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August 7, 2019

Rory McIlroy

Jersey City, New Jersey

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome in Rory McIlroy, 2016 FedEx Cup Champion. Here at The Northern Trust, first round of the Playoffs. How are you feeling coming into this week?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I feel good. It's been a long season but I've played myself into a decent position going into the three weeks.

Yeah, I did some good work. I needed a break last week but I sort of combined that with doing some good work on my swing. It was sort of uncomfortable all week in Memphis, even though I got myself into a pretty good position after three rounds. I just didn't quite feel like I had the ball completely under control.

So worked a good bit last week on that and feel a bit better about things coming into this week. But yeah, it's going to be a busy three weeks. It's here, Chicago, it's Atlanta, it's nonstop, and going to try and give it my all and put all my energy into obviously playing as best I can these next three weeks and see if I can win the FedExCup again.

Q. Can you just explain the mentality further of being in the lead but not feeling like you've got it? How do you balance that in your own head?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I mean, I guess you're -- in a way, it's not a bad thing because you're not thinking about -- I think when you're maybe in total control of your game, you're thinking more about the result rather than actually what you're doing.

But you know, when you're not -- you have to be so aware and you have to concentrate so much. There's sometimes we get out here and it's, you know, we can play thoughtless. You can just stand up and aim and swing and know the ball is going to go pretty much where you want it to, and there's other times where it's a bit more of a struggle.

Memphis was a bit more of a struggle that way. More so with the irons and wedges, rather than the woods. Technically getting the club a little bit behind me and underneath the plane, with a longer club and how hard you're turning, it's sort of easier to catch up with a wood or a driver, but with a shorter club, you don't have that speed to basically get yourself out of trouble.

So yeah, it was just -- you know, going into the final round, you're sort of -- you want to play well. I guess you're hoping, you're hoping to play well, rather than knowing that you're going to play well. I think that's the difference.

Q. This year begins the sort of toggling back and forth between here and Boston with this tournament. You've played well there. If it had been the odd man out and no return to Boston, would you have been disappointed?
RORY McILROY: If we didn't have a tournament in Boston? Definitely. It's been a wonderful place for me over the years, but it's also been I think a wonderful place for the TOUR. There's a couple of events that it seems weird that we didn't go to Akron this year. It seems weird that we're not going to TPC Boston.

But yeah, I was glad to hear that at least every other year, we're going to go back there.

Q. There's no reason, given where you grew up, that you would have a strong allegiance to Boston or New York, but they are such rivals and it's an odd alliance. Did you add a kid maybe think more of the teams in Boston or more of the teams in New York?
RORY McILROY: No. If you had told me or asked me about the Yankees or the Red Sox when I was 12, I wouldn't have known what you were talking about (laughs).

Q. If the powers that be are not going to penalize slow play, what can you as players do? Do you have to all be more like Brooks and publically show your displeasure, frustration? What can you do? Or is it fine to do nothing?
RORY McILROY: I don't think it's fine to do nothing because it's genuinely a problem in our game. It starts at our level because people try to emulate us. I've heard stories of college events and how long they take. There's no reason why it should take that long. I don't know what -- I've sat up here numerous times and said that, you know, it has to be addressed some way.

For me, I think the guys that are slow are the guys that they get too many chances before they are penalized. So it should be a warning and then a shot. It should be you're put on the clock and that is your warning, and then if you get a bad time while on the clock, it's a shot. That will stamp it out right away.

I don't understand why we can't just implement that. It doesn't -- like we are not children that need to being told five or six times what to do. Okay, you're on the clock, okay, I know if I play slowly here, I'm going to get penalized and I think that's the way forward.

Q. The 24-second clock in tennis showed people could modify their behavior?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, look, Rafa pushes it sometimes to the limit. We don't need time to recover between shots. We have time while we're walking to the next one and think about what we're doing.

I don't necessarily think introducing a shot clock in golf is the right way to go, but I think giving guys less opportunities to be slow; I think that could be a good start.

Q. Was Memphis any more disappointing because you left Portrush on that high and you felt like you had learned some things to take forward into the next week and the rest of the season?
RORY McILROY: No. It was just that I couldn't get the best out of myself when I really needed it, and that was more frustrating because of what I was talking to Ben about, where my swing was.

