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December 4, 2013

Rory McIlroy


THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room here at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.  Rory, thank you for joining us, and congratulations on the recent win in Australia.  With that said, I'll turn it over to you for a few opening comments on being here this week at Sherwood.
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I'm excited to be back.  I haven't been here since 2010, so it's been a couple of years since I've been here.  The last and only time I was here I really enjoyed the course and enjoyed the tournament.  I actually played pretty well.  Finished fourth, I think, so, yeah, I was excited to come back.
It's a great golf course.  We just played it there for the first time since 2010, and it's in great shape.  The greens are really good, pretty firm and quite fast.  So it looks like it should be a good week.

Q.  You've talked a lot about wanting to put a positive note on the end of the season.  I know it's just a few days, but what has winning done in terms of putting some bounce back into your step or getting back to that carefree swing that you wanted to have?
RORY McILROY:  Regardless of the results, I knew that my game was coming around, and that was the most important thing.  Obviously, it was nice to win and it was nice to get a win before the end of the season.  But I felt like my game the last couple of months has been on an upward trend and it's been improving all the time.  It was nice that some of the hard work and the practice that I have put in came to fruition last week.  It was nice the way I won as well, battling with Adam down the stretch, I guess, in his home country and hanging in there and being able to just sort of tip him on the last.
It was a nice way to win it.  I feel like I did it in pretty good fashion.  You know, 66 on Sunday is always nice.  So, yeah, game's in good shape, and that is the most important thing.

Q.  Welcome back to L.A.  From a local standpoint, we're losing this tournament.  Tiger usually doesn't play Riviera.  From your standpoint, do you plan on playing Riviera, Torrey Pines and coming back out here?  We're losing too much out here in my opinion.
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I'm not sure.  I usually start my year in the Middle East.  Get a couple of the European Tour events out of the way there, and then usually start at the Match Play and work my way over to Florida.  So that's my sort of schedule the last couple of years.  I've obviously heard a lot of great things about Riviera.  It's supposed to be a phenomenal golf course.  I'd like to go play it one day, but whether that's next year or not, I'll have to make a decision sometime closer to the event.

Q.  I wanted to ask something about Adam.  You played that Sunday with him.  Guys sometimes with the lead don't play so well.  But it seems from at least watching on TV he didn't miss a shot until that second one at the 18.  So, as you said, whether you'd won or lost it was more about that you played well.  Looking back at the year, what do you think the lessons were?  Was it in some ways maybe a good thing for you to struggle a little bit to get yourself into position where you're more rounded as a golfer, because you're still quite young yet?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, first thing, Adam played very well on Sunday.  He didn't hole as many putts as he did during the week, and that was really the difference.  He had chances on a few holes on the back nine to sort of get two or three ahead, and he couldn't quite convert.  He three‑putted 16 for par.  Had a phenomenal golf shot into 17 and didn't convert that for birdie.  Then instead of going to the last tee box 2‑behind and not having a chance to go 1‑behind, feeling like at least I can get into a playoff.  So all I was focused on was trying to make birdie and seeing what happens.
But, yeah, he played great down the stretch.  He didn't really put a foot wrong apart from a couple of those putts that slid by.  Yeah, I mean, I've learned and I've said this all along, I'm very hard on myself.  I feel like I'm emotionally connected to my golf game in terms of, if I play bad, I'll be in a bad mood.  If I play well, I'll be in a good mood.  Sometimes I feel like I need to differentiate that.
The way I play golf shouldn't determine who I am as a person.  That's sort of been the case sometimes this year.  I've sort of gotten really hard on myself if I haven't played well, and that's sort of carried through not just in my golf game, it's just how I am, my demeanor and everything.  So that's something I feel like I've gotten better at and something I need to continue to get better at.

Q.  Does that mean you then didn't play well because you weren't in a good mood?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, exactly, exactly.  It's a whole sort of cycle.

Q.  Are you in a good mood this week?  Well?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I'm in a great mood.  I'm happy.

