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McIlroy Defends Caddie
TV reporter Jay Townsend got Rory McIlroy's Irish up in the opening round of the Irish Open after criticizing his caddie and the 22-year-old U.S. Open champion didn't like it.
In a squabble that began when Townsend remarked on-air that McIlroy should fire his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, after McIlroy double-bogeyed the 18th hole at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club in County Kerry, McIlroy took offense, tweeting, "Shut up . . . you're a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!"
When Townsend said later that he stood by his comments, McIlroy responded: "Well, I stand by my caddie." McIlroy eventually blocked Townsend from his Twitter account. "He's been having a go at J.P. every now . . . and this was the first time I've responded - it was the straw that broke the camel's back," McIlroy said Thursday.
The subject came up again on Friday after McIlroy followed up his opening 70 with a 68. He's tied for 25th with, among others, fellow Ulsterman and 2010 U.S. Open champion, Graeme McDowell, six strokes behind 36-hole leader Marcel Siem of Germany.
As expected, reporters at the Irish Open asked about his round and his run-in with Townsend. Here's what the youngster had to say during his Q&A with the media.
Q. How do you feel you played today?
RORY McILROY: It was good. I drove the ball a lot better which was a positive sign. Gave myself quite a lot of chances, quite a lot of looks, played the back nine much better, so was a lot happier with that.
Q. You got some momentum with the birdies back-to-back?
RORY McILROY: Three birdies in a row on 14, 15, 16 was nice and just had to stay patient all day, nothing really was sort of going in, or I felt as if I was playing well and don't get much out of the round. To finish the way I did was quite nice.
Q. How frustrating to give yourself those chances and perhaps know you have to wait a while?
RORY McILROY: It's okay. It's fine. You play tournaments all the time and you know that 36 holes, is a lot of golf left to play and I've put myself into a decent position going into the weekend.
Q. Obviously a huge crowd following you, but what support does that give you?
RORY McILROY: It's fantastic. To play in front of these crowds is phenomenal and that's one of the great things about the Irish Open, the crowds turn up in force, and it's really a great atmosphere to play in.
Q. You're in a pretty good position heading to the weekend. Do you feel you can go on and win this?
RORY McILROY: I do. I'm only five back going into the weekend. Yeah, I got off to a good start tomorrow and post a number, I feel as if I can give myself a good chance.
Q. Better today?
RORY McILROY: It was a lot better. If I had to have the back nine yesterday that I had today, then it would have been a good score yesterday, but no, I played nicely. I put the ball in the fairway a little bit more, and I drove the ball better which was a positive sign.
Q. And a few more birdies, as well.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I made four birdies and just one bogey, so to shoot 68 was a reasonable score. It could have been a few lower I'm sure but I feel as if I'm in a decent position going into the weekend.
Q. And Graeme, as well, he's doing well there behind you, and Darren not so lucky, looks like he'll miss the cut. But nice to have yourself and G-Mac in at the weekend, do you think that will help the atmosphere, keep it alive?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think we are both on the same score. Hopefully he doesn't hole the last and we might be able to play together tomorrow. That would be good fun. Obviously disappointing for the tournament that Darren didn't make the cut but obviously it will be good to have myself and G-Mac here and it will be great for the crowds and we look forward to that.
Q. 9-under, what's it going to take to catch up with Jeev now?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, Jeev obviously played very well yesterday, and had a solid round again today. But you just need to keep concentrating on why you game. If I can get off to a fast start tomorrow, maybe 2- or 3-under after five holes, I'm right back in the tournament.
Q. How frustrating has it been just for you about all of the off-field events that happened yesterday?
RORY McILROY: No, I mean, it's not frustrating. I find it quite funny. It's fine. I mean, people have their own opinions, and you know, there's -- yeah, it's just one of those things.
Q. We were seeing JP giving you a good call on the 14th, telling you to change just when you're about to shoot your second shot; so he's right up to scratch there all right.
RORY McILROY: He makes plenty of good calls.
Q. 1-under for the championship, with five to play, needing something to happen, and it did. How pleased are you with your second round?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I was pleased with the way I hit the ball, especially off the tee. I hit the ball a lot better today than I did yesterday. The work that I did on the range yesterday afternoon seemed to pay off, and it was a nice score. It could have been a little better. Could have got it going a little bit on the front nine, but I'll take 68, and it's a decent position going into the weekend.
Q. Huge draw on your time this week, media, crowd, everybody needing a piece of you. Pádraig used to tell us it was really difficult to get his head around that; how are you coping with that?
RORY McILROY: It is, it's a difficult event for us to play, especially with the attention; especially this year after winning a major and everything. It is a bit hectic. But it's great. You know, you love playing in it front of your home crowd, and I'm just delighted to be here and delighted that there's an Irish Open and delighted that the crowds have turned up for us.
Q. Papers this morning full of your Twitter row with Jay Townsend, how do you reflect on that now?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, Jay's been -- I don't know if he's got something in for my caddie, JP. He's been going at him for the last three years. And it was just one comment too far. I've got to stand up for my caddie. JP is one of my closest friends, and I've had to deal with it for three years and not really say anything and he's just kept at him and at him, and I just had to say something.
Q. What about this weekend, do you fancy a charge?
RORY McILROY: I do, yeah, I'm in a decent position going into the weekend, only five back, so if I can get a good start tomorrow, maybe 2- or 3-under after five, I'm right back in the tournament.
