertainty about playing?
RORY MCILROY: The same one that I said I was a few years ago.

Q. Other than score, is there a stat that you think is the most important stat for you to perform well at on this golf course with this setup this week?
RORY MCILROY: I mean, I think -- I played 11 holes yesterday, and you have to hit the ball in the fairway. I think that's a big stat. I think driving accuracy is going to be -- obviously you still need to get it out there, but at the same time you're going to give yourself a much better chance playing from these fairways because it is playing long, and if you start to miss these fairways you're not going to be able to get to the greens out of the rough with a 4- or 5-iron. I think fairways are very much a premium this week.

Q. What did you take from your performance at Quail Hollow, and how have you prepared since then?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I played okay at Quail Hollow. I was working through a couple of swing things. And then on the last day I just made a couple of bad decisions. I sort of -- mentally the way I've approached that golf course is you sort of play the first six holes even par, and then you've got holes from like 7 to 15 that you can take advantage of, and then 16, 17, 18 are tough holes.

I think I put too much pressure on myself to take advantage of those sort of 7 through 15, and then on the last day, I didn't birdie the 7th hole, I didn't birdie the 8th hole, then I was just pushing a little too hard, and then I made a couple of mental errors on 10 with those chip shots.

It was a good learning -- just it's almost I needed to approach it the opposite way. Like let the easier holes take care of themselves and concentrate on the more difficult ones, where I was just putting myself under a little bit too much pressure on the scorable holes, and then you don't birdie a couple of those early on and you push a little bit too much, and that's what happened on the last day.

But I felt overall I gave myself a decent chance. I was in the second or third from last group. It was a good week to see where my game was, and those things that I just mentioned I sort of worked on last week. A lot of time around the short game area, making sure that I was making good decisions and picking the right shot to hit at the right time.

So yeah, it was a good week to do some of that practice, and hopefully I can bring that into this week.

Q. You've said repeatedly that you like Bethpage Black. What is it about this place that you like? And given the atmosphere and fervor here, what kind of a Ryder Cup venue do you think this will be?
RORY MCILROY: I think it's fair. I think you get rewarded for good shots. The greens aren't too slopey. You get rewarded for good shots, and you get punished for bad ones. I feel sometimes at major championships courses are brought to the edge, and sometimes good shots are punished. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, but I think it's a very fair golf course. I think the setup is very fair. I think Kerry Haigh is the best in the business at setting golf courses up. I've said that for a long time.

And yeah, look, we all know what New York and Long Island is like. A Ryder Cup here is five years away, but I think they're planning on letting 60,000 in a day here this week, so it'll be pretty loud.

Q. A number of great players, whether Weiskopf, Couples, Duval, they ended their career with one major. You got your second one pretty quick after the first one, but I'm curious if that ever -- the significance of getting the second one was a big deal to you.
RORY MCILROY: Yes. Yeah, I think you're sort of climbing each major as a rung in the ladder in terms of -- there's a lot of one-time major winners, but then when you can call yourself a multiple major champion, that's pretty cool. You join another list, and then you sort of try to keep going.

So it was, it was important for me, and I think it was important that it happen quite soon after the first one. You know, I've always said I think winning that first one should make the second one a little bit easier, and then you can go from there. But Brooks might disagree with this, but they're difficult championships to win. They're the best and deepest fields in golf, and you've got to play great, and then a few things have to go your way, as well. But that's not saying that Freddy and Tom Weiskopf and others haven't had a great career. They've won a lot of golf tournaments and had Hall of Fame careers. Majors are ultimately what we're going to be judged on. But it's not to say the guys with one major haven't had great careers, also.

Q. Tiger was saying earlier that there are more days when he feels older than 43 than younger. I wonder whether passing 30 has made any difference to you in whether you feel these are your peak years or you're still approaching them?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I definitely don't feel 30. I mean, even just at the start of this press conference, this is my 11th PGA Championship. It's like, where did those go?

I don't know. I don't know what age I feel. Like my body is as good as it has been in a couple of years, which I'm really grateful for. Every week that I tee it up, I feel like I'm gaining more experience that I can put into the next tournament and the next tournament. You know, I still believe my best days are ahead of me for sure.

Q. What does your downtime look like in and around major championships?
RORY MCILROY: The same as it is any week. Try to get a good TV show to watch. I've got to catch up on the latest episode of Billions. I missed that on Sunday night. You know, try to go to the gym three or four times during that week. I was in the gym this morning.

Yeah, apart from that, just Playoff basketball is on. Unbelievable game between the Raptors and the 76ers the other night. Looking forward to the two series that are coming up. You know, just anything to get my mind away from this.

Q. I wonder could you just talk about how you felt about playing for Ireland over the years, the pride you felt in your amateur career? And you've spoken in the past also about where you come from in Ireland, the difficulty of flags and what they represent. How have you reconciled all that in your head and come to the decision to go ahead and play --
RORY MCILROY: I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland. I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.

It's the same as like the rugby players, right? There's players that play for Ulster, but they want to play for Ireland. It's seen as a whole island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.

So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and then there's a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values and your -- it makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It's not just a superficial decision. It's something that you have to really believe in.

I've thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.

So why would it be any different just because it's a different golf tournament or because it's a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to. I mean, I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don't mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day. That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.

I'm excited to be going to the Olympics. I'm excited to play for Ireland. I'm excited that Neil Manchip, who was our national coach when I was an amateur, is going to lead the team. I don't know who might be going on that team, as well, whether it's Sheehan or Seamus or whoever, but yeah, I'm excited for it. It's going to be a great experience, and probably a little bit nostalgic because it'll bring me back to 15 years ago, whenever I was doing that with the same people, with Neil, with Sheehan. So it's going to be cool.

Q. Wondering, it seems like the public now kind of views Tiger a little bit differently than they did before. I think he seems much more open, smiles more, things like that. Do you see a different person in the guy that you've been around for a decade or more?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah. You know, I've said this a lot. I think this is his -- anything post these back surgeries is a bonus. And it's a -- I still don't think people understand what he did in April and coming back, and with everything that he's been through. It's unbelievable. Whether it's the greatest comeback in sports, that's probably up for debate, but from what I've experienced and the things that he said when I've been around him, to be two and a half years ago from looking like maybe not playing golf again to winning the first major of the year and being the favorite going into the second major of the year, I mean, that's unbelievable.

But I think because of that he's grateful for the position he's in. I think he's grateful and thankful that his kids get to see a little bit of what he was before they were around. So I think -- it is different. He's a different person. He's in a different space in his life, and yeah, he just seems very grateful for this opportunity to do what he loves and compete.

I think when you're in that headspace where you're just thankful to be out there, good things happen, and good things have started to happen for him.

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