Q.  We had a year, and I'd be curious your perspective on this where it seemed like this year had something for everybody with Tiger and his five wins, Phil and Adam with the circumstances around their major, Henrik doing the double.  What are your thoughts on that mostly as it relates to where golf is at the moment in terms of how much deeper and stronger it is getting?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, for sure.  I think golf's in a great place.  You've got Tiger with the five wins this year.  Adam breaks through for his first major.  Phil wins the major he thinks he's never going to win.  Still waiting on another one, and Henrik comes back.
It's amazing, Henrik to go from, I think, it was 253rd in the world to do what he's done this year is very, very impressive.  You've got Jordan Spieth came through this year and played really well as a rookie, challenged Henrik the whole way basically to the final green for a TOUR Championship.  Got his first win of the year.  Yeah, it's deep.
You've got to play really well to win.  I think that's why you see so many first‑time winners because the field is so deep, and it is tough to win out here.  But I think golf is in great shape.  There are a few rules controversies this year that sort of tarnished a few things.  But I guess it's the way it is.  I think they've cleared up that video rule, which I think is a great thing.  I don't think people should be able to call in.  It's not fair on some of the guys.

Q.  You talked about the internal challenges of when you're struggling.  What about externally?  Did you learn anything about how to handle just the outside chatter when you're not succeeding the way you hoped to or the way people have come to expect you to?
RORY McILROY:  I guess it's hard not to listen to it.  But you have to try to block it out and not listen to it.  I've said all along, if you feel like you're on the right track and working on the right things and you're doing the right things to get better, then that's basically you believe in that and believing in yourself and you are doing the right things and you will come back.
So, yeah, it's the first year I've really had that much criticism and scrutiny.  I feel like I've learned to deal with it much better.

Q.  People love you because of your accessibility and approachability.  Can you maintain that, and also wall off what you need to to be able to perform?
RORY McILROY:  I think so.  As long as I limit how‑‑ I still feel like I'm open and I'm accessible and I answer questions honestly.  But does that mean that I make myself just as accessible?  Probably not.  The demands on our time are quite tough.  We've got a lot of things to do in tournament weeks, and sometimes you can't do everything, and I think people understand that.  But, yeah, I still try to be the same person.

Q.  On the subject of gauging people's views and stuff, Twitter seems like it's here to stay.  How much do you use Twitter to either take in, read about news and other sports, but also to gauge fan reaction to different things?
RORY McILROY:  Not as much as I used to, if I'm honest.  It's not something you should really‑‑ it's funny, in terms of the outside public, what I feel like I've learned this year is they think that your good is better than what it is, and I think they think your bad is worse than what it is.  When you do well, you get hyped up so much, and when you do badly they think it's the worst thing ever.  So there is no real balance in it.
So there is no point in getting carried away with the hype, and no point in getting carried away with the criticism either.  So I don't look at the comments that much, if I'm honest.  I'll look at my timeline and people that I follow.  But in terms of what fans and public are saying, I try not to look into it too much.

Q.  Do you think some of that is people not understanding golf?  Like tennis players generally kind of expected to get to the semis, the top players.  But people not understanding golf and how sensitive the game can be and how easy it is to be just a little bit off?
RORY McILROY:  I think it's not even that.  I think it's people not understanding what it's like to be in our shoes or what it's like to live the life that we live or to have the careers that we have.  Yeah, I think that's more‑‑ I don't think it's because in one sport you're expected to do something and in another sport you're not.  I think it's just people don't quite understand unless they walk in your shoes.

Q.  Did you feel like you needed to win and soon to sort of validate things between your ears from a mental standpoint?  And secondly, you mentioned being hard on yourself.  What are you doing to combat that and not be as hard on yourself at times?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, did I need the win?  Probably not.  Was it nice to get the win?  Of course.  But I felt like I saw enough good golf in there to know that it was very close, and it wasn't going to be long before I did win.
What I was happy with the most was the limited amount of times that I have gotten in contention this year, I have played well.  I have played well down the stretch.  I've played well under pressure, and that is something that I really have improved on the last few years.  You look at some of my earlier days or earlier years on TOUR, and I would feel like I would get into contention pretty easily and not be able to finish it off.  I feel like now it's almost the other way.  Once I get a sniff, I feel like I'm pretty solid and really have a chance.  That is something that I'm really happy with.
What am I trying to do to combat that?  Just stay patient.  Stay‑‑ know that everyone goes through ups and downs, goes through struggles.  I feel like I'm the sort of player if I don't play good golf, and I don't hit good shots I get ‑‑ because you can scrap it around and still shoot a 69 or 68.  It doesn't always have to be pretty.  I feel like for me to be happy I need to play sort of pretty golf.  I need to hit nice shots.  You know, there are so many different ways to play this game.  There are so many different ways it's going to cut.  That is the thing I need to remember is it doesn't have to be pretty all the time.  You can scrap it around and shoot your 69, and think I've gotten all I can out of that round.  Let's go practice and try to hit it better tomorrow.  That is something I need to do a little bit more of.  Need to play the ugly golf better and manage my game better so when I'm not playing that well, I can still shoot around par or a couple under.

