2014 PGA Championship Round 4 interview with: RORY MCILROY
KELLY ELBIN: We welcome the winner of the 96th PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy. Rory becomes the third youngest player to win his fourth major at 25 years of age, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, and he wins the PGA Championship for the second time in three years.
RORY McILROY: Thank you, yeah, today wasn't easy. I didn't get off to the best of starts, and the guys came at me pretty quickly and we were talking on the front nine and I just couldn't really get anything going.
So I needed to sort of stay patient and just sort of bide my time and wait for something to click, something to happen and that something happened on the 10th hole. To make eagle there was a big turning point in the tournament, and from there, I kicked on and played some great golf down the stretch. Felt like I could have made a couple more birdies to be honest with you, but did what I needed to do, and you know, as I said, I think last night, sitting here, this thing sitting next to me, it's a pretty good feeling.
KELLY ELBIN: Before we open up for questions, please elaborate on the shot on 10th and what you hit.
RORY McILROY: I hit three wood from I think it was 284 total. The ball flight was probably around 30 feet lower than I intended. And the line of the shot was probably around 15 yards left of where I intended. It was lucky, it really was. You need a little bit of luck in major championships to win and that was my lucky break. I didn't hit a very good shot there but it worked out well and I made eagle from it.
So, yeah, you know, things can go your way and it seems like whenever you're on a run of form like I am, things sort of fall your way, and it seemed to today.
Q. You mentioned the adversity on the front nine, the guys in front of you were lighting it up and the crowds were roaring in front of them and it's slow and you end up sitting on the tee box with that group. How did you keep it together mentally?
RORY McILROY: I just needed to make one birdie, that's all I was saying, just make one birdie just to settle yourself. I felt like the birdie on 7 was big; to get the ball up‑and‑down from where it was, as it didn't quite get in the bunker. To get the ball up‑and‑down was crucial. I was trying to get back to even par for the day after nine holes, so birdie the ninth hole to give myself some sort of momentum going into the back nine and wasn't able to do that.
But then the eagle at 10 just sort of kick‑started everything.
Q. How different was the situation on 18? It was quite an unusual situation. You guys really wanted to get through that whole scenario. Can you recall that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I suggested that we play up as a four. I didn't know if they wanted to do that or not. You know, to get this thing finished and get this thing over and done with; and the guys let us play up with our drives, and they didn't need to do that, they could have just left us on the tee box there and just play normally, but they showed a lot of class and a lot of sportsmanship by doing that. I thanked Rickie and Phil in the scorer's area and reiterated what I said in my speech out there on the 18th green. It was a classy move by them, and if they had not of done that, we might not have been able to get it all done because it was getting really dark out there.
Q. At one point you were three shots behind. Were you scoreboard watching and if you were, did that help wake you up a little bit?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it did. I was fully aware of what was going on out there. When Rickie held that long putt on 10, he went three ahead of me while I was standing on the 10th fairway. I knew I needed to do something and I needed to play catch‑up and I needed to make some birdies, and again, that 10th hole was huge. But I was; I was paying attention. I actually thought when Phil held his putt across the green on 12, I thought that was for birdie and it was actually for par. That's why I took a little more of an aggressive line on my second shot just to try and follow him in.
But yeah, I was fully aware of what was going on out there.
Q. Just to follow up on that, 3‑down at that point, can you maybe take us through the emotions of that, and then sort of what's going through your head? And secondly, I saw you crouch down behind 18 before it was all over before the trophy presentation, maybe take us through what was going through your head then.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I set myself a target walking off the 10th green. I just made an eagle. I was like, okay, let's try and shoot 30 on this back nine. I knew there were birdies out there for me. I've played the back nine really well all week. I've probably played it better than anyone in the field, and I knew that. I knew that there was chances for me out there. And as I just alluded to at the start of this press conference, I felt like I probably could have birdied a couple more.
But I just knew; I knew that I'd have my chance. I knew that there was going to be ‑‑ I was going to have chances to pull level with him or go ahead. I just stayed patient and trusted that that was going to happen and, yeah, just before the prize ceremony, I guess I just crouched down just to try and gather my thoughts a little bit and just think back about what has happened this summer and what a great run of golf it's been. I'll probably do a lot more thinking about that over the next few days, but I was just trying to let it all sort of sink in.