Q. Really good round today considering you've had some distractions, but it was a very good round today.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was okay. I hit the ball a lot better. The work I did on the range yesterday seemed to pay off. I was happy with how I hit it off the tee and gave myself a few more chances for birdies.
Q. And you're right in there now, just a few off the lead.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a very bunched leaderboard. If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, get myself to 6- or 7-under for the tournament early, I'm right back in it.
Q. You're working your way back to this tournament and some real form for the weekend, and 36 holes is a long way?
RORY McILROY: 36 holes is a long way to go and five shots over 36 holes isn't really that much. So you know, I saw enough positive signs out there today to put me in a good frame of mind going into the weekend.
Q. Now, you were on Twitter yesterday, it was pretty well documented at this stage that you had an intercourse with Jay Townsend on Twitter. What exactly did that do for you? You seemed to have responded extremely well. In other words, you've steadied up and you've responded with your clubs.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course. You know, it's unfortunate that some people are so opinionated. It started in Switzerland back in 2008 and a lot of people have mentioned it to me, you know, over the past few years, and it was just one comment too far and I thought I just had to stand up for JP. JP has taken me from 200th in the world to Major Champion and now fourth in the world; I was third at one stage. So, I mean, I don't know what it is about Jay or if he has something against JP but some of the criticism that JP takes from him is very unfair.
Q. Was it just over-the-top criticism, or was there any sort of remark in his course management that you would take note of, or are you just someone that likes to go for it?
RORY McILROY: I wouldn't take note of anything he says. I don't really have any respect for the man after what he did, or after what he has done the last three years.
Q. But you've put it behind and you've got a tournament to win here.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, of course. I'm focused on golf, and as I've said the last few weeks once I get on the golf course that's where I'm most comfortable, and that's the place that I want to be.
Q. On 18, there was almost a six-ball there; dare we say, 18 has the sense of a major championship?
RORY McILROY: It's great. The whole atmosphere the whole way around, you know, being given an ovation coming on to the greens, especially the 18th with the crowd around the green and the clubhouse definitely has a special feel to it this week.
Q. Looking at what is ahead of you the next couple of days, you spoke so clearly about how you needed to straighten up off the tee and you gave yourself a lot of looks today; what was it you were working on yesterday afternoon?
RORY McILROY: Basically with my driver, and actually with most of my clubs, I was just getting a little bit stuck on the way down and the ball was turning over a little bit on me and most of my misses were left. So just trying to straighten that out a little bit and make my body work a little harder through the shot, and it seemed to work.
Q. And at five back, do you think you need to do something special tomorrow, or just more of the same, and you should be in with a shout on Sunday?
RORY McILROY: If I shoot two rounds in the 60s I'll be in with a great shout on Sunday. I just have to be smart and play some positive golf and give myself a lot of chances and hopefully that will be good enough.
Q. With the WGC and fourth major of the season, Darren and Pádraig, for example, don't get to play tomorrow and Sunday because of their scores today; is that very important to you, not only the possibility of winning your home Open, but because it gives you another two real good rounds to sharpen your game before major events?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. It will be good, especially if you get into contention, either this week or next week at Akron. You get into contention, it's a great way to prepare for a Major Championship. So hopefully I can do that this weekend, and you know, have a good run at this tournament.
Q. What did you hit on 18?
RORY McILROY: Off the tee? Just tried basically the same shot I was trying to hit yesterday off the tee, just hit it in the fairway this time.
Q. When something like yesterday happens, do you go back and reflect on it, the Twitter episode, and talk to Chubby or Stuart?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've talked to a few people: Chubby, Stuart, my mom and dad. As I said to you yesterday, it's been going on for three years, so I had to say something.
Q. I know Jay started it with the personal nature of his remarks, but do you have any small regrets in responding in kind and making it personal?
RORY McILROY: No, not at all. Not at all. I mean, you know, he can't really say anything about my game, because he -- I know he was on Tour for six years and he finished second in the Heineken Classic or whatever it was. But he's not he doesn't need to be that opinionated and his views that strong. It's not even -- I don't care if he criticizes me, because I'm the golfer; I'm the one that hits the shots and I can take the criticism. It's JP who doesn't have to do this and can't stand up for himself in the media. You know, I have to stand up for JP because he's the best man that I think I can have on my bag, and just to have constant criticism like that all the time, I mean, it's hard work.
Q. Would the reaction to this put you off using Twitter from now on?
RORY McILROY: Not really. It will maybe -- no, not at all. If it had of been anyone else, it would have been fine but because of who it was and what he said, and because of how long it's been going on for, you know, that's why I said something.
Q. Tiger Woods announcing he's coming back, what's your reaction?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's great. Obviously he feels as if he's healthy enough now to get back out on the golf course and it will be great for Akron next week that he's playing. Obviously wants to try and sharpen up his game for the PGA the week after. It will be good that he's there. You know, he always brings a huge buzz to tournaments, whether he competes or not. He's Tiger Woods and he's the best player of the last couple of generations.
Q. One of the commentators in America, not knowing the background to what you said, even used the term about you, "spoiled brat." Presuming you've met spoiled brats and knowing you're not one of them?
RORY McILROY: Well, I'm an only child; if that means I'm spoilt, I don't know. (Laughing) Yeah, I mean, not knowing the background, maybe had something to do with it. But as I said, everyone's got their own opinion, and you just have to take it with a pinch of salt.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.