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June 18, 2011

Rory McIlroy


BETH MURRISON: Very happy to have with us this evening Rory McIlroy, who shot a 3-under 68 and currently stands at 14-under par. He holds an eight-stroke lead heading into Sunday's fourth round. Through three rounds he has just one bogey and one double bogey.
Today he continued to add his name to the U.S. Open record book. Today he added the lowest 54-hole score, his three-day total of 199, best by one stroke, the mark set in 2003 by Jim Furyk of 200. And with his birdie on 14, he became the first in history to reach 14-under at a U.S. Open, best being the record of 13-under he set yesterday. This sets the record for the most strokes under par at any point at a U.S. Open Championship.
Rory, can you talk a little bit about the play today? Seemed like it wasn't quite as easy as the first two days but still went very well for you.
RORY McILROY: Yeah. It definitely wasn't as easy as it was the first couple of days. I knew that I was going to feel a little bit of pressure and a little bit of nerves, and it took me a few holes to get into the round. But I think the up-and-down on 3 from 90 yards was huge. That gave me a little bit of momentum. I sort of found my rhythm quite quickly after that.
But very pleased, again. Played really, really solid golf on the back nine, and just that little blemish on the 10th, but I hit a really good shot in there, just was a couple yards too big. Overall, I'm really happy with the way I played today and I just need to do that for 18 more holes.
BETH MURRISON: It sounded like you had wonderful crowd support out there. Were you surprised by that? And how nice was that as you played your 18?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was incredible, the support that our group got out there was fantastic. It's nice when you get nearly a standing ovation on every green you walk up onto. Hopefully I can just give them something else to cheer about tomorrow.

Q. The other day you spoke about trying to be more arrogant and cocky inside the ropes. Were you speaking of having a killer instinct, and could you elaborate on that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. I think they go hand in hand, you know, being -- having a little bit of attitude and a killer instinct. I think that's what you need on the golf course, especially in the position that I find myself in. You can't get complacent. You have to -- no lead is big enough, so you need to just keep going.
What I did today, I tried to set myself a little target, little goals, just because it kept me from focusing on the leaderboard and focusing on how far ahead I was or anything like that. So just giving yourself little goals throughout the round, that really kept me in the present and kept me focused on my game.

Q. Are you becoming more comfortable having the target on your back? This would be now, what, six times in seven major rounds this year you've been going to bed with the lead? Does it take a while to grow into that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course. The first time you experience that, it's a whole different feeling. You know, and as I said yesterday, the more I put myself in this position, the more and more comfortable I'm becoming. I thought today would be a really good indication on how I was going to fare over the whole weekend because going out in the last group with the lead, you know, it's -- obviously having a big lead can come with its own pressures. You want to try and keep the lead and try and push on.
But I felt very, very comfortable out there today. As I said, the first couple of holes just took me a bit of time to get into the round. But once I made those up-and-downs on 3 and 4, I found my rhythm and started to play some really good golf.

Q. Kind of a two-part question. First of all, when you passed Lee Westwood as you were going to the 10th tee, did you say anything to each other?
RORY McILROY: Did I pass -- I didn't --

Q. You didn't see him at all?

Q. And secondly, how much differently do you approach majors strategically than maybe a year ago at Pebble? When you missed the cut, Graeme McDowell was very complimentary of your talent but said you didn't really put a lot of thought -- you kind of fired at flagsticks all the time. Have you changed much in the last year?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think I've changed immensely. I still think I wasn't quite thoughtless out there on the golf course last year, but you need to mature as a golfer, and all these experiences that I've had since that point last year have helped me a lot. I've learned a lot about myself and a lot about my game.
These experiences for me are fantastic, and to play -- to lead six out of seven rounds of majors this year is great, and again, brings its own pressure. But yeah, I'm definitely thinking a lot better out on the golf course and making better decisions, and I think that's one of the reasons why my play has been good in the majors so far this year.

Q. Golfer after golfer came off the course today and said basically that you're the next Tiger Woods. Padraig Harrington went so far as to say you're the guy that's going to break Jack's records. How do you feel about that kind of talk?
RORY McILROY: Oh, Paddy, Paddy, Paddy. (Laughter.)
You know, I'm still looking for my first one. That's all I can say. I'm looking for my first one. I've put myself in a great position to do that tomorrow, and then we'll see what happens from there.
As I said before this week, it's nice to have all these complimentary things said about you, but until you actually do these things, they don't mean anything.

Q. A lot of guys made moves today up the leaderboard. Did you ever kind of take a look at some scoreboards on the course just to see who was moving up or down?
RORY McILROY: I noticed there was a couple of good scores. I think there was a couple of 66s out there, which I used to my advantage, because I sort of saw that as there's good scores out there, you just need to go out and shoot them.
They set the golf course up great again today, very fair. The greens got a little tricky at the end of the day there. They got a little spiked up, and a few of the pin positions were tough. If you got above the hole, it was slick.
But I knew -- yeah, I mean, I knew there was a couple of good scores out there, and I was just fortunate enough to be able to shoot something in the 60s and give myself a great chance going into tomorrow.

Q. How is having your father here this week made this week different than Augusta week, and just generally what have his sacrifices meant to your game?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a little different. I had breakfast with him today and we were chatting about what's going to happen today, and how I was feeling, and how I'd go out and play. In a way I didn't really have that at Augusta, even if it was over the phone. It's nice to talk one-on-one with him.
You know, he was just reassuring me. He was saying, you played great the last couple of days, there's no reason why it's going to be any different today, just go out there and do your thing. It's always nice to hear his reassuring words. And mom and dad were -- they made huge sacrifices for me growing up. They were -- they sacrificed summer holidays so they could bring me and play golf, and they never pushed me at all. I wanted to go and do these things, and they were very supportive. I'm very thankful to them for how far that they've gotten me.