Going across there, playing a couple weeks in the wind, the ball gets back in your stance; you start to lean on it a bit. You know, just the normal things that happen when you play links golf. Those patterns had crept into my swing. Yeah, it was just one of those things where I felt like I hit it fine. I didn't do many things wrong on Sunday in Memphis, but I didn't do much right. I had a wedge and I would hit it to 25 feet and you're not going to hole putts from there. I held a bunch from that range earlier in the tournament, but you can't rely on holing those putts each and every time you hit iron shots.

I just didn't hit it close enough on Sunday, and that was really the difference.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new TOUR Championship format, where in theory, you could shoot the lowest four rounds and not have a win?
RORY McILROY: Especially if you're not top five, right. Speaking about this earlier; the way it was before, if you're in the top 5, you controlled your own destiny. You win the tournament; you win the FedExCup, where that might not happen this time around. I think the guy in fifth place is 5-under par going in, or 10 -- yeah, 5-under par. So you could win by a shot and win the -- you know, shoot the lowest score of the week but still not walk away with the first prize.

But saying that, at least people know where they stand. You know, there's a lot of times where even when I was in contention to win, I didn't -- I didn't really know what -- in 2016, what I didn't know was if I win, do I win the whole thing; what does DJ need to do, these other guys. It simplifies it. It simplifies it for us and we know where we stand, and it simplify it is for the people that are watching it on TV. Talking about Steve Sands doesn't need to stand up there and give you all of these mathematical equations about what needs to happen and whatever.

In a way, it's good, but at the same time, you know, someone in my position that's in that top five, you knew what you needed to do, where now, you're sort of depending on what other people do, as well.

Q. Along those same lines, does it almost make it easier for guys in the back half of the field, 15 through 30, where before they had to worry about so many different things; whereas now, the 29th guy, all he has to do is win.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, but he's starting ten shots back.

Q. Agreed. I'm just curious, which you one do you think is easier for those guys: Before or now?
RORY McILROY: I think equally as hard. You're starting at a point where there's so many things have to happen; so many things have to go your way to end up winning the FedExCup that -- yeah, I mean, I guess you could look at it, some guy in 27th goes out and shoots 9-under par the first day and you could be tied for the lead going into the second day, and all of a sudden, they are in complete control of -- they have just as good a chance as anyone to win THE TOUR Championship.

The guy that was in 27th place last year goes out and shoots 61 or 62, he probably is still going to have a more difficult time to win the FedExCup than the guy this year. So I guess this year, it's probably maybe a little easier.

Q. Shane Lowry is a new Major Champion. What advice would you give to him if he asked on how to deal with those changes?
RORY McILROY: Everyone knows Shane well enough to know that he will wear that very well. He will take it in his stride I think.

I think the only thing for him is just to make sure that he manages his time well, and that's what I tell anyone or anyone that asks me about -- whether it's winning a major or getting to a certain level in the game. You have to realize what got you there, and you can't neglect what got you there. So that's the big thing for me. That's what I needed to do was just a little bit of time management and making sure that I still had the time to do what I needed to do to keep myself at that level.

But at this point, he's two or three weeks removed from it. It's still -- you still have to let it sink in. You still have to enjoy it. I played nine holes with him yesterday, and I said to him, "Make sure that you do enjoy it." Because in golf, we are always looking at the next week or the next thing, or his attention's just turned to the FedExCup. It's always going this way, and sometimes you need to, I think I haven't celebrated some of my wins enough, and looking back, that's something that you really need to do, because you lose in golf a lot more often than you win. You really have to celebrate those wins as much as you can.

Q. Is there someone who gave you some advice when you first won?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, a lot of people reached out to me. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, some really cool handwritten notes about being an ambassador for the game and taking that role very seriously, and you now have a responsibility to play the game around the world and conduct yourself the way that people are trying to emulate you now.

I guess in that way. I think if anything, for Shane, some of that anonymity that he enjoyed in the past, even in Ireland, is probably going to be gone, which you know, from experience, isn't necessarily a great thing. Sometimes it's nice just to be able to hide away and not have people know who you are or feel like you're on display all the time.

But as I said at the start, he'll wear it well. He already has. I mean, look at the reception he's had from everyone at home. This is his first week back out playing. I'm sure he'll get a wonderful reception here. I'm pretty sure he'll take it all in stride.

