2014 PGA Championship Round 2 interview with: RORY MCILROY
KELLY ELBIN: Rory McIlroy in the lead midway through the 96th PGA Championship. He's at 9‑under par, two‑stroke lead.
Strong play again today, congratulations and comments on the round to start things out, please.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, another very solid day's work. Conditions were obviously a little tougher than they were yesterday and especially on our front nine which is the back nine, you needed to stay really patient, because the rain was coming down pretty heavily at times.
It was just about managing your game and putting the ball in the fairway and trying to put it somewhere on the green and I was able to make a few birdies on the back nine and to finish off with that eagle on the last was nice.
Pretty scrappy, to be honest, around the start of the front nine. But a couple of key up‑and‑downs which were pretty important, and then to birdie two of the last three, like you said, that feels good, and gives me, right now, a little bit of a cushion, but depends on what the guys do this afternoon. Really happy with the day's work and another great chance to win a major championship going into the weekend.
KELLY ELBIN: Could you go through the birdies and bogeys, please.
RORY McILROY: On 12, I hit a 3‑wood off the tee and hit it into the left rough. I sort of had to turn it around the edge of an overhanging tree and I think I had like 200 yards to the pin, hit it into the front bunker and it was a tough up‑and‑down, especially with all the rain that's fallen, the sand has got really compacted and it's hard to slide your club underneath the ball. It was a tough up‑and‑down but made bogey there.
Great bounce back on 13 with a birdie, 4‑iron off the tee, and had like 103 yards to the pin I think and hit a lob‑wedge just over the top of the flag to 12 feet. Held that.
And then on 15, I hit it into the left rough off the tee with a driver. I had 149 yards I think to the pin. The ball wasn't lying too good. I hit an 8‑iron, sort of pitched to the front, middle of the green and ran up pin‑high to maybe 20 feet and made that.
On 18, I hit a drive and a 4‑iron just sort of front edge of the green and made that uphill putt of maybe 25, 30 feet.
Then I bogeyed the second hole. The second hole was playing very tough today. It was sort of into the wind off the right, and I missed the fairway left. Actually drew a pretty good lie in the rough but hit into the front bunker. It was a tough bunker shot. It was like a 30‑yard bunker shot and hit it a little too far. Missed the putt coming back from maybe ten feet.
Then 7, I hit a great drive and a 5‑wood from 242 to maybe eight feet. Didn't quite trust the read on the putt and pushed it a little bit. But still a great birdie there.
Then hit a 5‑wood and a pitching wedge into the 9th hole. Pitching wedge was from 140 just sort of past the pin a little bit to the right, maybe 15, 20 feet and held that.
So it was nice to birdie a couple coming in.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. For the record, Rory has hit 20 of 28 fairways in the first two rounds and has 27 putts in each of the first two rounds.
Q. Obviously there's work to be done here but you've been historically a pretty good frontrunner, and I just wonder if you can kind of describe what goes on in your head and in your mind as your confidence builds, because you seem to be a guy that feeds on your confidence quite a bit.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. I think I've had to learn to be a good frontrunner. I may be wasn't quite comfortable in that position at the start of my career, or like sort of 2009, 2010, 2011; especially 2011, the Masters, I was four ahead and I wasn't quite comfortable in that position.
It's taken me a couple of years to grow into that where I am comfortable, and, you know, my mind‑set has stayed the same since that day at Augusta. If I'm two ahead going into the weekend here, I'm going to try to get three ahead; and if I'm three ahead, I'm going to try to get four ahead; and if I'm four ahead, I'm going to try to get five ahead. I'm just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. That is my mind‑set whenever I'm leading the golf tournament.
Q. When anyone goes through a major personal event, it impacts their professional focus, typically it does. Why does it seem that that has not happened with you, and is there anyone, or people in particular, that have helped you concentrate in the last few months to bring such incredible results?
RORY McILROY: Well, I think it has happened to me for the better. I've put a little bit more time into my golf and refocused me in a way. It's the only thing ‑‑ not the only thing I have; I've got my family and my friends, but I just immersed myself in my game. I've practised hard and I've done all the right things, and I'm reaping the rewards.
Obviously there's a lot of people around me who keep me on an even keel. My mum and dad are obviously the two biggest influences on my life and I've got a great bunch of friends from home and I've got a great team around me. You know, they are the people that I confide in and the people that I can tell everything to, and it's great to have a solid bunch of people like that around you that you can rely on.
Q. In the past you've talked about a need to sort of play pretty golf, if you will, to play well. I'm just curious if that's still the case, and if not, why.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I still like bombing drives 350 down the middle (smiling). Yeah, I think that's when my confidence grows. When I see good shots like that and when I see drives down the middle and tarring iron shots into the greens; that's the way I like to play golf. That's the way I see myself as a player, and that's the sort of golf that I play when I win.
But obviously there were times out there where it was pretty scrappy, and those are the times when you have to just get it up‑and‑down and keep the momentum going in a round. I feel like I'm getting better at that. But of course, I still want to play the golf that I like, which is down the middle, on the green and give myself as many chances as possible.
Q. Even though you scored well today, did you actually feel like you left some out there?
RORY McILROY: I think if you take the round as a whole, I feel 67 is a fair reflection on how I played. I missed a couple of birdie chances. I missed that eagle chance on 7, but then I made a couple of really good up‑and‑downs on some other holes. So I feel like it evened out today and I feel 67 is a fair reflection.
Q. You mentioned trying to get three ahead, four ahead, five ahead being your mind‑set, but as a guy who is more comfortable playing aggressively, would it be difficult to go into a kind of protection mode in any case? Would that be against your nature?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, look, I've went protection mode once in my career, and it was the 2011 Masters. That didn't work out very well. So I said to myself, I'll never do that again.
