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June 16, 2011

Rory McIlroy


BETH MURRISON: We are very pleased to have with us this afternoon Rory McIlroy, who shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open today. Can you talk about the conditions and playing out there today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. I don't think conditions were that easy. You know, there was a little bit of a breeze out there, and the greens were getting pretty firm. A few of the greens around the holes were getting pretty chewed up, as well. It was tricky out there, but I just managed to keep the ball in the fairway and find a lot of greens, and that was basically how I shot that score.
BETH MURRISON: Can I ask you to go through your birdies today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. I birdied the 12th hole, hit a 3-wood and a sand wedge just like, I don't know, six feet past the hole.
I birdied 17. I hit a 3-iron and an 8-iron to ten feet.
Then I birdied the 18th, hit a driver and an 8-iron pin high left about 15, 20 feet, holed that.
Then hit a 3-wood and a lob wedge into the 1st to six feet.
I birdied the 4th, hit a driver and a wedge to four feet just above the pin.
Birdied 6, I hit a driver and a 3-iron just to the back fringe maybe 15 feet and two-putted that.

Q. You opened with 63 at St. Andrews. I think 65 at Augusta, 65 here. What's the best one? How do they compare? How do you feel in comparison to those two?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the best one was definitely St. Andrews. You know, I played really good there, had a real chance of shooting the lowest round ever in a major.
I felt as if today I had a chance to do that, as well. I mean, it did slip into my mind playing the 5th hole, if I could birdie that and birdie three of the last four coming in, I could have done that, as well. Didn't quite work out that way, but this is definitely up there.
I played great at Augusta the first day. It was -- it felt like quite a simple 65. I didn't do much wrong. I think I hit 17 out of 18 greens, just kept giving myself opportunities for birdies, and when you can do that in a U.S. Open, it's pretty good.

Q. Are you noticing the other guys in your group, as smooth as it was going for you? Phil was zigzagging all over the place and making great saves and stuff. Can you talk a little bit about the contrast of your round to his round?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. Obviously Phil struggled a little bit today with his swing and with his game, but like Phil always does, he keeps himself in it with great saves. It looked like at a point he could have let the round get away from him, but he still ended up shooting 73 or 74 or whatever it was, so he's definitely not out of this tournament.

Q. Just to follow up on that, when Dustin and Phil were all over the place, did that affect you at all, and how do you stay in your own zone when they're not playing as well?
RORY McILROY: No, no, I don't think it affects you at all. All you're trying to concentrate on is your own game. It's a major championship, and the toughest major championship of them all is the U.S. Open, and you can't let any other thoughts get in your head. You're just trying to concentrate entirely on your game and trying to get that ball around the course in as few strokes as possible.

Q. After the Sunday at Augusta, a lot of guys it might have a big effect on. You seemed to bounce right back. What does that say about you that you can put that behind you and do that here?
RORY McILROY: I don't know if it says that I've just got a very short memory or -- I don't know. I took the experience from Augusta, and I learned a lot from it. But I feel like these good starts in the majors are very much down to my preparation and how I prepare for them. But yeah, I mean, you can't -- you're going into the U.S. Open. You can't be thinking about what's happened before, you've got to just be thinking about this week and how best you can prepare and how you can get yourself around the golf course.

Q. Do you think about the Sunday at Augusta or do you just say, forget it, it's over with? How do you deal with it? Is there a sense in which you want to think about it and a sense in which you want to ignore it?
RORY McILROY: I think you definitely have to analyze the parts that you want to do better. But I stopped -- I really stopped thinking about it a week after. You really try and pick it apart and pick things out that you could have done better, but after you do that and you're happy with everything that you've sort of taken from it, then you've just got to move on.

Q. What did you take away?
RORY McILROY: I just took -- mostly just from the Sunday just being so tentative and trying to keep ahead of the field instead of playing a free-flowing game like I usually do. That's one of the big differences.

Q. With these big starts in majors, is there a line between thinking aggressively and being smart about it? And obviously you've been aggressive and maybe some other guys go into a major and just play defensively. Can you talk about your mindset going into a major?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. I mean, going back to Augusta, the first three days I played aggressively. I played smartly but I played aggressively to my targets and aggressively to the spots I wanted to hit it. And then going into the Sunday, I started to play defensively, and that's when things can go wrong.
Yeah, again, this week it's about being aggressive to the spots -- a lot of it this week, there's 200-yard plates and 150-yard plates on the fairway. A lot of holes I'm just trying to hit it to the 150 spot off the tee, and then I'm playing my iron shot in from there, so it's being aggressive to the target that you have.

Q. Is it true that Jack Nicklaus effectively threatened to beat you up for Augusta, and did he offer any practical advice there?
RORY McILROY: Not really, he just said he would kick my backside, but that was about it. I spoke briefly with him at the Memorial a couple weeks ago, and I feel as if I have a pretty good relationship with Jack. He just sort of said to me, there's going to be a lot of pressure on you, but you've got to put a lot of pressure on yourself early. That's what he always did. He always put a lot of pressure on himself to do well. Yeah, he didn't really threaten to beat me up, but I think I could take him now; he's a little old. (Laughter.)

