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April 30, 2014

Rory McIlroy


THE MODERATOR:  We would like to welcome Rory McIlroy into the interview room here at the Wells Fargo Championship.  He is making his fifth start, and he is our 2010 Champion.  Rory McIlroy, welcome back.
RORY McILROY:  Great to be back.  One of my favorite stops on the TOUR for a number of reasons.  Obviously love the golf course, got fond memories of Quail Hollow, winning my first PGA TOUR event here in 2010, and I've played some good golf here since that, involved in a playoff in 2012 and was in contention last year and shot 2‑over on the back nine and sort of fell away a little bit, but glad to be back.  Obviously the course has changed a little bit since last year, new grass on the greens, which is really good.  Then a few little changes to the golf course setup, obviously 16 being the biggest one, which is a really good change.  It was a great hole before that but it's equally as good now.
Looking forward to getting going.  Got a nice pairing the next couple of days in Rickie and Jonas, so, it's exciting, and hopefully the weather clears out tonight and looks like it's going to be a great week.

Q.  Rory, is it possible in the week that you're turning 25 to feel at all "old" when you see what Jordan is doing, Seung‑Yul Noh is doing?  These guys that are actually younger than you.
RORY McILROY:  I know, 25, quarter of a century!  I mean, I came here as a 20 year old, won here.  Yeah, it's‑‑ I mean, I think everyone knew, especially the guys that played on the European Tour and played in Asia a little bit knew what Seung‑Yul could do, talented player, great ball striker, hits it a long way and seems like he's very much in control of his‑‑ I watched the final round last week when it was windy and seemed like he controlled his ball flight well, putted well and sort of has that‑‑ I don't want to stereotype but he has that "Asian" demeanor, where nothing phases them, and it's what you need on the golf course.  Obviously Jordan, even though he didn't win at Augusta, I thought he handled himself really well.
For 20 years old or whatever he is, he came‑‑ I thought he would come out and struggle on Sunday, like straightaway, but he didn't.  He held a bunker shot on 4, he birdied 6, he did all the right things, obviously made a couple of errors around the turn, but I thought he handled himself well for being in that position for the first time.
Seems like the guys are getting better younger and younger, and it's great for the image of golf that you're having these young guys coming up and coming through.  Yeah, I mean, I'm still‑‑ I feel like I'm still young but I'm a little older than they are.  I think golf is in a good place that way.  There's going to be a lot of good players that are here to stay for the next decade or two.

Q.  Would you talk about your Pro‑Am partner, your impressions of the young lady?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, it was great.  We had a lot of fun out there.  I think once she relaxed a little bit‑‑ she was nervous the first couple of holes, and once she relaxed she started hitting the ball really well.  She wanted to learn a lot; she asked me a lot of questions, and it was really nice to play with her.
She was a really well‑mannered young lady and it was fun.  She had an eagle putt on 7.  She didn't quite make it but she had two great shots onto the green there, hits it long for a 14 year old.  It was fun.  It's a nice bit of change in the Pro‑Am to get a partner like that instead of some of the others that we play with, but it was good fun.

Q.  Rory, where would you say you've made the biggest strides the last year and where did you want to make more improvements?
RORY McILROY:  I wanted to focus, the back end of last year and coming into this year I wanted to focus on what my strengths were in my game and get those as strong as they could be.  You work off your strengths in this game; it's the foundation of the game, and for me that's driving the golf ball.  I drove the golf ball not very well for the better part of six or seven months last year.  Then I started driving well the end of the year, and I've carried that through into this year.  I'm happy with that.  Ball strikingwise is good.  I finished third last in putting at the Masters and finished top‑10, finished 8th.  I missed 15 putts inside 8 feet the week of the Masters.
I've worked on a few things since the Masters and that's the part of the game that I'm trying to improve a little bit more because I think I'm like, 140 or 150th in strokes putting this year, and the only time I finished inside 100 was 2012 and won a few events that year.

Q.  (No microphone.)
RORY McILROY:  He came down to the 16th just to see it.  Then walked 17 and 18 with me, and that was it.  I haven't‑‑ I wanted to try and figure it out on my own because sometimes it's better to go and create your own feelings a little bit than ‑‑ if someone stands and tells you what to do sometimes it's hard to get it, so the last two weeks I've just been putting and working on a few things, sort of caught up with him this morning and explained that I took videos of a few things that I was working on the last couple of weeks and went through it with him, just for him to try and understand what I need to do, and I actually figured out a few things Sunday morning at Augusta, and I putted better on Sunday.  Then I worked on those things the last couple of weeks.

Q.  Given your success around here and the fact that you have played so well at Quail Hollow, if you had a plaque and could put it on the course anywhere, where would you put it and why?
RORY McILROY:  A plaque?

Q.  Yeah, in the ground, for a certain shot?
RORY McILROY:  Either the 5‑iron I hit on 15 that year that I won, or‑‑ I was going to miss the cut that year.  I was missing the cut with three holes to play and I eagled 7 and parred the 8th and the 9th, so I played the last three holes just under par to make the cut on the number, and I hit a 4‑iron on the 7th from 220 and that was a big shot because I needed to do that just to make the cut to give myself a chance over the weekend.  One of those par 5s, I guess.

