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July 15, 2009

Rory McIlroy


MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, let's make a start. We're joined by Rory McIlroy. Rory, thanks for coming in. Rory, in many people's eyes you're right up there amongst the favorites to win what is your first Open Championship as a professional. Does that meet your own expectations, and what hopes do you have to match those expectations this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, you know, there's a lot of people that are thinking that because I've played a lot of links golf that this is going to suit me, but there's a lot more guys in this field that have played more Open Championships.
But I feel as if I'm coming into the event and I've got a little bit of form. I feel as if I played Loch Lomond last week and I struggled a little bit, but every day this week it's got a little better. I had a good session on the range last night with Michael Bannon, my coach, and I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well going into the tournament.
I just hope to go out there and just keep it out of the rough. If I can shoot somewhere around 70 every day, I think that will be pretty good.

Q. In terms of hitting the ball, you are an aggressive player, and yet everyone is talking about this course being somewhere where defense is probably the strongest ally of a golfer. How are you going to cope with that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there's -- I think it depends what way the wind blows, as well, because we played it the last couple of days, the wind has been into you on 17. So you've got holes like 5, 6 and 7 straight downwind. So 5 you can take all the bunkers out of play with the driver. 6 is a long par-3, so that plays a 4- or 5-iron downwind. 7 is the same; you can take out all the bunkers on 7 and leave yourself a mid-iron into the green.
So I think there's opportunities where you can be aggressive on this golf course, but there's also holes where you just need to know that par is a good score for the week and if you take four pars there that you're not going to lose ground in the field.

Q. Can you talk about any similarities between Turnberry and courses back home like Portrush and County Down. And also, how much do you feel that having experience on links and growing up on links courses really counts in a week like this?
RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I mean the only thing I can say is the 9th tee shot is very similar to a couple of tee shots in County Down just because it's a little bit blind. But I think it's a great golf course.
I actually think around the greens reminds me quite a bit of Carnoustie, the way there's a few runoffs and the way the bunkers sort of set up at you.
And obviously I've played a lot of links golf growing up. I hope it should help me. I feel as if I've got all the shots that are required to play good golf on links courses. Yeah, I mean it's -- whenever you play a lot of links golf, and we don't get to play a lot on Tour, and it's nice to get back to a links course. It's sort of like riding a bicycle; once you're on it you sort of somehow remember all the shots you need for it, little pitch-and-runs and little punch shots into the wind and so forth. I feel very comfortable on links; hopefully that will show this week.

Q. At your tender age you're already a rising superstar. Can you talk a little bit about that. Are you recognised when you go out? Do you get fan mail? How are you looked upon in America? Are you disturbed wherever you go? What's it like?
RORY McILROY: No, not really. I still like to go out with my friends and I still like to -- I'm not -- I don't mind going out in Belfast or wherever it is. I do get recognised, but it's not -- it's something that you just get used to, I suppose.
Yeah, I mean, in America -- I mean the only time I'm in America is at golf events, so I'm obviously going to get recognised when I'm there.
But, no, I mean I don't feel as if I'm any sort of superstar. I'm just trying to play golf and play golf well.

Q. There was a line in one of the papers recently about you're close enough to home to almost consider going home by helicopter every night. Was that a serious thought? Did you look into it or was it just a bit of fun?
RORY McILROY: I gave it a little bit of consideration, but I thought that just down here would make it a little easier, not having to think about what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, can I fly or can I not fly. We're just staying a few minutes away, which is perfect. But maybe in the future if it's here again I might think about it.

Q. How much golf have you actually played here at Turnberry, seeing that you're not so very far away as the crow flies?
RORY McILROY: I played the week after the European Open, so that was five or six weeks ago, played 18 holes. I played last Monday at Loch Lomond. I played Monday of this week, and I played nine holes yesterday, so about three and a half rounds, which I think is enough.
It's let me see the golf course in two different winds. So I've seen the golf course two completely different ways. And I feel as if I'm ready. I feel as if I know the course, know the greens. It's a matter of going out there and hitting shots.

Q. In terms of the rough, how different is the course to that time you came up to the European Open and got, what was it, eight birdies?
RORY McILROY: It was very benign, but I did drive -- I think I only missed a couple of fairways out there. But even the rough then was pretty severe. But I really noticed a difference when I came up last Monday just before the Scottish Open. The rough in some places is just -- it's unplayable; you wouldn't find your ball. If you're trying to lay up on 17 and you miss the fairway right, you're just dead.
But saying that, there is a few fairways where the rough is very bad on one side and it's not as bad on the other, so it does give you a little bit of room to bail out on one side. So I think they've set it up very fairly.

Q. Might you change clubs to what you thought you might do because of the way the rough is set up?
RORY McILROY: No, I'm still going to go with the same setup. I've got driver, 3-wood, 5-wood and then 3-iron to pitching wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge, so it's just a pretty similar setup to what I've had the last few weeks.

