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September 19, 2012

Rory McIlroy


LAURA HILL:  We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room.  Rory comes into the TOUR Championship by Coca‑Cola, ranked number one in the FedExCup, and this is your first time here.  So maybe just some impressions of heading into this week, and expectations?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, you know, it's great to be here.  First time at the TOUR Championship, first look at the golf course here at East Lake, and you know, it's a great track.  It's very straightforward, fair test of golf.  You've got to do everything right.  You have to drive it well.  Driving the ball on the fairway this week is going to be key.
I'm just excited to come in here with a great chance to win the FedExCup.  I'm coming in here in some great form, and hopefully just keep it going for another week.

Q.  Have you studied all the permutations until your head hurts or have you thought I'm not going to?
RORY McILROY:  If I win, I win.  That's the mindset I'm coming in with.  I feel like I'm playing well enough to win, obviously.  I've been playing well.  I know if I do that, everything else takes care of itself.

Q.  Is there a danger if you did that, that you'd somehow protect your advantage?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I've learned the hard way that you can't look at what everyone else is doing.  You just have to really concentrate on yourself and try to play the best you can.  If it ends up that you win, great.  If not, you know that you've given it your all, and that's all you can do.

Q.  It's been brought up a bunch the notion that you could finish second in the tournament and still not win the FedExCup.  Are you okay with that?  I mean, obviously, you could win the first three tournaments and not win the FedExCup.  Are you okay with that idea?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I mean, it is what it is.  I think I've got Vijay to thank for that from a few years ago.  But I don't mind.  Look.  It obviously still makes it exciting going into the last event.  It would be nice to have it wrapped up, but it's not‑‑ it's just the way it is.  I'm not going to complain about it or I'm not going to moan about it.  I accept it.  I accept that I still have a lot of work to do this week, and that's what I'm focused on.

Q.  With a couple of majors tucked away now, congratulations, by the way, what would this mean?  Where would this rank in terms of success and the year you've had so far?
RORY McILROY:  I think it would just cap off a great year.  Personally, obviously still the Ryder Cup to come up, but I think it would just cap off a great start of the season.  Wasn't so great in the middle, and then finished it off really well.  So it's hard to compare this to a major championship because it's a year‑long thing, and it's about being consistent.  Obviously, you have to play well at the right time like I have the last couple of weeks, but it would be nice to have something to recognize that you have played the best golf the whole way throughout the year.

Q.  Greg Norman made some headlines with comments saying that Tiger is intimidated by you.  Did you see those comments and what were those thoughts?
RORY McILROY:  He's got a new nickname for me, actually.  He calls me the Intimidator.  He's obviously seen them too (smiling).  No, how can I intimidate Tiger Woods?  I mean, the guy's got 75 or 70‑whatever PGA TOUR wins, 14 majors.  I mean, he's been the biggest thing ever in our sport.
I mean, how could some little 23‑year‑old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him.  It's just not possible.  I don't know where he got that from, but it's not true (laughing).

Q.  Was there ever a time when you were intimidated by Tiger?
RORY McILROY:  No, I don't think intimidated is the right word.  More just in awe of what he's done, of his accomplishments, of his achievements, but never intimidated.

Q.  On the same lines here with Tiger, the fact that you've won four times with him sort of breathing down your neck this year.  How satisfying is that, and what does that say about your development?
RORY McILROY:  It is a great feeling to be able to hold off the best players in the world.  He came charging on me at the Honda this year, and I was able to hang on and win there.  At the Deutsche Bank he was in the group ahead of us and making a run.  Not so much last week at the BMW, he was a little far behind.  But you look at the leaderboards the last few weeks and you see all the great names and top players on those leaderboards, and to be able to come out on top in recent weeks is obviously very satisfying.