KELLY ELBIN: Rory is also the first two win two straight Majors since Pádraig Harrington in 2008.
Q. Ernie Els has been out on TOUR since you were born and has had a great career and won four major championships; you've won four already ‑‑ how does that ‑‑
RORY McILROY: It really does. I said I thought winning The Open Championship a few weeks ago had sort of put me on a higher level in this game. But then to win a fourth major here, to be one behind Phil, one behind Seve, level with Ernie, level with Raymond Floyd; I mean, I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age.
It's something that I'm just going to have to come to terms with in a way and just ‑‑ yeah, I mean, I was happy being a two‑time major championship coming into this year, and all of a sudden I'm a four‑time Major champion and going for the career Grand Slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is; not that I'm counting. (Smiling).
Yeah, it's just been an incredible run of golf, and I just couldn't be more proud of myself or happier with where my game's at.
Q. In your previous Majors, you won from the front. Today you went out in front and you were back; in some ways was that the most thrilling major for you to win, and the way you won it?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, to answer Allen's question yesterday, when he said, would today be the most satisfying if I was able to gut it out and win ugly; yeah, it is. It is the most satisfying.
To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot. It means that I know that I can do it. I know that I can come‑from‑behind. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top. Phil Mickelson, the second best player in this year and this generation, to be able to beat him on the back nine on a Sunday; it's great to have in the memory bank and great to have in the locker going forward.
Q. The conversation that you've had with Michael Bannon, going back to when you were ten or 15 or today, is it essentially the same, or has it changed over time?
RORY McILROY: I think it's changed. It's evolved. Our relationship has evolved over the past few years. It's more ‑‑ right now, he doesn't need to be as hands on because I'm going with it and I've got momentum.
Look, there's still a couple of things in my swing that I feel that I need to fix or a couple of things that I can iron out. But at the same time, he's more ‑‑ it's not just about the golf swing. It's about course management. It's about strategy. It's about, he was a fairly accomplished player himself, so he knows how to play this game and what it's about. And I have good chats with him about course management and picking certain shots for certain situations, and that's how our relationship has evolved, because when I was a teenager, even the early part of my career as a pro, it was all just about the technical stuff and the swing and making sure that was right.
Now that he travels with me a little bit more and he sees me play more on the golf course, our conversations are more about strategy or course management or sitting certain shots at the right time or certain shots to different hole locations, and that's how the relationship sort of evolved over the last few years.
Q. Going back to the 18th, you played your second shot before you knew whether Phil or Rickie might have eagled to change the lead. How unusual is it making that decision, not knowing what your lead is? And when you played the shot, what were you trying to accomplish, given that circumstance?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it definitely wasn't ‑‑ it wasn't a normal situation, that was for sure.
At that point in time, I had a two‑shot lead. I saw both their second shots and I saw that they had finished down on the bottom right side of the green. I knew it was tough. I know Phil came awfully close to holing that third shot.
But at the same time, I knew par was probably going to be good enough, and if I had to and try and make birdie with that third shot out of the bunker, I would have been a little more aggressive with it and obviously tried to get it up on the top left and try and make a four.
But I just sort of weighed up the probability of everything, and it was fairly ‑‑ I was 75,80 percent certain that those guys were not going to make eagle. So it made my job a little easier.
KELLY ELBIN: You weren't necessarily playing for the bunker.
RORY McILROY: I wasn't playing for the bunker. It was a hanging lie. I got lucky again. Again, these things sort of happen when you're on a good run. That ball could easily have went in the water on 18 off the tee, and it stayed up.
I was trying to hit it up there somewhere around the green and it was getting dark. It was a hanging lie. Depth perception was pretty ‑‑ it was dicey, it really was, and I was just trying to get this thing done.
So anywhere up around the green; if I could get it up‑and‑down, great. And if I didn't, if I couldn't get it up‑and‑down, I would make a five and more than likely I'd still win the golf tournament.
KELLY ELBIN: Could you see the driving zone fairly well off the tee on 18.
RORY McILROY: Not really, it was dark. I didn't know where my ball had finished. I just got a thumbs up from David Feherty so I knew it was okay and it wasn't in the water. When it took off, it took off a little right and I lost the ball in the air maybe halfway through the ball flight.
