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April 9, 2024

Rory McIlroy

Augusta, Georgia, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Like to welcome Rory McIlroy back to the Masters Tournament. Without further ado, I'm going to open up the floor to questions.

Q. Can you take us through your off-season thoughts on how you developed your plan for bringing out your best performance in this year's tournament?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think I, you know, this is my 16th start in the Masters, so I feel like I've done it quite a few different ways, and I guess just trying to bring a little bit of normalcy into what I sort of try to do week in, week out.

I play 25 weeks a year, and there's no point in doing anything different this week compared to other weeks, I guess. So, it was nice to -- I wanted to play quite a bit leading up to this just to feel like my game was sharp or, if it wasn't sharp, to try to get it in the best shape possible. I feel like I made a couple of good strides in that direction last week in Texas.

Yeah, it's just sort of nice to get home after a week and reset. And then I usually try to get into tournaments either Monday nights or Tuesday mornings, and that's sort of what I've done this week. I came up here last week to play two practice rounds at the start of the week. So I feel like I've already got most of my prep work done. So it's just about going out there and being relaxed and being in the right frame of mind. And the more I can do that, the more I'll be able to execute on the golf course.

Q. Two things. What would you -- how do you feel about having played more this year? Do you feel like it's done what you had hoped in terms of your mindset? And then just also what's your -- what do you see is the biggest difference in the golf course since you first played here?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's been beneficial to play a little bit more this year leading into not just this tournament but the spring and the summer. I think I'm a little more in tune with where my game is and where my misses are and how to -- I think, once you play a lot, you learn just how to manage your game a little bit better instead of if you haven't played that much and you're a little rusty.

And I just think that patterns emerge the more that you play. I feel like I've got a big enough sort of data set of rounds to sort of know how to manage what I'm doing right now. So I think that's been a good thing.

Then the course over the years, it's obviously got longer. I would say some of the areas surrounding the greens have become a little sharper. So, like, the drop-off after the left side of the 3rd green, for example, that drop-off is sharper. The back right of the 6th green now, that fall-off is sharper.

Like there's a lot of sharpness to the edges of the green compounds that didn't used to be there, which makes it -- the right of the 11th green, which makes it just a little trickier to chip to and just penalizes the misses a little bit more, which ultimately, I think, is a good thing.

Q. Tiger was in here a little while ago, and he said very forthright like, yes, Rory will get it done, he'll win a Green Jacket someday. I know you have a lot of people in your life who are comfortable saying that, but it does it mean more when someone of his stature says it so forthrightly?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's flattering. It's nice to hear, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game say something like that. So, yeah, I mean, does that mean that it's going to happen? Obviously not. But he's been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it. I know I've got the potential to do it too. It's not as if I haven't been a pretty good player for the last couple of decades.

So, but, yeah, it's nice to hear it when it comes out of his mouth.

Q. With what's at stake this week, how much focus have you put on simply trying to enjoy yourself?

RORY McILROY: (Laughing.) Yeah, I think so. I think that's the -- you know, I just drove in probably 30 minutes ago, and, yeah, I think you have to sort of treat this week with the -- if I cast my mind back to 18-year-old Rory and I'm driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time, how would I feel and I think, it's just always trying to go back to being grateful and feeling incredibly lucky that you can be a part of this tournament and you get to compete in it every year.

Thankfully, I've improved a bit since my first start here, and I feel like I've got all the tools to do well this week. But, again, to bring those tools out, I think one of the most important things is to enjoy it and smell the -- I guess not the roses, the azaleas along the way.

Q. Time with Butch, whether it's technical, and I'm sure there's part of that, but he's a great mind manipulator, so when you're with him -- and I mean that in a complimentary way.

RORY McILROY: I was going to say (laughing).

Q. No, he's like Lombardi, he's -- so when you're with him, is it nourishing immediately, or is it something that you reflect on over time, things that he's imparted upon you in your communication with him since you've seen him? Is it regular?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's regular. We probably text on a daily basis. But I think that, if anyone that has been to see Butch over the years, the first thing he'll do is he'll bring you into his office. And we sat and had a 45-minute conversation before he even looked at a swing or even before we really talked about golf at all. Talked about a lot of other stuff.

Yeah, he is, he's part sort of psychologist, part swing coach. Like I always joke about you spend four hours with Butch and you go away with two swing tips and 30 stories. But you always go away hitting the ball better than when you came.

So, yeah, it was really beneficial trip for the technical side of things, which I think I made progress in that department last week, especially with my strokes gained approach numbers, which is what I really wanted to do.

But, yeah, it's also just spending time around someone like that that's coached a lot of the best players in the world and sort of him giving you his blessing on things, I think that's nice validation as well.

Q. The long-standing tradition in golf is that you sign your scorecard and you say, This is what I shot today. Do you think things have changed in recent years where we should maybe get away from that model a little bit and give more authority to rules officials like we see in other sports? Or do you like the system as it is?

RORY McILROY: I mean, in a way I would like to give more responsibility to the rules officials because it takes responsibility off us in a way. Yeah, but, you know, I think most of you in this room know that I'm a traditionalist. And there's a lot of things about golf and the traditions of golf that I really enjoy and I almost cherish because I think, if you can play golf the right way, it sort of makes you feel like you can live your life the right way at the same time. It's a great metaphor for life.

Yeah, I think there's, you know -- I'm quite nostalgic when it comes to those sorts of things in the game, and it would be a shame to get rid of all of them. But we do have -- in the top level of professional golf, we do have everyone keeping our score, whether it's through apps or through walking scorers or through whatever.

Yeah, I mean, I think what happened to Jordan at Riviera, for example, is -- it was unfortunate. And obviously we all know what to do, but I don't think that an error like that should mean a disqualifications from a tournament.

Q. From a mentality and emotional perspective in regards to attitude, when you come into this week, how do you manage wanting to win this tournament but not the desire being so big that it becomes an obstacle?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot. I think that's something that I've tried to learn. It's a 72-hole golf tournament. I've won from 10 strokes back going into the weekend. There's loads of different ways to do it. I think trying to, you know -- and, again, I've said this, this golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses, if you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, because it always tempts you to do something you think you can do.

And I'm pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient.

With a 72-hole golf tournament, you can be patient, you can be disciplined, and you can stick to your game plan. And that's something that I've really tried to learn at this tournament over the years.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Rory, we really appreciate it. Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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