Q. Obviously this is your first full year playing the major championships. You had two great finishes so far. Have you surprised yourself how you've taken to the pressure? Of course going into this week the bookies have you as third or fourth favourite.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've been very pleased with my progress in the majors this year, finishing 20th at the Masters, and then finishing 10th at U.S. Open. So I've sort of proved to myself that I do have the game to get around major championships.
I think the thing about me is you just have to stay very, very patient and know that you're going to make bogeys and you're going to make mistakes, just because the course setups are so tough. But then again, you know that if you're playing well enough you will have a lot of chances for birdies, as well. So it's just about staying patient and not -- if you make a couple of bogeys, not trying to chase it and trying to get back to level par because 72 holes is a lot of golf and anything can happen. So I think patience is the key this week.

Q. How do you take pressure off yourself, Rory?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I mean, I sometimes say to myself, you know, this is only your second Open Championship. You'll have 20 or 30 more of these. There's no point in trying to rush into things. I sort of say that to myself sometimes, but there's also a part of me that says, well, you know you've got the game to do well here. I think it's a balance between having the right expectations and then obviously going and trying to fulfill those. It is hard, because kind of walking up the 18th, you catch yourself thinking about oh, what if this happens or that happens, how good would it be to win The Open.
But it's just something you've got to deal with. I'm getting better and better at it every week.

Q. I know you've been a pro for almost a couple of years now, but this being your first season of playing in the majors, and now that you're well into it, if you will, has anything surprised you, good or bad, about this professional life you're in?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I think -- what surprised me about the majors is that you don't have -- obviously you don't have to shoot the lights out to do well, because level par is a great score in major championships. But I thought that it would be -- I know I've played well in the Masters and I felt as if my game was really good at the U.S. Open, but I felt sometimes as if it would be more of a real grind. At the U.S. Open, I know they set up Bethpage very fairly and that made scoring a little easier, and it was softer, also.
But it's -- it is very difficult, but you -- I've just realised that I know in my -- I've got the game to do well in major championships and that as long as I stay patient and don't get ahead of myself I know that my game can stand up to the hardest test in golf.

Q. Secondly, have you seen much of Anthony Kim? It's quite a nice draw for you guys.
RORY McILROY: Well, I mean, I played the first two rounds of the Masters with him. I played the first three rounds at the U.S. Open with him. So I've got to know him pretty well in the majors. And it's a great draw, again.
I really enjoy Anthony's company. We get on really well. And we'll probably be chatting a lot because the third member is Goosen, and he doesn't like to chat much, so I'm sure we'll be having a bit of fun like that.

Q. There's been a lot of good young British golfers come through the last decade and haven't won a major. What's going to make you different? What's going to make you a winner?
RORY McILROY: I wish I could tell you. I've said it before, it's very difficult to win golf tournaments, let alone major championships. You just have to look at Sergio. Sergio is one of the best players in the world. He's one of the best ball-strikers I've ever -- if not the best ball-striker I've ever seen, and he's still to win a major. But I think once he wins one I think that will sort of open the gate a bit for him and he'll go on to win a lot more.
But I don't know, I think the strength and depth of the fields -- you've got to play so well to win. And even if you get yourself into position to win, it's very hard to close it out because it is a major championship and everything that comes with being a major champion. I'm sure I haven't been in that position before, but I'm sure it's very hard to sort of not let things get into your head coming down the stretch.
I don't know what would make me different, and hopefully one day I'll be able to tell you.

Q. What were conditions like both in terms of rough and weather the day you shot 61 at Portrush, and do you still feed off that, that that's what I'm capable of?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I do. That was the best ever round of golf I've ever played. It was quite benign, maybe a one-club wind, at the most. Yeah, it wasn't warm, it was probably about 16 or 17 degrees.

Q. Was the rough up?
RORY McILROY: I don't know, I don't think I was in it. (Laughter.) I'm not sure. I think it was -- it wasn't up as much as this is, definitely. But you could get to the green from it, I know that.

Q. How much of a history buff are you? How aware are you of what's happened at previous Opens here at Turnberry?
RORY McILROY: I'm aware of 1977, the Duel in the Sun, and everything. And '86 was the year that Norman led all four major championships other than the last one, and he only won this one. I remember Nicky Price holed that monster putt across the 17th green in '94, as well. I know a little bit about the Opens here, but I haven't been able to see a tape of the Duel in the Sun. I'd really like to see it. I know what happened and I know Nicklaus holed that long putt on 17 to make Watson hole his.
But the thing -- I was looking in the clubhouse earlier, and the thing that I found incredible was that Nicklaus was ten shots ahead of the next guy in third place, so it just must have been incredible to watch. And their scores were exactly the same until the last day. Watson shot 65 and Nicklaus shot 66. So it will be a pretty nice film to watch.

Q. A lot of the older players in the field have been almost watching Tiger win 14 majors. It doesn't apply to you, because you're the new kid on the block. Does he strike fear at all into your psyche, or is he just another player?
RORY McILROY: No, he's not just another player. I remember when I first came out and I talked to Tiger and I was even nervous talking to him. He just has some sort of aura about him, you know. But he's just an incredible competitor. He hits shots that are just some -- that I wouldn't be able to hit sometimes. He's a -- he's not won 14 majors for nothing, and I'm sure he'll win a few more before his career is over.
But I've enjoyed watching him win his majors. As you said, I haven't had to deal with losing to him a lot or anything like that so it's been more inspirational for me rather than disheartening that this guy is coming to win every major he plays and every other major.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Thank you very much.

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