Q. The statistics show that you missed one green. Could you tell us what that green was? What was the longest putt you had for par? And do these not sound like absurd questions to be asking at a U.S. Open?
RORY McILROY: (Laughing) yeah. I hit a pretty poor tee shot off the 14th, missed the fairway right with a 3-wood and hit a 5-iron from there into the left bunker and played a pretty poor bunker shot, as well, got it out to maybe 15 feet and holed -- it was probably one of the longest putts I holed all day. I think it was probably the longest putt I holed all day, and it was for par.
It's not going to be that easy every day. I know that. I think everyone else knows that. But it is nice when all parts of your game are on song and you can put together a low round.

Q. Apologies for bringing up another round in the 80s, but what lesson did you learn from the second day at St. Andrews last year?
RORY McILROY: I learned a lot from it. It was my first experience at leading a major and leading it going into the second round. You know, the weather obviously wasn't very kind to me. But I just learned that it's a long way to go, even after that 63. It's hard to put thoughts out of your head about going on and winning and everything, but you've got to really stay in the present and stay in the moment. And I felt like I handled the second round at Augusta this year a lot better than I handled the second round at St. Andrews last year.

Q. What's your approach for tomorrow? And you spoke earlier on TV about having a quiet mind. Can you explain what that is and how you will go about having a quiet mind?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't think I should be trying to do anything differently tomorrow than I did today. You know, I wasn't thinking -- I didn't go out there thinking about shooting any sort of a score. I just went out there to try and play really good golf, stick to my game plan, stick to the clubs I'm going to hit off tees and all that. I think keeping a quiet mind, I'm sort of taking my mind off what's going on here, watch a movie or just try and completely forget about what I've done today and start fresh tomorrow. That's really what I meant.

Q. Just wondering if when you went out today and you put up the kind of score that you did if there's maybe some bit of relief as well as happiness in what you did because of the way you bounced back from Augusta.
RORY McILROY: Well, there's definitely no relief in it. You know, it's always nice to shoot a good first round at any tournament, let alone a major. But no relief. I know I'm playing well. I know this golf course. I know I'm pretty comfortable on this golf course, so I expected to go out there and -- if I hit it the way I hit it in the practice rounds, I was going to always do pretty good.

Q. You said the other day that with the course setup, you thought a few under par, it would take that to win the tournament this week. Would you revise that after what happened today? And if we offered you 6-under on Sunday night, would you take that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely, yeah. I'd take that, I think. This golf course is only going to get firmer and it's going to get harder. I still think something around -- 2, 3, 4-under par, something like that, is going to have a good chance. Even something around level par is probably going to come very close on Sunday. It's a U.S. Open; they know how to make the golf course a lot more difficult than it was today.

Q. Starting on the 10th hole, was that a shot you thought a lot about over the last day or so, or maybe does starting there actually make it easier once you get through that? How did you approach that because that's a different start?
RORY McILROY: It is, yeah. The only thing I did differently is I hit a few more -- I thought it was going to be a 6-iron, so I hit a few more 6-irons on the range, but it ended up being a 5-iron. Yeah, it's definitely a tough hole to start on. I think I'll be a lot more at ease starting on the 1st hole tomorrow morning, especially it was playing tough today straight back into the end. You just want to try and get your 3 anyway you can, even hit it in the back bunker and get it up-and-down or miss it left. But it was a great shot to start the day, and it really -- that really got the round going, that first tee shot.

Q. I believe you were here last week for the first time. Did you have a good feeling about it immediately? Did the course seem to set up for you, or did it take a little while to get used to?
RORY McILROY: You know, I felt -- as soon as I saw it and as soon as I played 18 holes, I felt like this golf course was going to set up well for me. As I said the past couple days, it doesn't feel to me like a typical U.S. Open where you have to hack it out and you have to -- it gives you -- even when you miss a fairway, you've got a chance to get it up around the green, and you've got a chance to make your par.
The previous U.S. Opens I played at Bethpage and at Pebble were very, very punishing for missing fairways. This week it doesn't appear to be as punishing as it has been the last couple years.

Q. Can you elaborate a little bit on the conversation with Jack? Did he approach you? Did you approach him? And also just over the last couple years how much has he -- advice has he given you about what it takes to win majors as opposed to regular events?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, he's all about the majors. I did the clinic at the Memorial, and that was the first time I'd saw him after Augusta. We just had a laugh and a joke about it, and it was all good fun. You know, he said to me, I'm expecting big things from you. It's a nice pressure to have knowing that the greatest player ever at the moment thinks that you're going to do pretty good.
Yeah, he's given me a little bit of advice. I've spent a bit of time with him over the past couple of years. When I'm in Palm Beach at the Bear's Club, a couple of times I've had lunch with him, and going back to the thing -- he's all about majors. He emphasized so much to me about not making mistakes. That was his big thing. He felt like the person who made the mistake first -- he said people lost a lot more majors and gave them to him than he actually won. That's how he felt. It was a good piece of advice to have.
BETH MURRISON: Rory, thanks so much for visiting us. Wonderful play today. Congratulations. We look forward to watching you tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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