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March 9, 2010
PAUL SYMES: Thank you for coming in, Rory. Obviously a big week this week, your thoughts coming into it.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I feel as if I'm playing -- I definitely feel as if I'm hitting the ball better this week than I was last week. I found something on the range Saturday night at Honda, and you know, I worked pretty hard yesterday on the range, and played nine holes today and hit a few balls. I feel as if that's coming around, because obviously I wasn't hitting too many balls the last few weeks with my back and everything.
On the plus side my short game is really good. I missed a lot of greens last week and feel as if my short game is good, so that's a positive. I feel pretty good. I'm excited about my draw this week, playing with Phil and Retief. It should be a great week.
PAUL SYMES: Phil, defending champion, maybe can give you some tips?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's great. I played with Phil the first two rounds at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and November there, and I really enjoyed it. I think we enjoyed each other's company. It was good fun, and obviously he played pretty well.
PAUL SYMES: And you played fairly well yourself last year in your first visit here, and the course has got a bit of a reputation; you've obviously coped quite well with it.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've been coming to Honda and Doral, I know the resort pretty well and feel comfortable with the whole place here. I love the golf course. It's a big golf course. You've got to drive it well, and usually quite a low score wins. You can go for your shots and be aggressive.
Q. Did you say since you were nine years old?
RORY McILROY: Yeah.
Q. So you played the Doral Publics?
RORY McILROY: Yeah.
Q. Did you run in to any players that you compete against today, any memorable Doral duels or anything?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I played like Phil Francis and Drew Kittleson, and all those guys. Phil is at UCLA now, he played in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and Drew got the to finals of the U.S. Amateur. But none of the guys that are on TOUR.
Q. Any memorable experiences on the 18th as a junior?
RORY McILROY: We played obviously further forward than what we do now, but still it's tough. I remember being able to hit like a drive and wedge onto it when I was 13 or 14 and made three.
We played where the White Course is now is where the Green Course used to be and that's the course I won in nine division.
Q. On the Green Course?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was on the other side of the road, but it turned out to the White Course now --
Q. Right after you won probably?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a couple years after.
Q. How many years in a row did you come here?
RORY McILROY: Four years maybe we came here I think. And then we always were sort of in this area at Christmastime because he played at the Biltmore, as well, for the Orange Bowl, so we always seem to be in this area around Christmastime.
Q. You when you played with Mickelson in Shanghai, did you look at him more than normally you would a playing partner?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I looked to see who I would play, I had never played with him before, I really like the way he approaches the game. Probably quite similar to myself. And, yeah, I mean, I was -- then I was excited to play with him and I'm excited to play with him again. He's the second-biggest draw in golf. It should be a lot of fun. So I'm really looking forward to that. I won't be -- in Shanghai I was watching him because I had never played with him before. But I know what to expect.
Q. Is that after you're the first and he's the second?
RORY McILROY: Not yet.
Q. You said similar to yourself; what did you mean?
RORY McILROY: He's quite aggressive and likes to drive it -- yeah, aggressive. He goes for shots that some people might not. I think that we play a similar type of game in that way.
Q. Is that something you learn, aggressiveness, or does it come naturally do you think?
RORY McILROY: I think it just comes naturally. It depends. I think it depends what type of mind you have. I think if you've got sort of more like an analytical sort of mind, you'll probably play a little more conservative and think the strategy out a bit more. But if you try to keep it simple, you know, then the guys who keep it simple are probably the guys that will hit driver more and try to make the more aggressive approach.
Q. Tiger is working with Hank again and looks like there's some anticipation that maybe he'll be book sooner than some people thought. Can you talk about your anticipation to see him back out here as a player?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's certainly going to be interesting to see not just how he plays but just how he handles the whole situation. But yeah, I think everyone is excited to see him just get back out on to the golf course and play golf. And from the reports I've heard, he seems to be swinging it well and as good as he ever was. It will be exciting the next few weeks, whenever he comes back, I know a lot of people are saying Tavistock or Bay Hill. It would be nice to see him back.