So I don't think you can protect a lead. You just have to go out and play, play your game, and not ‑‑ again, not think about the score, not think about where you are in the tournament. Just play a solid round of golf.
Q. Are you feeling any stress out there at all, or is it just fun?
RORY McILROY: It's fun. It is fun. It was a little more stressful today than it was yesterday, just because of some of the positions I put myself in on the course. Having to get up‑and‑down a few times on that front nine; but the last month has been fun.
Yeah, when I'm playing like this, it's obviously very enjoyable, and you know, I can't wait to get back out on the course again tomorrow and do the same thing all over again. But of course, there's times in the round where there's going to be a little bit of stress and a little bit of anxiety about maybe making that 6‑footer for a par just to keep the momentum going.
So there's always little stressful bits in the round, but the fun part far outweighs the stress right now.
Q. With how things are running, when you head into a weekend like this, is your frame of mind that you expect to win this tournament?
RORY McILROY: No, I expect to stick to my game plan. I expect to execute my shots. I expect to do the things I can control.
I can't control the outcome. I can't control what other people do. So do I expect to win? No. But do I expect to do the things that I know I can do and control? Yes. And I know that if I do those well, there's a good chance that I'll win.
Q. Bubba's kind of histrionics have gained quite a lot of attention, especially today. Do you find him difficult to play with or is that something you notice?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, you have to stand on the other side of the tee box because he's lefty.
No, look, hey, like I've campaigned after a lot of shots before and everyone out here moans about something. It's just part of it. I don't really pay attention to my playing partners that much anyway. I could see how some people could maybe be affected by it.
Look, everyone complains at some point or another. I've been guilty of it before and a lot of other players on TOUR have done the same thing. But it didn't affect me today, no.
Q. What club did you hit into 18 yesterday? And also, given your record as a mudder, was any part of you smiling today when you saw today's weather?
RORY McILROY: I hit 6‑iron into the 18th yesterday. And what's a mudder? (Laughter).
KELLY ELBIN: Wet conditions.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, look, historically I've done well in soft conditions. I don't really like that I'm getting that sort of stereotype or tag. But at the same time, those sort of conditions seem to suit me well. But I feel like I'm more than just a player that can win in soft conditions.
Q. Obviously it's been well documented how much you have watched Tiger and emulated him to some degree. Have you studied him a lot in terms of ‑‑ when he was at his peak, he had that singular focus kind of with nothing else around him, which almost sounds a little bit like what you're describing now as you kind of have refocused in that last stretch. Is there anything to that, at all, by any chance?
RORY McILROY: No, nothing. It's not like I've tried to take his approach in any way. I'm just in a stage of my life that, you know, it's just where I'm at. Golf is the No. 1 priority to me and while I'm on this run of form, I want to try and keep it going as long as possible, and I'm going to keep working hard and keep practicing and try and get even better.
Hopefully I can do that over the next few years, and hopefully you'll see golf like this more often from me.
Q. You said that you've immersed yourself in your game in the last few months. Can you say how much more time you've spent?
RORY McILROY: It's hard to, it's hard to really say how much more time. I guess, what else do I have to do? I get up in the morning, I go to the golf course, I go to the gym. It's just sort of ‑‑ it's just my life at the minute, you know. It obviously works pretty well, so I'm going to keep doing it.
But I couldn't say how much more time that I've spent. I always feel like I've practised pretty hard and done the things that I've needed to do. Just seems like over the past couple of months, I've really just buried myself in my golf game and it seems to be working.
Q. Very few things have gone wrong in this sort of golden spell that you're having at the moment. But when you have dropped shots like you did yesterday and it happened again today, you've had this happy knack of bouncing back very, very quickly on the card. Is there any particular reason for that, or is it a happy coincidence or how do you view it?
RORY McILROY: I don't think it's a coincidence. I think when you do have these setbacks, you know there's going to be chances coming up for birdies. I think when you're struggling or form or searching for things, if you have some sort of setback on the course, it just makes it very hard to get some momentum again.
I've found that even in the middle of this year, where I would play some really good golf but I would make a couple of bogeys and I would get on a run where all of a sudden I'll shoot a 42 on a nine and take myself out of the tournament. But I think when you're 100 percent confident in your game, that just doesn't happen because you know there's chances out there, and you know you're going to hit good shots and mentally you're just in a better place.
Q. Following up on the mudder issue, what's the hardest part about playing when it's wet like this? And not everybody has a good attitude. How do you keep a good attitude about it?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think today the fairways got very, very wet today. And one thing that I did out there was I tried to sort of clip everything off the top of the grass. I wasn't trying to take a divot. I was even taking a club up and sort of trying to clip it off the top of the turf, because you get just a little steep in these conditions and you can fat it and cover yourself with mud.
But I think that's the most important thing is just to know how to play in the conditions, and knowing sometimes that when rain is falling, the ball is not going to go as far and you have to maybe control your flight a little bit and maybe take spin off some wedges. I feel like I did pretty well for the most part today in all those aspects.
Q. Still a lot of golf to play, but can you put in perspective the possibility of winning two majors in one year at this stage of your career?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it would be big. It would be fourth major championship, two in one year, two in a row; it would be big. I don't know what else to say. There's a lot of golf left to play, as you said, and I'm going to try my best to just keep what I've got and keep doing that.
Yeah, if I was sitting here on Sunday night with the Wanamaker right here, yeah, I'd be very happy.
KELLY ELBIN: Rory McIlroy, the second round leader at the PGA Championship, thank you.
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