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McIlroy Out to Recharge Season at Muirfield


After missing the cut in last week's BMW PGA Championship in England, Rory McIlroy has returned to the U.S. The 24-year-old Northern Irishman is in Dublin, Ohio, for this week's PGA Tour event, the $6.2 million Memorial Tournament, which starts Thursday at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

The No. 2-ranked player in the world, who was supplanted in the top position earlier this year by Tiger Woods, has played eight events in the States his year, making seven cuts and recording four top-10 finishes. But he's still looking for his first victory of 2013, either on the PGA and European tours.

His last title came in November in Dubai, a relative drought owing mainly to a change of equipment - to Nike in a much-ballyhooed and lucrative switch - and a retooled golf swing. On Wednesday the Ulsterman met with reporters and talked about his season and what he's expecting this week at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course and the tournament hosted by golf's "Golden Bear." Here's what the two-time major winner told reporters during the following Q&A.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room here at the Memorial Tournament. Rory, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Coming into the week you're bringing four top 10s in your last six starts, I believe. And two top 10s in three starts here at the Memorial. With that said, just some comments on being here this week.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, coming back here it's always a course that I've enjoyed. I didn't quite do as well as I wanted last year. The first couple of times I came here, I really enjoyed the golf course and felt good on it. I feel like the golf course sets up well for me. You can stand up and be aggressive off the tee. You've really got to think about your second shots, putting the ball on the right side of the pins because the greens are so fast and so slopey. There's a lot of thought about what has to go into the second shots here. But it's a good golf course, a golf course that I really enjoy playing and one that I feel I can do well on.

Q. Tiger has won here five times. Do you just concede he'll be there on Sunday and he's the guy to beat or how do you go into this?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, if you look at, I guess, look at his form on this golf course and look at his form recently, you've got to think that he's going to be up there on Sunday. He's played really, really well this year, four wins. Obviously five wins here, defending champion. So you wouldn't bet against him being up there on Sunday afternoon.

Q. You have success here and success at Bridgestone in Ohio, is there something about this state that suits your eye with golf?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, both golf courses are two of my favorites that we play all year; here at Muirfield Village and at Firestone, also. Both really good golf courses, good tests. You've got to hit the ball well. Just two great golf courses and two great tournaments.

Q. I'm curious, have you played Merion yet?

RORY McILROY: No, I'm going to go up there next week.

Q. I know Graeme McDowell has played there, have you received any advice from him. How do you learn a golf course that you don't know?

RORY McILROY: I had breakfast with Adam Scott this morning, and he's been up there and he was telling me a little bit about it. I guess with U.S. Opens and U.S. Open setups, they're a little different to most weeks when we play. But Adam was telling me a little about the golf course and some of the holes and stuff. I'm looking forward to getting up there and seeing it next week. They always do a good job in setting up the course. Obviously it's going to be tough like all U.S. Opens, but I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Q. Did you say next week, like before The Open you're going to go play a few times?

RORY McILROY: Yes.

Q. With the late spring here we've had, have you noticed any difference in the course from when you've played here in recent years as far as the condition of the rough, fairways, anything like that, has it changed at all?

RORY McILROY: I think the rough is a little thicker. The rough is pretty thick this year, especially around the greens. But everything else is perfect. I mean the fairways, even the greens are always really fast here, always in great shape. And I guess historically this tournament has always been - it's always had trouble with rain and it being wet. And it looks like there might be a couple of storms rolling through this week, as well. But the course is still pretty soft out there, the greens are receptive. But I think it's like that most years. And when they do get the golf course firm and fast here, it plays a lot more difficult.

Q. How would you assess the general state of your game right now? What adjustments have you been working on?

RORY McILROY: My game feels good. I feel like both Charlotte and TPC were good ball striking weeks. I hit the ball really good tee to green, I just didn't take advantage of the opportunities I was giving myself. But I spent two days with Dave Stockton here and worked on a few things and I feel like my putting is coming around a little bit. From tee to green I feel a little comfortable. If I start knocking in a few putts hopefully I'll stand contending a bit more.

Q. If someone had told you at the start of the year that come the end of May you wouldn't have won yet, would you have been surprised?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I would have been. Q. If you were to explain to them why you haven't, what would be the one reason you would give, besides the low score thing?

RORY McILROY: My misses this year have been too wide. Last year if I missed a fairway or missed a shot, it wasn't by much. This year it seems the misses have been big and have cost me. I'm thinking back to Augusta, third day, missed a couple of tee shots right on 7 and 11, which sort of cost me on Saturday. Sometimes in golf it's not about how good your good shots are, it's about how, I guess, how much damage your bad shots do to you, and if you can sort of limit that as much as you can then it's always going to be a good thing.