Q. About a week and a half ago prior to the Bridgestone Invitational, you talked about not chasing Jack Nicklaus's record and you were looking for No. 4. Now that you have No. 4, is there a point where you start looking at history and records and it's something you tangibly start chasing?
RORY McILROY: I think I've got to take it one small step at a time. I think the two next realistic goals are the career Grand Slam, and trying to become the most successful European player ever. So Nick Faldo, most successful European ever in the modern era ‑‑ Nick Faldo has six. Seve has five. Obviously the career Grand Slam coming up at Augusta in eight months time or whatever it is, they are the next goals.
And hopefully, when I achieve those, I can start to think about other things. But right now, that's what my focus is. My focus is trying to complete this year Grand Slam and then move forward and try and become the most successful European ever, and hopefully in time, if I can do that, then I can move on and set different goals.
Q. I'm wondering, since you're talking about the Grand Slam and you mentioned the days, I don't know if those days were ‑‑
RORY McILROY: It was actually Jason's Tweet I saw earlier, I think it was like 290 ‑‑ or 242, there you go.
Q. I know you have The Ryder Cup and stuff coming and you're going to celebrate this one, but at what point do you maybe turn your attention to Augusta in 2015?
RORY McILROY: I guess ‑‑ I think I'll turn my attention to Augusta at the start of the 2015 season. I don't think I have to, I don't have to think about it that much until then. And the body of work that I try and do between sort of January and March of each season is all geared towards getting myself ready for Augusta.
By the time January 2015 rolls around, I'll be thinking of Magnolia Lane and I'll be thinking about trying to slip on a green jacket for that fifth major.
Q. After you ran your putt up close on 18, it looked like maybe you took a moment to sort of appreciate the scene, but it also looked like you had a ton of energy and you were ready to scream and shout right there. Either of those things true? Both? What were you feeling like?
RORY McILROY: Actually I was looking around to see if I could see any of like my dad or Michael Bannon. I was trying to look around to see where they were. I couldn't really see any of them. So I said, well, I can't see any of them, maybe they are waiting for me at the scorer's hut or whatever.
Yeah, I was just trying to let it all ‑‑ I've never won three times in a row. I've never won two Majors back‑to‑back. I've never won ‑‑ it's been ‑‑ it's a whole new experience for me, doing what I've done this summer. I was trying to let it all sink in. And you're right, I do have a bunch of energy. I feel like I could go out and play another 18 holes out there.
Yeah, I was just trying to let it all ‑‑ I was just trying to take in the moment, because I knew when I rolled that putt up close that the tournament was mine.
KELLY ELBIN: Rory is the fifth golfer to win The Open Championship and the PGA championship in the same year, joining Hagen, Nick Price, Tiger Woods and Pádraig Harrington.
Q. Is it too much so suggest the hat trick is made in Scotland, including The Scottish Open in the schedule this year ‑‑ and will you be back at Gullane next year?
RORY McILROY: The preparation of The Scottish Open did me well for this year's open, so I don't see any reason why I won't be playing at Gullane next year.
Q. You already talked about going to Augusta in 291 days, but there's still a lot of golf to be played this year. What's the sort of goals now for the rest of the season before you get to Augusta?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think first and foremost, FedExCup. I came close a couple of years ago. Didn't quite get the job done. But I feel like my game's in good enough shape that I can keep this run of golf going and try and win that.
Ryder Cup, obviously. I want to try and go into The Ryder Cup with the best possible form that I can.
And then, you know, finish the season off well. I've got a few tournaments ‑‑ I've got a couple of tournaments in the Far East, Race to Dubai, and then I'm going to go down and defend the Australian Open and then that's going to be me shutting it down for the year.
There's still a lot of golf left to play, yes, and still a few goals that I'd like to achieve, but right now, I'm going to take this week that I have off to enjoy what I've done over the past month.
Q. I was just wondering, you talked about how patient you were able to stay. I'm wondering, did you have a number in mind at the start of the round? Did you adjust that number at all based on how other guys started or even the rain that came early? How did you approach it all as the day rolled on?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I had 18 as the number. I had 18; I was going out there with the mind‑set of trying to shoot 66, 5‑under par. Obviously it didn't quite need that in the end. I always try and set my goals or my numbers, you know, that side of ‑‑ I'd rather set them too high than not high enough.