Q. You said earlier that you did feel a little bit nervous, and with tomorrow coming up, it's probably going to be a little bit more. What swing thoughts or mantras do you draw upon at those moments on the golf course when you do start to get nervous?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, going back to what I said yesterday, I'm really focusing on the process of making a good decision and making a good swing. If you can do that and if you can lose yourself in trying to do that, that's really what I've tried to do, make good decisions, make good golf swings, and as long as you make a good decision, even if you don't quite make a good golf swing, you can't really do anything about it. That's all I've been trying to do, especially today, really lose yourself in that shot that you're playing at that moment in time and not think about anything else.

Q. You had a fairly late tee-off time today. Just curious, having slept on the lead overnight, what did you do and think about before you came to the course to prepare for the round?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, it was a very long morning. I woke up at 8:00. And I said to my dad last night, I'll meet you down at breakfast at 9:30. I just sort of laid in bed a little bit, made a couple phone calls back home. And then when I got back up from breakfast, I still had like three hours to kill, so I turned on a movie on my laptop and just watched that and just kept in touch with a few friends at home, and that was basically it.
It'll be very similar tomorrow. I'll try and -- I tried to stay up as late as I could last night, but I still only made it to 11:30 or something.
I'll try and stay up as late as I can so I can sleep until 9:00 or 10:00 tomorrow morning so I don't have as much time in between waking up and going out on the golf course.

Q. Jason Day moved up the leaderboard today and almost ended up playing with you tomorrow, and of course you played with him a number of rounds at the Masters. Charl won the Masters. Do you feel like this younger generation, the time is at hand for them now?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, most definitely, going back to Graeme winning his first one last year at Pebble and then Louis and then Martin and then Charl. These are all pretty young guys that are breaking through and winning majors. I think it's a great time for golf, and it's great to see all these guys breaking through.

Q. Psychologically with the back-to-back saves almost as important as the birdies, and what color shirt will you be wearing tomorrow? Is there any Tiger Woods red in the closet?
RORY McILROY: The back-to-back saves on 3 and 4 were very important, very important at that stage of the round. They really helped me get a little bit of momentum. A par can mean more than a birdie, and especially even the par save on 17 tonight was big for me. You know, it was a great comeback putt and put me in a good frame of mind going on to the 18th tee.
Tomorrow I will be wearing blue again, like I have done the last four days. Oakley sort of scrimped me for the majors, so I don't really have a choice what I wear.

Q. When is the last time you made what you consider a major or a significant swing change?
RORY McILROY: Probably the start of the year. I ended the year -- which is very unlike me, coming over the top of it a little bit, getting a little above the plane and coming down a little steep, everything was starting left of the target and feeding back which isn't like me at all.
I started at the start of the year to flatten out my plane a little bit, get it back to where I like to see my swing, maybe even a little bit from the inside, to hit the draw that I like.
But it was a minor tweak here and there. I've basically had the same swing since I was 16 years old.

Q. You mentioned the little goals throughout the round. Any examples? And then maybe you could go through two shots, the approach at 9 and the approach at 11.
RORY McILROY: Yeah. I mean, the big goal I set myself today was to try and get to 15. I didn't quite achieve it, but I don't mind.
Even like trying to play a little three-hole stretch at 1-under or level par, just trying to break it down into segments instead of really getting ahead of yourself, right, you're on the 7th tee, let's say 7, 8 and 9 really well, or even let's just commit to every shot you hit the next three holes, just little triggers like that that make you less worried about the result and more focused on what you're actually doing.
9, I had 224 yards to the pin. I hit a 4-iron. I pulled it slightly, and it hit the left -- just on the up slope on the left side of the green and came back sort of just past the pin there.
And 11, I had 188 yards. I actually got very fortunate. I had a good lie in the rough, and I hit 7-iron there.

Q. You've probably been reminded too often this week how close you've been in the majors. What would it mean to be sitting here tomorrow night with the trophy sitting beside you?
RORY McILROY: It would mean a lot. You know, I feel like I've -- even though it's been a very, very short career, I've sort of -- yeah, I've learnt a lot from all these experiences and I feel as if I've had enough experiences leading majors and being up there that the time is right to go ahead and get my first one.

Q. How important was the birdie at 11, especially after what happened at 10, just to bounce back like that on a tough hole?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was great to get that shot right back. 10 and 11 for me are the -- 10, 11 and 18 are the three really tough holes on this golf course. To make the bogey on 10 after hitting -- I hit a great 7-iron in there, it just pitched three or four yards long of where I really wanted it do, and played a great bunker shot, as well, just under-read the putt a little bit.
To bounce back on 11 was huge for me. It's one of the toughest holes on the course, and when you birdie that you feel as if you're picking up a shot and a half on the field. It was big for me to birdie that and kept my momentum going for most of the back nine.

Q. Everybody who's observed you the last several months has complimented you on how well you recovered from the disappointment at Augusta, but today the comparison is unavoidable. You sit with the 54-hole lead as a major just as you did two months ago. I wonder how you will confront thinking about it or not thinking about it. Will you say, that's part of -- will you ignore what happened two months ago or say I've grown since then? How will you approach that memory as it relates to tomorrow?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think I -- from the experience that I had at Augusta, I know now how to approach tomorrow, and I think that's the most important thing. I feel like I've got a -- I know what I need to do tomorrow.
At Augusta, it was all a little bit new to me, going into the final round with the lead. I didn't know whether to be defensive, aggressive, go for it, not go for it, but now I know what I need to do, which is a great thing to have. I have a clear mind going out there tomorrow, and I just need to stick to my game plan.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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