2014 PGA Championship interview with: RORY MCILROY

KELLY ELBIN:  Fresh off his victory Sunday at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, 2012 PGA Champion, 2014 Open Champion and the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, joining us at the PGA Championship. 

This will be Rory's sixth PGA Championship, including his win at Kiawah Island in 2012.  He has four Top 10 finishes in the championship. 

With everything that's going on of late, you must feel very confident coming here to Valhalla Golf club.

RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I do.  It's been a great few weeks obviously, starting off with The Open Championship at Hoylake and then backing that up last week at Firestone with another win, get my first World Golf Championships under my belt, as well. 

Yeah, game feels in really good shape obviously and coming in here with a lot of confidence, and historically, the PGA Championship has probably been my best major.  As you said, the win at Kiawah in 2012, but then a couple of third place finishes and a couple other Top 10s.  So it's been a tournament that I've really enjoyed and a tournament that I've had some success at. 

So hopefully I can continue that trend this week. 

Q.  Could you talk about going into this year, there was a run of first time major champions, but this year all three of you guys have had major championships before.  Just talk about how experience seems to pay more of a dividend this year. 

RORY McILROY:  It has, yeah.  I mean, starting off with the Masters and Bubba, obviously, having won at Augusta before.  He seems to have got that place figured out pretty well.

And then Martin at the U.S. Open, running away with it and playing those first two rounds phenomenally well and then being really solid over the weekend, as well, like we all thought he would.  He's a great frontrunner and I think it does help.  I think it helps that those guys and myself have been in those positions before where we've won majors, so we know what it feels like on the back nine on Sunday.  Maybe Martin didn't really do too much on the back nine on Sunday at the U.S. Open, but Bubba still needed to play some good golf coming in at Augusta and I needed to try to hold off a couple guys at Hoylake, as well.

I think experience and knowing what it feels like to be in that position is a huge thing.  It's a great thing to be able to fall back on, and that's what you're seeing with some of the guys coming through now.  They have gotten that experience and they have got a little bit more know how into how to handle that situation better.  And it took me a couple of goes, it really did.  It took me a couple of goes to get comfortable with the position of being in the mix in a major in the back nine on Sunday.  You need those experiences to try and help you, and I think it's a very    it's a very important part of trying to close out tournaments is having the experience to fall back on. 

Q.  What's your emotional fatigue level coming off so many big tournaments together?  Is it possible that there's less of a chance to over think these majors just because you guys are so tired. 

RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I mean, I think everyone knows how busy the golf season gets in these months.  You know, starting off with, say, The Open Championship or even the week before that, a lot of guys play the Scottish, and going straight into a World Golf Championships at Firestone into the PGA; and then you have all the FedEx Playoffs coming up and The Ryder Cup.  It's a big stretch of golf. 

I gave myself yesterday off.  I was planning to come and play nine holes.  I came up here and just registered and got myself organized, but I didn't go out on the golf course.  So gave myself the day off yesterday, which I felt like I needed, just to recharge a little bit.  I think, as you said, emotionally and mentally, it's more fatiguing after you win tournaments than it is physically.  So just to give your brain and give your head a day just to sort of rest is a good thing and get back into it.

But you know, having all these tournaments sort of go back to back, it does, it gives you less time to think about it.  You just get straight back into it and you try to prepare the best you can and go out    I'll just try and play golf similar to what I've played the last few weeks. 

Q.  Your game is obviously in a certain zone right now.  When you're on the golf course, what's that feeling like?  What's going through your head as you approach each shot? 

RORY McILROY:  I think what's going through my head when I approach each shot is just that shot.  That's what I feel    when I'm mentally at my best on the golf course, that's what it is.  It's approaching every shot as if that's the only shot you're going to play that day, you know, and putting everything into that and not getting ahead of yourself, thinking about your score or thinking about where you are in the tournament or on the leaderboard.

When you talk about my game being in a certain zone, mentally it's just I'm in a good place on the course and I'm staying in the present, and that's really why you're seeing the sort of golf that I'm playing over the past few weeks. 