Q. You had lunch with Jack Nicklaus last week; just wondering what that was like and how that came about?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was an unbelievable experience. You know, he sort of got in touch with us and he heard that I was going to work with Bob Rotella just for a little bit of -- just to sort of work out a mental approach to things. He's been the best at winning. One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Bob was to try to finish the job off a bit more and be a bit more clinical and Jack was probably the most clinical of them all.
It was great to sit down and talk to him and see his approach to winning and what went through his head whenever he was in contention and what things he might have done differently than other people. You know, it was probably the best 90 minutes I've spent in a long time.
Q. Can you give me like one take away from the lunch?
RORY McILROY: I think one of the biggest things -- one of the things he said to me, he played -- the best ever tournament he played, he didn't win. He said he played his best ever at The Open in '77, Turnberry, the one Watson won. He played the best he played and he didn't win. He said there's other times where he didn't play his best but he got the job done.
I think one of the biggest things that I took from it was patience, and just to learn to wait and learn to bide your time and know that if you believe in yourself that it will happen; it will happen one of these days so it's just a matter of waiting and staying patient. That was one of the big things I got from him.
Q. Did he pick up the check?
RORY McILROY: Well, we had lunch at his golf club. (Laughing).
Q. A much more boring question than that; have you drawn it back at all off the tee because of the grooves change? The whole idea was to force people to play more out of fairways. I don't know if anybody has made an adjustment in that regard?
RORY McILROY: The only thing that I've done is I've changed my lob-wedge from 60 degree to 58 degree. I felt that with the 60 degree lob-wedge with the new grooves, the ball sort of just popped up in the air too much with not enough spin. Not even rolled up the face, but being sort of bounced off the face, so went to 58 degree to keep the flight down and that give me a little bit more spin and a little bit more control.
I put it in the bag in the Match Play in Arizona. Seemed to work well last week. As I said, my short game was really good last week and got me out of a few tricky situations. I think it's a good addition to the bag.
Q. I know you don't speak from a ton of experience here, but in what ways do these World events, specifically, the one at Firestone and here, differ from other U.S. Tour events that you play, or is there much difference?
RORY McILROY: I think you just get the best field. It's obviously not a big field as 144 or 156 guys. But you know, you're playing against -- basically the strongest fields in golf, and any time that you can tee it up with the best players in the world and try to beat them, that's always great experience. And they are played on -- I love the course here at Doral, or TPC Doral. I love Firestone. They are played on really, really good golf courses, as well, challenging golf courses in their own ways.
So, yeah, I mean, they are great events, and obviously you've got the four majors, but with all of them, you've got the World Golf Championships. They are very big.
Q. What about the atmosphere? Does it feel like just another American event?
RORY McILROY: No, it definitely has a little bit more of an atmosphere, especially this tournament because of where it is in Miami. There is a bit of a buzz that goes around this week. All of the guys that are playing I think are very excited to be here.
Q. How much have you started to think about Augusta and how much do you think your game suits that golf course?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I will go up to Augusta Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday next week to play a few rounds. So obviously it's getting good for the time of year where everyone has started to think about Augusta and think about the shots that you need.
So, you know, I'm really looking forward to getting up there again. It's one of my favorite places to play golf. It's exciting. It's the first major of the year and everyone is excited about it. I'm just feeling very lucky that I'm able to play in it again.
Q. Do you think you have a game for that golf course?
RORY McILROY: I do. It was my first look at this last year. I think going back this year I'll hopefully know a bit more about the golf course. So, you know, hopefully that should help me. But, you know, you've got to hit the shots at Augusta. If you're off your game the tiniest bit at Augusta, it makes you look very silly sometimes. So you have to be completely on your game to do well around there, and you know, hopefully I can get to that point leading up to the tournament.
Q. A lot has been made about the resurgence of British golfers and with Poulter up there and Casey and Westwood, do you find yourself when you're at a tournament with these guys checking out their scores and seeing who is doing better, get into any sort of competition within a competition?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I mean, I think it's a great time for British golf, and for European golf, as well. It's been a really good time over the past few months.
You know, I'll always check, if I'm not playing an event, I'll always check up on the guys in the World Rankings to see how they are doing and how they are playing.
It's great at the minute. You've got Lee is No. 4, Poults is 5, Casey is 6, myself 9, Stenson. It's pretty good at the minute. Hopefully we can keep this form up until the first week in October.