Q. To follow up on what Doug was talking about, given that you have not won yet, do you feel heading into the bulk of the major championship season, heading into June right now, maybe just a little bit more internal pressure, expectation, to get a victory?

RORY McILROY: Yeah, I guess in a way. I'm staying as patient as possible. I'm going about my business and just playing golf and trying to let it happen. Yeah, I had a great chance to win in San Antonio, Martin Laird just played a little too good for me that day. I was really happy because that was the first time this year where I got in contention and had a chance to win a tournament. And I played really well down the stretch. I was happy with that. Quail Hollow was a bit of a different story. I had a good chance heading into the back nine there, and played the last seven holes in 2 over, which wasn't too good. But I feel like it's been a progression this year. And it's slowly got better from the start of the season and hopefully it's building up towards that victory that I haven't got yet.

Q. You're obviously aware of Tiger's record here. Jack said earlier today that he thinks that the course always just fits his eye. Why do you think he's done so well here?

RORY McILROY: The same reason he's done so well everywhere, I guess (laughter). Most golf courses set up well for Tiger Woods, I guess. He's won the players this year and that was a golf course that everyone said didn't quite suit him. I was on Twitter and PGA Tour sent out a tweet that half of his Tour wins have came in six of his venues, like 38 of his 76, or whatever, came in six venues, which I thought was pretty impressive. The guy is good wherever he goes and plays. It's not like he goes to the same course and wins. He can win anywhere.

Q. Can you equate where you are in your game right now to some place you might have been historically before this in regards to the fact that you kind of struggled at the early stages and then got into this point. Secondly, how do you look at the rest of the season, not just the next couple of weeks, expectation wise?

RORY McILROY: I guess it's a little similar in a way to a couple of years ago in 11. 11, I had the close call with the Masters. But I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I'm just not getting as much out of it as I should be. And the game is just not quite there in terms of efficiency. And sometimes you go out and you can even it doesn't look like you're going to shoot a great score, but it turns into a 69 or 68. And that's sort of what I was doing last year. It sort of feels like 2011 because I came in here and I was playing okay. I was playing okay. I had a decent finish at Wentworth. I missed the cut at Charlotte. Obviously had the Masters, and I play well here. Get a top 10 here, go to the U.S. Open and obviously win there. So it sort of feels like I'm waiting for that week where everything sort of clicks into place and I can get a momentum from that. A bit like last year where I got the top 5 at Akron before the PGA and that gave me a little bit of momentum and I was able to kick on from there, just waiting for one of those weeks.

Q. Are you cape capable at all of speaking about Hogan's win at Merion in 1950?

RORY McILROY: I remember the picture, obviously the black and white picture. Obviously it's 1950. With the 2 iron up the hill or 1 iron at the last.

Q. But you're a decent student of the game. What do you think of when you first hear the name Hogan? What's your first thought, I guess?

RORY McILROY: I guess the swing. I think that's the thing that everyone or most people think of. You've got the mystique and you've got no one really knew what he was like. But I think the swing because that swing of his was time also. And if you take that swing of his and put it into the modern day you can still do very, very well with it.

Q. I was curious when you started watching Majors on TV? When did you start becoming a golf fan, not just a guy who loved golf?

RORY McILROY: Maybe Faldo's win at Augusta, I think. I don't know. Something like that, I think. It's hard to really remember so far back. But I remember watching that. I remember that.

Q. You've won your two Majors by wide margins and you mentioned the momentum factor, but what is it about Majors, does it kind of kick in a special focus or concentration in you? How do you explain having played so well?

RORY McILROY: I think it does with everyone. I guess I approach majors with just that little bit of a different intensity level because you have to. You're expected to be so much of a grind and you expect it will be a long week mentally more than physically. But, yeah, I don't know, you just - you get four chances at it a year and you want to put everything you've got into it. And luckily I've been able to win a couple the last couple of years. And it would be nice to continue that trend this year.

Q. I'm just wondering, you're in the Buckeye State wearing a scarlet shirt in the sand playing today. Is it safe to say we can call you a Buckeye fan?

RORY McILROY: For this week, I guess. I don't know why - I didn't even think about it when I took it out of the wardrobe today. But I might have to get it cleaned every night and wear it every night, I've been getting a lot of good comments on it.

MODERATOR: We appreciate your time, as always.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.