Q. Even though you're doing your own thing and whatnot, as a who -- who has known Tiger for a while, today he didn't hit shots pretty much on the back nine because he said he was stiff. As somebody who is friends with him and has been a fan of his for a long time, do you wonder now at this stage from week-to-week where he is going to be at? It used to be everybody wondered where he was on the leaderboard but now it's a bit different. Do you think about that?
RORY McILROY: I think everyone does, right. We all saw he struggled a little bit at Portrush physically. It was cold and not the best conditions for someone that's had that sort of fusion surgery on their back.

Yeah, I mean, look, we all know golf is better when Tiger is around and here. I mean, you look at what happened when he won the Masters this year, or even when he won THE TOUR Championship last year. It's just such a shot in the arm for the game, and everyone realizes how big a deal that is for everyone involved.

So hopefully he can still compete a handful of times a year. But he's Tiger Woods. He doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. He doesn't need to prove anything else to himself. He can put the clubs away tomorrow and live happily ever after, I guess. But he wants to compete. He's a competitor. I think it shows a lot that he still turns up to some events and wants to play.

But yeah, look, he's -- I'm not saying 43 is old, but he's had a lot of stuff happen in terms of his body and ailments and surgeries. So it's just trying to navigate his way through them and pick the places where he feels like he can compete and play well.

Q. You're one of the best drivers in the world. Your mid and long irons are world-class, as well. Your wedge statistics don't follow these trends. What do you attribute this to, and is it frustrating to smash your driver down the fairway every time and not capitalize maybe as much as you probably would like to?
RORY McILROY: What are my wedge statistics at the minute?

Q. From 50 to 125, you're 199th on TOUR.
RORY McILROY: And what about 125 to 150?

Q. Don't know.
RORY McILROY: So for me -- I know where you're coming from. But if I look at my statistics and what I deem is important in my game: Like I'm No. 1 in strokes gained off the tee and 10th in strokes gained approach to the green and 17th I think in strokes gained around the green and I'm top 30 in strokes gained putting. I have the best statistics of anyone on TOUR.

And everyone is going to have their areas of their game or, you know, things that they can improve on, 100 percent. But when I look at my statistics, I don't think -- I don't think of it as a crisis. I think, okay, there's a few areas that I can maybe work on and improve on.

But everything's telling me that I'm doing the right things. You know, yeah, there's -- I could average from 50 to 125, as you said, I could average 20 feet from the pin or whatever it is, and that could be 199th, and someone could average 17 feet from the pin and that could be in the Top-50, I don't know.

But it's such small margins out here. I think people sort of -- they see a number and they think it tells the whole story, when it really doesn't.

Would I like to be a better wedge player? Yes. Would I like to be a better driver of the golf ball? Yes. And that's the great thing about the game, I would like to improve in every single area. It's not like I hit 300 drivers and don't hit a wedge. I practice my wedge play and my putting and I practice everything, and I try to do it diligently and deliberately, and make sure that when I turn up to events, I'm ready to play.

Yeah, I like numbers. I like statistics. I think they do tell most of the story. But sometimes there could be outliers, but you know, it's not as if I'm going to go in week-to-week and think, geez, I've got a shot from 97 yards here; I'm 199th from that distance. I'd better hit a good shot. I'm just trying to shoot a good score. No. 1 in stroke average.

I'm sort of trying to sing my own song here, but I feel like I'm doing pretty much most of the right things, and you know, I've given myself plenty of chances to win this year. I haven't maybe won quite as much as I would have liked, but I'm having a real consistent, solid season. Three more weeks of that might turn out to be another FedExCup and then I can address that 199th thing. (Laughter).

Q. So when you're going the whole season, do you feel the magnitude of the events, of the FedExCup? Because obviously these are -- so much is at stake, $15 million now, and at the end of it, your score is adjusted on that last event. Do you feel that magnitude coming into this week, other than just a regular TOUR event?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there's certainly a different feel. There's more of a -- a bit more of an intensity, a bit more -- it's the end of the season. I just alluded, I feel like I've had a pretty good season, but I want to end it on a real positive note, and the way to end it on a positive note is to play well these next three weeks and giving myself a chance in Atlanta.

Maybe a touch more intensity. I feel like after Memphis, it was a good reset for me. Obviously the Wyndham was going on and there was other story lines, people trying to keep their card, trying to get into the Top-125, all that stuff. For me, it was good to reset; reset from what happened over the summer to: I'm going to give it my all these next three weeks.

Yeah, I'm ready. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to get started tomorrow.

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