January 21, 2021
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Q. The 10th time you've shot 66 or better on this golf course, but 64 today with no bogeys is the best of the lot. How good does it feel?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it feels good. I actually thought that to myself after I turned 4-under. I knew 65 is the best I've shot here and I've shot it a few times, so I thought let's try to go one better on the next nine and I was able to do that.
Maybe played slightly better on our front nine, but I held some really nice putts coming in for birdies. Yeah, it was obviously a lovely way to start the year.
Q. Nine weeks since your last competitive round at the Masters. What pleased you most about your play today?
RORY McILROY: A lot of it. A lot of it was very good. I felt like I drove the ball well for the most part, a couple of swirly ones in the middle of the round. Distance control was really good. I think I started off really well. Hit a lot of nice iron shots. But honestly it was probably the best I've putted these greens in Abu Dhabi probably in my whole career.
I've shot some really good scores here but I held some really good ones today. And I've always struggled to read them here, but I sort of got my eye in early and kept me going.
Q. When you came out of the COVID break in the summer it took you nine starts to get into the Top-10. Did you have a different sense coming here?
RORY McILROY: It started at the end of the summer. One of the first breakthroughs I made was the second Playoff event, the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. I played well there and felt like I sort of found something. Next week, our daughter was born and I went to THE TOUR Championship and ended up playing pretty well. Played pretty well at the U.S. Open with a couple of not-so-great rounds, and then played okay at the Masters, just apart from a bad nine holes.
So it was getting better as the year went on, and honestly it was sort of disappointing that it finished when it did because I felt like I was getting right back into it. I didn't really take much time off after Augusta. I sat at home for maybe three or four days and was like I just need to get out there and sort of keep this going.
Played quite a bit over the Christmas break and practiced quite a bit. Felt maybe as sharp as I've ever done coming into the start of the season. It's paid off early.
Q. I was chatting to Butch Harmon the other day and asked if he was still offering any support to yourself and Michael Bannon offering an extra pair of eyes and he said yeah, occasionally a video exchange or a text message. How cool to have somebody of Butch's experience to offer that help to you and your coach?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the one thing I love about Butch is he's worked with so many players. So if you're trying to explain to him, look, I'm trying to do this or I'm trying to create that feeling, the database of players that he's worked with over the years, he could say, well, Freddie Couples felt this or Tiger did this or DJ felt that. It's always nice to have that reference.
I haven't been able to see Michael that much over the last few months because of COVID and I thought I would take advantage of being in Vegas and seeing Butch. But Michael is here this week and he worked with me the week before Christmas, so we started to see a lot more of each other and that's been great, as well. Michael knows my swing better than anyone knows it, inside out.
It's great to have him here and it's great that things are sort of slowly getting back to normal where I'll be able to see him more regularly this year, and I think that will really help.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports