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June 16, 2010
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
BETH MURRISON: Good morning and welcome to the 2010 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links. We're honored to be joined by Rory McIlroy. Rory is playing in his second U.S. Open. Last year he recorded a Top-10 finish. Earlier this year he recorded his first PGA TOUR win at Quail Hollow. Roy has just said he's playing at Pebble Beach for the first time this week. Can you tell us a little bit about your impressions of the course upon first seeing it.
RORY McILROY: Yeah. It's a spectacular golf course, obviously. I think the way they have set it up this year is really good. If you just miss the fairway you've got a good chance of hitting it on the green, but you miss it by a little bit more and you're going to struggle.
The golf course has got firmer and firmer and I got here Monday and yesterday it was even harder and today it will probably be a little firmer again. So it looks like it's going to be a pretty firm golf course all week. And, yeah, I mean it's going to be a really tough test and you're going to have to hit it really well around here if you want to score.
BETH MURRISON: Did you learn anything at last year's U.S. Open that you bring into this year and last year being your first one to carry in this year that you might use this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think the main thing around any U.S. Open it's just patience. It's really not letting anything bother you. You got to expect that you're going to have bad holes here and there. But you know everyone is going to have bad holes so you've just got to get on with it and try and do the best you can and I've learned from last year that par in a U.S. Open's never too far away.
Q. Tomorrow you play around with Tom Watson and Ryo Ishikawa and this will be the third time that Ryo and you played together in a tournament. What do you think of him and one more, and you won the first U.S. tournament this year and Ryo shot 58 at the Japanese tournament. What do you think of that too?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to playing with Ryo again. I've played with him quite a lot over the last couple years. And I really enjoy his company and he's a great player. If I was to turn on my TV and watch anyone sort of play I would like to watch Ryo play. I think the way he plays and the way he handles himself and carries himself, he's a great role model to a lot of people.
Yeah, obviously when I won at Quail Hollow that week Ryo won the Crowns, and shot 58, obviously, in the last round, which was incredible. I played that tournament a couple years before that and it's a pretty tricky golf course. So he's really impressive and to achieve what he has already, to play on a Presidents Cup and to win so many times on the Japan Tour is very impressive.
Q. What particular skills do you think this setup will favor?
RORY McILROY: I think if there isn't too much wind you'll have to hit the ball pretty high into some of these greens. Just to hold them. Like for instance the 12th hole, if you want to carry that bunker but try and still hold it on the green you're going to have to hit something in there really high with like a 4- or 5-iron.
But then obviously if the wind blows it's a little bit different. It will play -- the golf course will play a lot differently. But it does -- the way they have set it up, the aprons leading up into the greens it allows you to run balls up into them as well. So it gives you a lot of options, this golf course, and there's a lot of variety and you can play it different ways.
Q. How close are you in your career and your advancement in your game to winning a Major Championship?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I hope I'm not too far. I would like to -- I probably would be more comfortable answering that question if I had a few more wins under my belt. But, yeah, I mean obviously I've got to be going into this tournament thinking that I can win, that I have a chance to win and I feel as if my game's in pretty good shape that if I can get myself into position going into the weekend I should have a good chance.
But, yeah, I mean maybe in a couple of years I'll hopefully be a bit more advanced in my career to say, yeah, I think it's time that I'm ready to win a Major. But there's no rush right now. I'm just looking to win my next PGA tournament or European Tour event and but it would be great to get a good run this week and at least put myself into contention. I finished third at the PGA last year and I got a good feel about what it's about and hopefully I can do that again this week.
Q. Tom Watson will be playing in his fifth U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, what does it mean to you to be playing with him for the first two rounds?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm very excited about it. I'm excited about playing with both Tom and Ryo. And I played nine holes with Tom at the Masters this year in a practice round and he still hits it as good as anyone out here. I think it will be a nice two days. It's definitely -- I think it's definitely a good draw for me. It should help me relax a little bit. Especially playing with someone that's around the same age as I am and someone that's not quite the same age.
But no, it's going to be good. I'm really excited about playing with Tom. Obviously he's won around here and I might pick up a few things these first two day that is can I bring into the weekend, you never know.
Q. Mickelson yesterday said that earlier in his career maybe a lot of people didn't think his game would fit playing the U.S. Open and maybe he even didn't think so. Obviously he's had success here, but do you think your game at this point fits winning some U.S. Opens in your career?
RORY McILROY: I think so, yeah. I would say that the strong part of my game would be my ball striking. I think that's what you need to do in U.S. Opens to win. I don't think -- I mean you're obviously not going to hit every fairway and every green, but I think the guys that hit definitely more fairways in the U.S. Open, but more greens as well, have a chance to win. Especially around this place, because the greens are so small. If you put your ball in the middle of the green every time you're going to have a chance for birdie. So I definitely think my golf game suits definitely well this golf course. I played pretty good at Bethpage last year as well, so hopefully my game is well suited to U.S. Opens in the future as well.
Q. How much attention are you paying to the World Cup and I wondered if you had any impressions so far of that?
RORY McILROY: I just found out Switzerland beat Spain, which is a huge upset. So I was actually -- I thought Spain was going to -- well obviously it's very early in the tournament, but I thought they had a really good chance to win. But it's been pretty, there hasn't been many -- I know Germany won 4-0 and it's been a sort of a lot of draws in the first matches. It looks like teams have been going out just trying to not lose instead of going out to win. So hopefully the games can get a little more exciting going into the next round of matches.
Q. Quick follow-up, having that going on the same week as this, is that kind of a nice distraction for players?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it is. It's a good thing. Especially with the NBA Finals on as well. I watched the game last night. Yeah, it takes your mind away from it. You wouldn't want to be thinking about golf 24/7, especially not a U.S. Open week. I think you would go crazy. But, yeah, it's definitely a good distraction. You get off the course and you've done your practice and you go and you're looking forward to watching the game or doing something.
Q. Keeping with that kind of mental mind, people, players often talk about the U.S. Open being one of the most mentally tough events. How did you find it affected you last year and what did you do when you left the course to kind of refresh your mind and how will you use that this week as well?
RORY McILROY: It was it was a little different last year because we never -- you know, you were going on the course and off the course and just because of the weather and stuff. You never really knew how many holes you were going to get on any given day, so you just had to be ready to go out and play. It looked at one stage as if it wasn't going to be finished until Tuesday. But, yeah, I mean as I said earlier, U.S. Opens are all about patience and not letting bogeys or anything else get to you. Because you know everyone's going to have them. Everyone's going to have a few bad holes and it's about how you deal with it and move on to the next.
As hard as this golf course is, if you do make a few bogeys, there's a few holes that you can make up a few shots. So I suppose you've just got to look at it that way. Yeah, I mean it's just about being patient and being really really focused on your game plan and knowing that something around even par is going to be a good score.
Q. Given the Europeans barren run in this event, is there any sort of mental block there?
RORY McILROY: I don't think so. I don't think Europeans are going into this event thinking, oh, we've got to win, it's 40 years or whatever since Tony Jacklin won or whatever. I think this year there's a great chance that a European could win. Especially the way the golf course is set up. If it continues to get as firm as it has been the last couple of days, it's playing like sort of linksy out there. So obviously Lee and Robert were in the playoff last week, so they're playing pretty good. There's so many others as well. You never know. Hopefully if it isn't myself it can be one of the other Europeans.
Q. Which hole is the most difficult for you and the reason why?
RORY McILROY: I think probably not the most difficult hole on the golf course, I think the 14th is the most difficult par-5 I've ever played. If you can get a really good tee shot away and it's not into the wind you can go for it in two. But if you lay up and leave yourself a hundred yards it's probably one of the most difficult hundred yard shots I've ever faced because the green's so small and if you miss it a couple yards left or a couple yards right you're off the green. So that's a green you have to be very precise. You don't usually say this about par-5s, but if you could play that hole in even par for the week you'll be doing pretty well.
Q. You mentioned a couple times that the key to a U.S. Open is patience. How is that in terms of your life? Are you a patient person and if so, where does that come from?
RORY McILROY: I'm probably not that patient, but there's just some weeks where you got to accept that you have to be -- you just have to wait a little bit and you have to bide your time and this is definitely one of those weeks.
I think coming into the U.S. Open you are mentally preparing yourself for what you're going to face. I know on Thursday I'm probably going to hit it in the rough a few times, I'm going to miss a few greens, but it's how you deal with that, how you handle it and hopefully you did the best and make the best of that situation and move on to the next.
So I wouldn't say I'm a naturally patient person, but this week I'm sort of having to be.
Q. You said this was your first time seeing the course Monday. I'm wondering if you've played Pebble Beach on a video game before or watched it on TV and how that compared to when you actually saw it for the first time Monday.
RORY McILROY: It's a lot easier on the Play Station.
Yeah I've played it a lot on video games and stuff. The only other time I've watched it on TV when it's been like this was in 2000. When Tiger won.
If I watched it on TV it's been during the AT&T and it's been so soft and it doesn't play anything like it's going to play this week. Yeah I mean, I knew all the holes, I knew the look of the holes, but I never really knew how they played. I couldn't believe how short the 7th was. It's just like a little chip almost.
But, yeah, I mean it's -- I'm really looking forward to the week. It's Pebble Beach, there's been a lot of great U.S. Opens here and I'm sure this week's going to be the same.
Q. To follow-up on the question of difficult golf holes, could you give us some perspective on some holes that you feel might be scoring holes or must score holes?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, you've got the 4th. I think they might move the tee up a couple times this week and let us go for the green. But it's only a 3-iron or 5-wood off the tee and a sand wedge in there. You put it anywhere on that green you've got a birdie chance.
The 6th hole, the par-5. They have cut all the rough away on the right, so it's a bit of a wider fairway now. So I hit 3-wood, 4-iron in there and you get it up anywhere around that green and you've got a good chance to get it up-and-down for birdie.
If the wind isn't blowing too hard 7's a good chance, because obviously it's just a little short par-3.
Then the golf course gets a lot more difficult from there. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
14's a par-5 but I wouldn't really call it a chance. If you make birdie there you're doing pretty well.