Q.  Rory, for the first time in three years you fell out of the top‑10.  Does that bother you at all?
RORY McILROY:  No, I think it's the nature.  If you look at it, I've earned more world ranking points this year than the top three players in the world.  So it's not like I've‑‑ I've had chances to win, I haven't quite won.  I think it's because of the fast start and the great year that I had in 2012, all those points are just starting to come off, and that's the reason.  But I've got a good stretch coming up here because‑‑ well, I've got points to defend this week and then I went on a run, I missed four cuts out of five during the summer in '12, so I've got a stretch there where I can make up a little bit of ground.  It's not nice to drop out of the‑‑ over three years in the top‑10, and you sorta get comfortable there.
Hopefully I can get myself back up, you know, into the sort of territory I have been at the last few years.

Q.  Rory, being a past champion here and you've won on this golf course with the Bent grass greens, now the Bermuda.  You had a chance to play them today.  How are they?  They have only been in since fall of last year.
RORY McILROY:  They're obviously new greens but the surfaces are really good.  I think they've obviously‑‑ I think the characteristics of most of the greens are the same but some of the slopes aren't as severe as they used to be and I think that's a good thing.  They're obviously still gradual slopes and they feed off the greens but some of the slopes on greens aren't as severe, which is a good thing.  But the greens are firm, and this is going to be the softest we will get it all week after the rain last night.  So they're going to get firmer as the week goes on and it's going to be tough.  You're going to have to control the spin on your ball and make sure that you're hittin' from the fairway because if you're hittin' from the rough into these greens there is no chance to start it.
But for how new the greens are I think they're in fantastic shape, especially after what happened to the greens last year; it's obviously a great improvement and they'll be‑‑ I'm sure they will be looking toward the PGA in '17.  They will be perfect.

Q.  Rory, you said prior to last year's tournament you weren't that concerned with the condition of the greens, but is it possible that the conditions here led to a putting funk that may have continued beyond this tournament for you?
RORY McILROY:  No, no, I don't think so.  Not at all.  Look, as I said, this time last year it's the same for everyone out there.  No matter if the greens are really good or if the greens are not in great condition, it's the same for everyone and it's not like you're trying to make different strokes, even if you're on bad greens, it's just the way it was.  I actually didn't feel like I putted too badly here last year; it was more my ball strike that go let me down, coming down the stretch.  I wouldn't attribute the greens here last year to any sort of bad putting that I have had since.

Q.  Speaking of the world rankings, I think going into the Masters only one of the players in the top 7 had even won in the wrap‑around season.  Does that make sense?  Would you want to see the rankings tweaked at all to make them more "current" I guess and less‑‑
RORY McILROY:  You could argue that if you wanted to make them more current you could go the way tennis is, where it's a one‑year system, but then if it's a one‑year all you're thinking about is the ranking because you've so many points to defend this week and that week, and believe me I know.  I think a two‑year is‑‑ it's fair.  I think it's still pretty current.  I think some people, especially in sports we have short memories and you're thinking, how is that guy still there but oh, hold on a minute, 18 months ago he won one of the biggest tournaments we have.
So I think it works pretty well.  If you look at it, it is pretty current.  Tiger won five times last year on TOUR, Adam Scott won a few times, Henrik Stenson had that great year, Jason Day won the match play.  So the guys that are playing well are up there.  But it just seems like the depth of the fields and people from any sort of‑‑ not any sort of ranking obviously everyone on TOUR is a great player, but it seems like the guys that aren't the higher up in the world rankings have sort of stood up and been like, okay we can win out here, too.
You run off the list of champions the last few weeks and it's‑‑ obviously Kuchar and Bubba at the Masters, but other than that it's not guys that you would expect, perhaps, in some ways.

Q.  When you were putting your best a couple of years ago or whenever, what were you doing that you haven't been doing this year?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I've got into a few faults this year.  I started standing a little too close to the ball so my eye line was the far side of the ball, which I couldn't‑‑ I basically couldn't see a straight line.  I thought I was‑‑ where I thought I was aiming, I was aiming about 3 inches left of that, so sorta hard to hold putts if you're not aiming in the right place.  So I've done a lot of work on the putting mirror, in the last couple of weeks, and on the chalk line, training my eyes to see a straight line properly from where my eyes should be.
So that was one of the biggest problems and I started standing too far open and pushing it out with my left hand, if it's too much, so trying to square myself up again and putting structure in place, so every time I get over a putt I know that I'm aiming correctly.  Seems so simple and seems how can a TOUR pro make that mistake, but you get into bad habits and it sorta takes a bad putting week or an eye opener like Augusta for me to say something needs to change here.

Q.  Seung‑Yul Noh said he first remembers playing with you in Singapore.
RORY McILROY:  Singapore, yep.

Q.  Was there anything you saw in his game or the demeanor that made you think, you know, he's going to do okay when he gets to the TOUR, PGA TOUR?
RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I remember the first tee shot he hit.  I heard‑‑ I think at that time he was maybe third on the Asian Tour.  He was challenging to win the Order of Merit over there and he was, like, 17, and I remember the first tee shot he hit and I was like, whoa!  He had a lot of speed, which is, again, that's something you see a lot of‑‑ I don't want to stereotype here, but you see Asian players come up and they have really, really good swings, but they don't create a lot of speed, and that's the one thing I noticed with him.  He created a lot of speed and hit it a long way.  Singapore is a tough golf course, and he played well.  I knew from that point he was going to be something pretty good.

Q.  He said you were much better in every phase.
RORY McILROY:  I don't know, I'm not sure, but he's‑‑ I don't know where I finished that week; I might have finished up there, but for a 17 year old, he was pretty impressive.
THE MODERATOR:  Rory McIlroy, thank you, sir.

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