By the middle of the back nine, I knew that 18, it was obviously going to rain but it probably wasn't going to take 18. It was going to be 16 or 15 or whatever. I held it together for a couple of the tough holes on the back nine, 15 and 16. Made a good par on 16 when Phil and Rickie both bogeyed.
So I knew ‑‑ I was trying to shoot 30 on the back nine to post 18. I shot 32 and posted 16 and it was good enough thankfully.
Q. It's been quite a month for you, and you did mention that you really kind of had to grind this one out, and maybe not with your A++ game. I was wondering how much fatigue, mental fatigue or physical fatigue you felt throughout the week. I know you feel peppy right now and ready to go, but how did you feel throughout the week?
RORY McILROY: Through the first five or six holes today, I felt a little flat. I felt flat and I really needed to dig deep and say, there's only 12 more holes left in this thing and you just have to try and put everything into it.
It is; to be up there with the lead week‑in and week‑out and trying to win these big golf tournaments, it's tough, mentally, physically. Physically this week more than the last couple of weeks just because it's heavy ground, and the delay, as well, going in there today. And mentally, it's challenging. I was a little flat the first few holes.
Just sort of told myself, we have 12 holes left, you can take a week off after this and enjoy it. So, yeah, it sort of makes you appreciate more what Tiger has done in the past and getting on these runs that he's gone on and keeping it going, you know, for months on end, basically, and I think that's why off‑weeks are important. I think this week for me is going to be very important just to recharge the batteries and get ready for the big stretch of golf that we've still got coming up.
Q. Can you take us through the approach and the birdie putt on 17 that ultimately ended up being the winner, and what that did for you going to 18?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, that was big. I think if you look at my statistics as a fairway bunker player on the PGA TOUR, you'd need to go sort of below the Top‑100 to see where I'm at. My fairway bunker play has not been great over the past couple of years. But I was able to produce a great shot at the right time.
I think what was ‑‑ honestly, not that I was more concerned about just getting done, but I sort of stepped up to the shot and I just hit it. I wasn't thinking about what it meant or what ‑‑ I saw it was getting dark and I was like, right, I'd better hit this pretty soon and hold the putt and get on to the 18th tee and try to get this thing done.
It was really a good thing that I didn't give myself much time to think about it. And yeah, the putt was ‑‑ after missing a couple of opportunities on 15 and 16 for birdies; to hole that putt on 17 was huge and just to give me that little bit of a cushion going up the last made the tee shot slightly easier on 18.
Q. Your thoughts on Valhalla and Louisville.
RORY McILROY: Fantastic. Valhalla, I think it always seems to provide a very exciting finish in these championships. I watched the 2000 PGA here when Tiger won against Bob May, and I was sitting at home watching The Ryder Cup, as well. It seems like it always provides a great finish.
I haven't got to see much of Louisville this week. I went to Churchill Downs on Tuesday night for the Champions Dinner check and I really enjoyed my time there. It's a great sports city. Obviously there's Muhammad Ali and you've got the university here. I was amazed driving to Churchill Downs and seeing the size of the football stadium. It's incredible. We don't have things like that back in the U.K.. obviously we have soccer stadiums and professional sports for stadiums that big, but to see a college stadium like that; I've seen a few before but it always impresses me that you go to these different cities in the U.S. and there's all these incredible stadiums.
I had a great time here and hopefully I'm going to come back one day and come back to Valhalla and try and win this thing again.
Q. Recently I had the pleasure of being in Northern Ireland at Ardglass golf club and there were dozens of little Rorys running around. Wonder how you feel influencing so many young players all over the world?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, my coach, Michael Bannon, his son plays with a member of that club. So he was probably one of the little Rorys you saw running around.
Yeah, I understand the responsibility of being a role model, and it's a great ‑‑ to be able to inspire kids to play golf or pick up a golf club, and to get them started in the game; I mean, I see a big change like when I go back home to Northern Ireland and I go to local golf clubs and see how many juniors are playing and see how many kids are on the course and on the putting greens.
To have some sort of involvement or role in that, it feels very special. And I remember what it was like when I was their age and looking up to Darren Clarke, who was the big guy from Northern Ireland and Pádraig Harrington and obviously Sergio García, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson. I still remember how I felt when I met those guys, so whenever they meet me, I always try and be as nice as I can and sign whatever they want signed. Just try and be some sort of good influence on their life.