Q.  You made kind of a reference point at Indianapolis that you kind of came to that tournament kind of expecting to win.  That is how well you were playing.  At what point during the stretch from the PGA onward, or Firestone onward, that you reached that feeling of kind of expecting to play the way you did?
RORY McILROY:  I don't think it's expectations.  I think it's just going out and playing and knowing that if you play well, you're going to have a chance.  That's the thing.  I know I'm playing well, hitting the ball well.  Most aspects of my game are pretty sharp at the minute.  It's just about going out there and letting it happen, and just not getting in your own way.  Not really thinking about it too much.  Just going out and playing golf, and that's what I've done.
I know if I do that and stay in that process, my chances to win big golf tournaments like I have the last few weeks increase.

Q.  Have you ever felt as confident as you do now?
RORY McILROY:  No.  The way I've played since Firestone, basically, it obviously gives you a lot of confidence.  But I think you have to guard against being overconfident as well.  You have to still go in and work hard.  I mean, you've got 30 players in this field.  30 of the best players in the world, and I'd be very naive to think that I'm just going to come in here and contend again and have a chance to win.  I know I'm going to have to play very well, and hopefully I can do that.

Q.  An Olympic question, three years ago I believe you were asked about the Olympics.  You gave basically the same answer.  There was little fanfare.  Were you surprised at the reaction it got this time?  What do you make of it?  Was there anything for you to learn from the whole thing?
RORY McILROY:  I think it just really hit home with me how important it is for a lot of people and how important my success has been to them.  Obviously, I've had a lot of support from all sides, from people that call themselves Irish, from Northern Irish, to the whole of the UK, to people over here in the states.  I've had support from everyone.
It just hit home with me at how my success is welcomed by everyone.  It would be terrible for me to nearly segregate myself from one of those group that supports me so much.  So as I said in my letter last week, it's four years away.  I still have a bit of time to decide.
After everything that happened last week, it definitely makes me reconsider my position and reconsider a lot of things.  But, yeah, I'm very, very appreciative, and very grateful of the support that I get from everyone.  That's all I can really say on it.

Q.  Just last week in New York you spent quite a lot of time with the Knicks and the Rangers.  Any anecdotes you can share with us?
RORY McILROY:  It was actually like a voluntary week, so they don't officially start training until the start of October.  But I spent four or five days at the facility.  The Knicks and the Rangers share a facility near White Plains in New York.  It was great.  Just hanging around and sort of getting that atmosphere of the team, and it was just great to hang around the guys.
I'd go in for breakfast at 8:00 in the morning.  I'd do my training from 9 to 11:00, and they'd be on the court from 11:00 to 1:00.  So they'd give me a few pointers on my jumpshot.  So it was cool.  It was a great way to spend a few days.

Q.  Is there any particular aspect of your game that has improved to make you this much more competitive?
RORY McILROY:  I think my putting.  My putting has definitely been the key.  I'm holing out more regularly and efficiently.  I'm not wasting so many shots on the course by missing putts that I should hole.  So that's been the big key, especially the last few weeks, making putts when I need to at important points in the tournament.
Like the par save last week on 14, and then the birdie putt on 16 to get myself 3 ahead with a couple of holes to go.  So I think it's obviously holing putts, but holing putts at the right time at key moments.

Q.  As you said, this is your first time here, and it will be your first time playing the Ryder Cup on American soil.  Is there any sense or any concern that you might let down after this week with all the playoffs and this sort of thing going into next week?  How are you preparing for that?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, of course, I've thought about it.  It has been a long stretch of golf since the Open Championship, British Open.  So I think last week was a very important week just to recharge the batteries and get myself up not just for this week, but next week as well.
Depending on what happens this week, there could be a little bit of a letdown.  There could be a little bit of an adjustment period.  But once you're in the team atmosphere and once you're in the Ryder Cup surroundings, it doesn't take much to sort of get the juices flowing and get the adrenaline going again.  I'm not worried about it too much.
Even if you're feeling a little low on energy, you can feed off other guys that week.  I think it's very important.  There is a lot of stuff going on in the Ryder Cup the days before, and you really have to conserve your energy because you're playing hopefully five rounds of golf in three days, if Jose wants to play me every session.
So I think the start of next week will be about conserving energy and making sure you put all of that energy into those three days.