Q.  Is there anything you might do different in this so‑called off‑season here coming up to bridge the success of these recent weeks into next year?  Will you be opening‑‑ is Abu Dhabi your first or are you playing all three in the Middle East?
RORY McILROY:  I'm playing Abu Dhabi and Dubai, take a week off in the middle.  Yeah, I'm going to go down to Florida after this for a couple of weeks.  I'll take that not completely off.  But I'll go hit balls and go and play, but it will just be for fun.  I'll work on a couple things I still feel I need to work on, but a couple of weeks to relax.
I mean, I'm going to go to Dubai early in the new year and practice for two weeks leading up to Abu Dhabi, and that is basically the same that I've always done.  I've done that since my first full year on TOUR in 2008.  It's something that seems to have worked in the past and that's something I'm going to do again.

Q.  Is your last event of the year, is there a little bit of a tinge of regret maybe that this is your last event of the year?  Would you like The Masters to be coming up next week?  You've played so well.
RORY McILROY:  No, I need a break.  I'm happy this is the last event of the year.  It will be nice to have a few weeks off.  As I said, this last part of the season was all about trying to build momentum going into 2014.  I feel like for the most part I've done that.  Couple of good finishes in Asia.  I got a win in Australia.  I'd love to get myself in the mix this week and finish the season off on a really high note and go into the off‑season and into the 2014 in a really positive frame of mind.  So, not‑‑ not that unhappy that there's a break, but I'm just happy that my game is where I want it to be, and that's important.

Q.  What's more important for you going forward next year?  Is it evolving your golf swing and the way you play your game or dealing with those things you just mentioned about your own expectations and the pressure you put on yourself and dealing with everything that goes around being Rory McIlroy the public figure?
RORY McILROY:  I think it's a little bit of both.  I think most important is the first thing you talked about.  The golf swing involving my game.  Because when your game is in good shape, everything else takes care of itself.  When the game's in good shape, you don't get the criticism because you're winning trophies and you're up there.  The game is the most important thing.  Involving your game and making your game as good as it can be.  If you can do that, everything else is easy.

Q.  How many casual rounds with friends did you play this year, more or less than previous years?
RORY McILROY:  Probably more.

Q.  Why was that, do you think?
RORY McILROY:  Had more weekends (laughing).  No, no.  A couple of buddies came out Quail Hollow and Sawgrass, and we played around the Bear's Club.  I got to spend more time in Florida as well, so I played a little more around the Bear's Club.  I spent a couple of weeks in Ireland before my Asia trip and I played golf a little bit with some buddies.
So it's been good.  I still like to play.  I'd rather spend an hour and a half hitting balls and just get out of there on the day off.  But sometimes it's nice to go out and play for a little bit of money.

Q.  How important was the routine to you, and was it hard to find one this year in terms of whatever routine you have in terms of body work, golf course, when, where, all that stuff?  Was it disruptive at all this year?  Was it important to get into one?
RORY McILROY:  I think it is.  I think it's very important.  It's very important.  It's very important to know when you should pitch up for a tournament.  When you should practice, when you should go to the gym, when you should take a week off, when to take a few days off.  It's very important.  Yeah, I don't think I've been out of that routine.  Honestly I did a better job of that this year than I did last year.
Last year I played very well.  But, yeah, we're on the road so much and traveling so much, you've just got to find the time.  You've got to find the time to put your practice in and put your gym work in.  There are a few things.  You can plan a few months ahead and it's fine.

Q.  (No microphone)?
RORY McILROY:  That wasn't just for one day.  I did that all week.  Yeah, it was good.  It was nice to go out and hit some balls in the morning.  Yeah t doesn't matter where you hit balls.  If you've got a bag of balls and a target and some turf, can you hit balls anywhere.

Q.  You were talking about last season after your success there were so many expectations, a lot of which you put on yourself.  Do you think comparing that to this year mentally and emotionally there might be less pressure going into the next season?  How are you?  How do you compare your mindset from this time last year until now?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, from last year until now I was more going into the 2013 season this season more just expecting to pick up where I left off in a way.  Then I just, again, crept in a couple of bad habits.  My golf swing.  Tried to get out of them, overcorrected it, started making swings that I really wasn't familiar with.  Then it was always a battle.  That was really it.
So I think that's one thing someone asked previously what are you going to do differently this off‑season, and I'm just going to keep on to have my mechanics a little more, my golf swing.  Make sure when I come out to the new season that there's nothing that has to be worked on that much.

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