And you've got 15 and 16 are probably the two birdie chances coming in. And then obviously 18 as well. So there is a few holes where you can take advantage of if you put your ball in play.
Q. Your admiration for Tiger growing up did it stem chiefly from watching him do that at 2000 at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews?
RORY McILROY: Yeah I suppose so. I think that in '97 at the Masters was probably when I -- that was the big thing for me coming out and winning by 12 and being so young.
But, yeah obviously winning here and at The Open Championship and then at the PGA and then the Masters the year after and completing the Tiger Slam or whatever, you know, it was pretty -- he was pretty dominant back then.
Q. Coming into a course like Pebble Beach that you've never played before, how long would it normally take you to get used to playing the course, feeling comfortable on a course, and do you feel that you can come in and win on a course that you've never seen?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I had never seen Quail Hollow before this year and I had a couple of practice rounds around there and did okay.
I've had to learn a few new golf courses this year on the PGA TOUR. So sometimes it's not a bad thing not knowing it that well because you don't have the memories of hitting bad shots or hitting it in the water here or hitting it in the rough there.
So I'm fine. Basically all you're trying to do is get lines off tees and learn the greens. And the greens are quite small here, so there's not much, really, and you've got to know what, if you're going to miss it, what the good side is to miss it on. And I think one of the keys to this week is leaving it below the hole. Because some of these greens are - they have got gentle slopes but the slope is always one way. So you get it above the hole and you're having a pretty difficult time to get it up-and-down or to make your par or whatever.
So, yeah, leaving it below the hole and getting lines off tees and just being comfortable with what clubs you're hitting on certain holes, I think that's really all you got to do. And then from there it's up to yourself just to hit the shots.
Q. To follow-up on your admiration for Tiger, what impact has he had on you and your peers and your development as golfers?
RORY McILROY: I think he's had a big impact on the younger generation, just because we grew up watching him on TV and seeing him shoot 12-under around Pebble Beach and 18-under around Augusta and that was -- that had never been done before. So I think it made us think, well, if we can practice hard and we can dedicate ourselves to the game, that we might be able to do that one day. So I think he raise that had bar up a little higher. I think he definitely made me realize that, how good you can be. So and then you try to get to that level and even if you don't quite get to that level you're still going to be pretty good.
Q. I must admit, Quail Hollow, that was beautiful to watch. I have a little boy who's 13 and that would be like you and watching Tiger and's huge Rory fan of course and I grew up as a Tom Watson fan. And you play with Tom tomorrow, that's going to be nice. Hopefully he's got good memories of all of the holes and you can just follow his lines and all those good things. But as far as -- I walked the golf course, I'm out here trying to help Erik Compton. We played that practice round together. He went 39 holes to get into this and he's fired up. But it's a stamina test and it's a positive test and it really really is a demanding thing. I went to school down the road at San Jose State, we used to play here. I've never seen the course this severe and tough before. You mentioned the 14th green, if you get a good drive away you would go for that par five and you could go for it in two. But what kind of a shot would you hit in there and where would you want to leave it and miss it and?
RORY McILROY: I think if you're going for the 14th the best place to miss it is in that bunker short. That's the only place that you can. I mean you go long for the green and you're, I mean you're dead, you know. So it's a tough hole and even if I had a yardage where I thought I could go for it, I would still I'll probably still lay up. Just because, I mean I would rather be hitting a full lob wedge in from 80 yards so I'm able to stop it on that green, rather than -- I mean I was having this debate with my caddie a couple of days ago whether to get it up close to the green and have a chip shot, but I mean the chip shot's just as difficult as having a full shot in.
Q. Tom Watson, do you think he could win the U.S. Open this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. He should have -- well, he had a great chance to win at Turnberry. I don't think -- Pebble Beach isn't the longest of U.S. Open venues. It's definitely not going to be playing that long this week because it's so firm. So length won't be an issue for him.
Yeah, I mean he's played, the last year or so he's played fantastically. He's obviously -- made the cut at the Masters this year, I think, did he? Yeah. And he's played in Dubai at the start of the year and finished like top-10 and coming into this week he's still a great player and I'm sure that he thinks that he has a chance to win. That's why he's playing. It would be great to see him play well over the first couple of days especially as I'm in the same group.
Q. Do you have any -- I mean obviously it happened before you were sort of born, but do you have any memories of his shot at 17, the chip from the back of the green at 17? Did it make any impact on you? Is it something you watched where you said, wow, they weren't too bad back then?
RORY McILROY: Actually I went to try that chip shot, yeah, because Kite had the same sort of -- well, I don't think it was the same, it was sort of the same area, so I went to try it.
Q. How did you do?
RORY McILROY: The rough was a little more wispy then, it's a bit thicker now.
Yeah, no, I mean I've seen the tapes and everything, but I've -- I've never really thought about it or anything. I think obviously in 2000 that was -- it was the first time I had really watched the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and so, yeah.
BETH MURRISON: Rory, thanks so much for joining us today. We wish you well this week.
RORY McILROY: Thank you.
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