Q.  You touched on this by saying you had not played yesterday.  Do you have any experience, therefore, of this course?  And if not, I believe you're still fairly confident it will suit your game? 

RORY McILROY:  Yeah, I don't know much about it.  I watched the PGA in 2000 on TV.  Not that    I obviously remember the duel between Tiger and Bob May and I watched The Ryder Cup in 2008, as well.  But the golf course is set up differently this year and there's been alterations made to the golf course since.

I don't know much about the golf course but from people that have spoken to me and guys in the locker room, it will suit my game style pretty well.  I know it's going to be a long golf course and there's going to be a lot of drivers off tees and going to have to drive the ball well.  I feel like I've driven the ball very well the last few weeks and hopefully I'll continue to do that, and if I do that, hopefully I'll have a good chance. 

Q.  Sorry if you've been asked this before, but a lot of us are talking about the era of Rory, and your face slightly tells me what you're going to say.  But how comfortable do you feel when you read that and how comfortable do you feel when you hear that people are saying that you are bringing a new splendor to the TOUR? 

RORY McILROY:  I don't really know how to answer that.  Yeah, of course, I've heard it and I've read it.  Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions and jump on the bandwagon and jump on certain things.

I've had a great run of golf and I've played well over the past few months.  Look, I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game.  I felt like I had the ability to do that, and it's just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel like I should be, which is near the top of the World Rankings and competing in majors and winning golf tournaments. 

So I'm not necessarily sure you can call that an era or the start of an era, but I'm just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible.  And people can say what they want to say, that's fine.  But I can't read too much into it.  I just need to continue to practice hard and play well, and if I do that, then you know, that's all I can do and try not to read too much of the stuff that's being written, because if you read everything that was being written, I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament (laughter). 

Q.  A lot of us were amazed by how far you were driving the ball last week, even though you're not ever short.  Wonder how a guy of your size generates that power, and was that you absolutely foot to the board, or is there more to come? 

RORY McILROY:  In terms of length? 

Q.  In terms of length, yeah. 

RORY McILROY:  I am, I'm definitely hitting it longer over the past couple years.  I've started to work harder in the gym and I've got stronger in certain areas of my body which I needed to. 

I've always had the speed and I've always had the power, but I haven't really had maybe the strength or the stability to hold on to it my whole way through the swing.  So working on a couple of different things in the gym has definitely helped.

And is there more to come?  I mean, maybe, depending on what    it's not like I'm going to get much bigger.  I've put on three kilograms of muscle in the last eight weeks, so that definitely helps.  I'm the heaviest I've ever been.  But does that mean I want to get heavier and try to put on more distance?  I mean, I don't feel like I need to put on anymore distance.  If I can hit it over 300 yards and in the fairway most of the time, I'm happy enough with that.  That gives me plenty of opportunities to hit it close to flags and try and make birdies.

But definitely over the past couple of weeks, it's the best I've driven the ball, and you know, hopefully I can continue to do that. 

Q.  Just curious if there's any similarities between how you feel coming into this week compared to how you felt going into Kiawah.  And then secondly, what are you actually most confident about right now in your game? 

RORY McILROY:  I don't see many similarities.  I mean, going into Kiawah, I came off a good week at Firestone and found a couple of things in my game that I was really happy with.  So coming into Kiawah in 2012, you know what, I wasn't on the run that I was on now, but I felt very happy with where I was with my golf game.  So in that way it's sort of similar.

But obviously this year, I expectations are higher.  Hype is a little bit higher.  Everything is just    I was sort of still flying a bit under the radar in 2012, if you can say that.  So it's a little bit different this year. 

What's the second part of your question? 

Q.  What are you actually most confident about in your game right now? 

RORY McILROY:  I think more just my approach to the game, my mental state.  I think that's really what I'm happy about is, you know, I kept saying it last week, but not dwelling on the results that I've had and just trying to keep moving forward, and focus on the next week and focus on    that's really what I'm happy about. 

I mean, people can talk about my driving or how I'm swinging the club, but mentally, I just feel like I'm in a really good place, and I think that's what I'm really happy about. 