Q. How much have you scaled back your practice because of the back?
RORY McILROY: As I said I wasn't able to hit that many balls the past few weeks but my back feels a lot better now, which is a good sign. I was able to hit -- after my round on Saturday at the Honda, I hit balls for about an hour and a half and then did a really good session yesterday on the range. You know, it feels good, so I'm really happy with where it is, and I'm able to finally get some really good sessions in, which is great. But yeah, it definitely didn't help me not being able to hit balls for a couple of weeks. But I did do a lot of short games, so that paid off.
Q. And who fixed up the meeting with Nicklaus?
RORY McILROY: It was sort of through Ira Fenton. He's been friends with Jack for 30-odd years, and Ira is involved with Ernie Els and Ernie Els and Ernie Els is involved with ISM and it just sort of went from there.
Q. Did your dad attend lunch, too?
RORY McILROY: No, he didn't.
Q. He would have got as big a kick out of it as you would have?
RORY McILROY: He would have, but I told him all about it so it was good.
Q. Were you nervous?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I was, yeah. I was really -- you know, I was very -- I felt very privileged to be able to have lunch with him, and just to pick his brain. He's won 18 major championships and just to get some of that knowledge and to just learn from it, it was incredible.
Q. Did you go with a list of questions?
RORY McILROY: Not really, no. Just whatever I could think of at that time.
Q. When you played with Phil at HSBC, how much did you take note of the other aspects of the way he approaches golf, the way he interacts with the gallery and so forth; do you have that? Do you match up with him in that way? Do you have that same kind of personality, do you think?
RORY McILROY: I think so, in a way. I think a lot of guys have different ways of dealing with it. You go from a green-to-tee and Phil will always look at the crowd and smile and nod, you know, really interact with them and other guys will stay focused and keep their eyes on the ground and just walk. I'm probably somewhere in between.
You know, I think Phil does an incredible job with all that. He signs autographs for an hour after he plays every day, and he does a great job of that. It's very commendable that he does it.
Q. Did you watch the playoff at Augusta last year?
RORY McILROY: I watched it, yeah.
Q. What did players think when Cabrera hit the shot on the first playoff hole into the trees, second shot hits a tree and bounces back in the middle of the fairway? Probably the luckiest bounce in I don't even know how long?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it paid off. He made a great four to keep himself in the playoff and he hit two great shots into 10. To be very, very honest, I was very, very disappointed that Kenny didn't win. I think the majority of people wanted -- I think it would have been great to see him and with the story and everything, it would have been fantastic.
But you know, he's still a great player and I'm sure he'll get a major championship very soon.
Q. You talked about Rotella and the art of closing and winning out here; as you look at the learning curve, what portion on the back nine on Sunday is mental and physical?
RORY McILROY: I think almost all of it is mental. I think you've played well enough to get yourself in that position all week. You know, you're obviously playing well to get yourself there. So you know, that should take care of itself, so it's about controlling your emotions and controlling your state of mind to be able to let you hit the shots I suppose. So I think a lot of it is mental.
Q. Did you pull anything out of talking with Rotella that you had not already thought of yourself?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I spent 45 minutes with him there today, as well, and just the same things. Just trying not to worry about what other people are doing and just really taking control of your own game and your own emotions, and really becoming -- putting yourself in a little bubble so you're completely engaged in what you're doing yourself. So that was one of the big things.
Q. Speaking of another sort of disappointing finish for some in the majors last year, Tom Watson was that close to winning a major championship at Turnberry, and you're not even old enough to have seen him when he was winning major championships before. What was going through your mind watching that, and what did you think of that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was pretty hard to watch, you know, because he played so well the whole week. You know, he had that putt to win on the 18th green and it was the first putt all week that he sort of left short and it was a weak putt. I think everyone sort of knew that and might not be the finish that everyone sort of wanted.
But you know, it was an unbelievable effort for someone of that -- he's won five Open Championships, but someone of that age to still be able to compete, it was very, very impressive. But I did want Lee Westwood to win. (Laughter).
PAUL SYMES: Thanks a lot, Rory.
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