Q. A couple of weeks ago, a member of the media asked you how many tournaments you think you could win before the end of the season, and you in a most non‑arrogant way started adding them up in your head. Does that speak to your form that you genuinely believe now in a very modest way that you can go into any tournament now and not only win, but dominate?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've got that sense of belief in myself now that I go into every tournament I play knowing that I can win. It's a great feeling to have.
I think I've always had that sense but after this run of golf, it's just sort of confirmed that for myself knowing that I can turn up at any tournament anywhere in the world and know that if I play my game, I can walk away with a trophy, and that's great to have in the ‑‑ it's great to have in your self‑belief and your confidence; knowing that if I can just play my game, there's a good chance that I'll walk away with the win.
Q. I appreciate this is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, but if you did complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters, you'd also hold three Majors at the same time. What do you prefer the sound of, a "McIl Slam" or a "Rory Slam"?
RORY McILROY: I'll take any slam. Yeah, I don't know, I said whenever I won The Open Championship, I said that there would be a lot of hype going into Augusta, which there obviously will be. And if I was somehow to win there, it would obviously be a lot of hype going into the U.S. Open.
We'll take it one step at a time. As I said, it's 242 days away, or as Jason said, it's 242 days away. Yeah, look, we can't get ahead of ourselves here. Look, I'm playing some great golf at the minute and I want to keep this run going as long as I can, and hopefully I'm in just as good form heading into Augusta next year and have a chance to win the career Grand Slam. If that happens, then we'll turn our attention to Chambers Bay and I'll try and get the job done there.
But first thing's first. I've got a lot of golf left to play this year in 2014 and I'll try and take care of that before turning my attention to Augusta next year.
Q. Regarding the comments that kept coming up during the week, about how well you're driving the ball, how would you compare how you're driving the ball now compared to three years ago?
RORY McILROY: I think driving, it did, it played a big role in 2012 when I won this tournament and won a few others that year, as well. But I feel I'm a better driver of the ball. I'm not as one‑dimensional. I can hit the ball both ways. I can flight it down. I can flight it up. I'm a little more confident with it. I know that it's not going to go ‑‑ sometimes it went off, like back a couple of years ago. I just know this time that it's ‑‑ my lines are tighter. I know that it's not ‑‑ it won't have ‑‑ it doesn't have the ability to have these big misses, which is very important.
Q. Speaking of the run you're on, Tiger earlier in his career had runs like this, and at one point after such a run, he felt the need to overall his swing. I'm not suggesting that you should do that. But can you contemplate feeling a need to do something like that from where you are right now?
RORY McILROY: Just for fun?
Q. No, like could you imagine being at this level and then suddenly feeling like you need to redo ‑‑
RORY McILROY: No, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's my motto. I've always been that way. I feel like the work that I've put into my golf swing from sort of the age of 15 to 20 is going to see me sort of throughout my career.
I have a golf swing that you can go off from time to time, but I know the parameters of it and I know how to get it back on track, and I've had the same coach since I was seven years old. There's no reason why I should look to try and swing the club differently. Whether it's to try and get even better or for a new challenge or whatever it is; I've worked with Michael Bannon my whole life, and I'll continue to do so and it works well at the minute, and there's no reason for me to change.
Q. There's been a lot of talk lately about the torch being passed from Tiger Woods to you. Sort of being the face of the game, do you feel additional pressure from that? Do you feel weight on your shoulders from having that talked about?
RORY McILROY: No, I think you have to expect it, you have to accept that to have a run of golf like I've had, it's expected. It's sort of ‑‑ you have to welcome it and I don't think you can see it as a burden. It's a great place to be in. To be the face of golf or one of the faces of golf, it's a big responsibility, but at the same time, I feel like I'm up to the task of handling it well.
Yeah, as I said at the start, at 25 years of age, I didn't think I would be in this position. So I'm trying to just take it day by day and try and take every victory like this in my stride and keep going forward like I said at The Open, and I'll try and continue to do that.
Like I said, it's a great position to be in and I definitely don't have a problem with being one of the faces or if not the face of golf.
KELLY ELBIN: 96th PGA Champion and four‑time Major Champion, Rory McIlroy.
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