Q.  After winning three tournaments out of your last four, it's a difficult achievement to accomplish, can you compare this stretch of golf in your life or any time in the last few years the sustained level of excellence that you've played in the last month?
RORY McILROY:  No, probably not.  I think it's been a great stretch, starting with Akron, and having the good finish there.  I got a little bit of confidence from that, and I really built on it.  But, no, I mean, to win three of my last four events, obviously, a major championship in there and two playoff events with some of the strongest fields of the year, yeah, it's been great.  Hopefully I can keep it going.  If not, then hopefully I'll have more stretches like this in my career.

Q.  You said that you learned the hard way not to take notice of what anyone else is doing.  Is that a reference back to Augusta?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, for sure.

Q.  Are you surprised by the dramatic turnaround in form has been for you?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, as I said, I learned the hard way.  It was a reference to Augusta.  But, I mean, I think the big thing I've learned over the past couple of months is when you do go through struggles and when you maybe aren't playing your best, not to get frustrated.  Just to work at it, stay patient, and know that your luck can turn around at any second, at any point.  I think I have obviously shown that the last couple of months.
Before that, in May, June, and July, people were wondering what was wrong.  It just was a slight swing change, a slight attitude adjustment, and there you go.

Q.  Are you sick of playing with Tiger, and do you think he's sick of playing with you?
RORY McILROY:  (Laughing) No, it's great.  It's a great position to be in.  Every time that we get paired up, I'm obviously very excited for it.  It's a great buzz.  It's a great buzz around the group.  So, no, it's still a great thing for me.  You'll have to ask him if he feels the same way.  But for me it's very exciting, and I'm looking forward to that first tee on Thursday.

Q.  You said in a recent interview that you would look forward to maybe pairing with Tiger on Sunday at the Ryder Cup.  Is this something that you guys have talked about?  If so, have you brought it up to Jose?
RORY McILROY:  No, it's about the team.  It's about the 12 guys as part of the European team and the US Team.  It's not about one guy playing another guy.  Of course there are a lot of people that would like to see it.  It would be very exciting to be a part of, of course.  But I just want to win as many points as possible for Europe, and that's all I can really do.
I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I wouldn't enjoy it, because I would.  But I think that's up to the captain to decide where I play and where he wants to put me, and whatever decision he makes is good with me.

Q.  In this run that you're on right now, has there been a particular hole or moment or ball in the tree or something like that where you knew you were in the midst of something special?
RORY McILROY:  I think just the way I finished the tournament off at Crooked Sticks, the two shots into 15.  The two shots into 16, the drive off 16 is probably the best drive I've hit all year, and to do it on the stretch when it really mattered.
When I holed the good putt on 14 to go ahead of Lee and get that to two with the birdie on 15, and then into three on 16, it was nice to be able to do that to just sort of press and be able to get myself ahead again.  Yeah, that is the most recent memory that comes to mind.

Q.  You talked about all the support you've received from all different corners.  Is there any part of you that feels burdened by expectations of all these different factions that are put on you just by virtue of where you were born that other athletes don't have to deal with?
RORY McILROY:  No, I never have felt a burden of expectation because I always have said that I expect a lot from myself.  The only pressure that I feel is the pressure that I put on myself to perform well.  It's great that I get so much support.  It's great that everyone from all parts of the world support me and are behind me.
Yes, there are not many people in my position that have to go through what I might have to go through in four year's time, but it is what it is.  I'm a golfer first and foremost, and I just want to play well on the golf course.  Hopefully people enjoy that and the entertainment that that brings.

Q.  With the Ryder Cup in mind, I noticed the name of Ballesteros popped up on the weekend, a young Hall of Fame year Ballesteros who won the Madrid Amateur title.  I wonder if you know the young guy?
RORY McILROY:  I saw that he won.  I don't know him.  I don't really‑‑ I think it's great that he's playing well, and he's playing golf, and maybe another balance stair rows on the tour one day.  Obviously it's great that he wants to maybe try and follow in the footsteps of his dad.  I think there are only will only be one Seve, but it was great to see.

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