Q.  You might just have answered this question, but simply, what clicked, and what are the signs that tell you that you've got your A Game in any particular week? 

RORY McILROY:  I don't know if it's just    I don't know if I can pinpoint it to one particular thing that clicked in my game.  I just feel like everything came together at the right time. 

Even during the first part of the year, the sort of first half of the year, I felt like there was a lot of good golf in there, but I was just making too many mistakes.  But I always felt that the mistakes are much easier to eradicate than if you're not hitting the great shots or you're not making the birdies; I think they are harder to find, rather than to eradicate some of the bad shots.

So becoming a little better at maybe just getting rid of a few of those bad shots, not getting on some of these bogey runs that I was getting on at the start of the year.  That definitely helped.  And then your confidence grows.  Your confidence grows and you start to hit more and more good shots.  You start to shoot better scores and then from there, it's a matter of confidence. 

I mean, I'm not sure if I    when I say I'm on my A Game, I think it's just everything, it just sort of feels comfortable.  I feel like I drive the ball well.  I hit fairways, I hit greens.  I give myself plenty of chances for birdies.  It's just I play the right way.  I play it on the fairway.  I play it on the green.  I give myself a lot of chances for birdies.

I guess even going into like a final round, like last week, I hit 16 greens on Sunday.  So to hit 16 greens in regulation on a Sunday when you need to give yourself chances for birdies to come from behind, trying to win, that gives me confidence knowing that my ball striking is in a place like that where I can go and give myself basically a birdie opportunity on every hole. 

Q.  In terms of just golf skills, are there one or two in particular that have come into the right shape in the last eight months?  Driving might be one of them.  And the second half, is there still some area of your game that you consider, if not a weakness, that you still need to work on at the skill level? 

RORY McILROY:  Yeah, driving, as you said, has definitely helped.  My wedge play has come up a good bit, as well.  You know, as you can imagine, when I drive the ball well, I have a lot of wedges in my hand. 

I wasn't being efficient enough.  I wasn't taking advantage of some of the drives I was hitting, so my wedge play had to get better.  So I feel like my wedge play has gotten a lot better over the past few months.  I discovered a little thing with my putting after the Masters, so I've been working on that and that seems to have worked well, also.  I'm putting well and converting a lot of the chances that I'm giving myself for birdies. 

If I said there was a weakness, I wouldn't say maybe a weakness    yeah, there's always things you can improve, of course.  I would maybe like to improve my bunker play a little bit.  My bunker play hasn't been up to the standard I think it should be over the past couple of months, but my scrambling has been pretty good.  Yeah, everything seems to be in good shape at the minute.

If there's one thing I feel like I can improve a little bit, it's my bunker play. 

Q.  Is it possible to explain the putting? 

RORY McILROY:  I figured out something with my alignment, that was it, so went with that.

Q.  Similar subject.  Last week at Firestone, you said back at Kiawah when you were driving, you were driving with a right to left shape, but now that you're driving it straight, you felt this has helped the improvement.  Is that something that evolved through your work with Michael or did Jack contribute in some way to it?  How did that come about? 

RORY McILROY:  No, I think it's more that work that I've done with Michael.  I think shortening my golf swing a little bit with the driver has definitely helped giving me more control.  When the backswing got a little bit too long, I dropped it too much on the inside and I attack it from the inside and I would always hit the draw shot. 

Now I'm very comfortable hitting a straight shot or hitting it left to right.  I hit a lot of tee shots last week left to right and that's when I know I'm swinging it well, when I can get it back down on the plane and I'm comfortable hitting that left to right shot.  That's when I say, when I talked about driving the ball better, I just feel like it's on a tighter line and I can sort of do both.  I can sort of play both shots with it. 

Q.  Why do you read so much golf, first of all, and secondly, do you find it more counterproductive to read good things good you or to read the things that were written about you last year?

RORY McILROY:  I don't think it's productive at all to read anything about yourself.  I try not to.  I try to stay away from it as much as I can.  Obviously it's hard to stay away from everything, but I try to limit it as much as I can for sure. 

KELLY ELBIN:  Thank you, Rory.