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McIlroy Ready to Go in China
Though he won't be duplicating his double-feat of finishing as the top money earner on both the PGA and European tours like he did in 2012, Rory McIlroy is hoping a good performance this week in the WGC-HSBC Champions will earn him a spot in the European Tour's season finale in Dubai.
McIroy current stands at 62nd in the Race to Dubai, the Continent's version of the year-long money list. Henrik Stenson is the leader, followed by Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose.
McIroy finished tied for 27th in last BMW Masters. On Monday, he edged Tiger Woods in an 18-hole exhibition match at Mission Hills in China.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman is still in China and will tee it up again in the WGC-HSBC Champions. The $8.5 million event starts Thursday at Seshan International Golf Club in Shanghai. He will be paired in the first two rounds with Luke Donald and Jason Dufner.
On Wednesday, the former top-ranked player in the world met with reporters and discussed his chances this week. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR in the past. It's a place that's served you well, so just start with your opening thoughts on returning here for this tournament.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm really glad that this tournament is back here at Sheshan. It's a golf course that I've done well on, as you've said, and it's a golf course that I really like. It's one of my favorite venues of the year quite honestly. It suits my game and I play well here, and I guess the reason why I chose to come back this year is because it's back to this golf course. I played the golf course for the first time today and in great condition. It's always in great condition and they have got the greens quite firm already for early on in the week. You know, it should be a good test. It suits my game. You've got to hit it pretty long. A few of the par 5s are reachable for the longer hitters and if I can keep driving the ball the way I am, it should give me a bit of an advantage and obviously be a good chance this week.
MODERATOR: One of the biggest tournaments of the year, but in terms of your position in The Race to Dubai and The Final Series, just reflect on the importance of this week for you in that.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a big week obviously; it's sort of make or break. If I don't play good enough here, then you know, there's a good chance I won't play in Dubai. But I don't think - there's a bigger chance of me winning this tournament than not playing in Dubai I feel. So I'm looking forward to going out there and playing well. I feel like I'm capable of winning this golf tournament. I feel like my game's coming together nicely and if I keep giving myself chances on the greens, just try and hole a few more. Did a little short game work over the last couple days and I feel like if I can get that part of my game where it needs to be, then I've got a good chance.
Q. After participating in the Pro Am today, you probably have a lot of test on your putting, so how do you feel that your putting performance today - to carry onto this week's tournament and what kind of things do you feel that you would improve from the last tournament?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the two big things about the putting were getting the pace of the greens a little better. So I worked a little bit on my pace putting, and just reading them better. I struggled to read them last week at BMW, and maybe I need to look into them a little bit more or maybe call my caddie in to look at a few. Those are the two main things that I need to improve on, because if you can get your pace right, then that's sort of the most important thing. Especially for longer putts, I threw a lot of shots away the last couple of weeks with 3 putts, which you just shouldn't do. So you know, if I can get that out of my game, it obviously takes a little bit of pressure off. So yeah, green reading and pace putting are the two things that I've worked on coming into this tournament.
Q. In the Pro Am today, did you get a chance to play with some of the youngsters? And right now in China, China golfing, a lot of the good, young Chinese golfers are coming up. Have they started to ask for your advice? You didn't go to college, you went straight to pro. So what's your take on getting into college and getting more experience, or if you could, just go straight to the pros for some of the teenage youngsters in China golf.
RORY McILROY: I guess if I was advising these youngsters, I would always say go to college. Obviously you gain a lot of experience there, and you get an education to fall back on if golf doesn't quite pan out the way you hoped it would. I got lucky; I developed and I turned pro at the right time. I was playing well, got my Tour card and just sort of went from there. There's been a lot of stories where guys have had great amateur careers and turned pro and have not succeeded in the professional ranks. So if I was advising any kid, I would always say, go to college and get an education because you never know what can happen. And I was just fortunate that it worked out so well for me.
Q. Youngsters, especially in the U.K., they get one good result, they win a National Championship and they think that is enough to turn pro now. What do you think is an amateur career that is enough?
RORY McILROY: I think you have to dominate. You have to dominate for a couple years. For me the big thing was playing in the Walker Cup. Walker Cup was obviously a big thing for me. And I think a big thing for me, as well, when I was an amateur, I got an opportunity to play in a lot of professional tournaments. Played in The Open Championship as an 18 year old, and you get to experience what it's like. I mean, my first two tournaments on The European Tour were the British Masters and The Irish Open in 2005 back to back weeks, and it was a bit of an eye opening experience. I shot a couple of rounds in the 80s at the British Masters. Shot a decent first round at The Irish Open, was in the Top 15, and then I shoot 81 to miss the cut. So it was a bit of a it showed me where my game was and where it needed to be. But if you're one of the best amateurs in the country, you're always going to get those opportunities, and you need to learn from them and learn from those experiences, and that's what I did.
Q. Would you state categorically that one win in a National Championship is not enough?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure, definitely.
Q. Would you like to put a figure on it?
RORY McILROY: You know, I think you have to be the best amateur in your country I think, or one of the best amateurs. And that you're up there week in, week out in tournaments and you're winning more than just one tournament a year or whatever. I think you really have to dominate that level of golf before focusing your attention on the next level.
Q. Is there any sense of embarrassment or injured pride at finding yourself at 62nd in The Race to Dubai at this time of the season, and are there any circumstances in which you don't go to Turkey next week?
RORY McILROY: I don't think it's - if you look at - I've only played 11 events on The European Tour this season, so it's not like I've had that many opportunities. But yeah, of course I expect myself to be a lot higher than that. I won The Race to Dubai last year, and I was second in '11 and I was second in '09. So I've been a factor in it for the last few years and to be down where I am obviously doesn't feel too good and is a reflection of how my year's went. It's not an embarrassment but it's not that - it's just the reality and the reality is I haven't played well enough to sort of be a factor. And I really don't think it will come to having to play Turkey. I'm confident enough that I'll play well this week that that could be avoided.
Q. Just wondering if everything's okay between you and Caroline because she won two weeks ago and there's some rumors appearing there's some problems between you and Caroline; is everything okay?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I was very happy she won in Luxembourg, her first title of the season, so I sent her a congratulatory message.
Q. After the BMW tournament in Shanghai and also the Tiger Woods challenge in Haikou Mission Hills, what's your impression, particularly great memories about golf fans in China.
RORY McILROY: Golf fans in China, obviously golf is still a relatively new sport or game to most of the Chinese people. I think it's incredible that so many people come out and watch us and support the events. If you saw some of the scenes well, I thought they were great crowds at the weekend at BMW. And then obviously the crowd that we had in Hainan for the match were pretty crazy. So it's great that people are so enthusiastic and want to come out and watch golf. You know, it's great. I mean, obviously you get it everywhere but there's problems with cameras and phones and everything, but that's just part of what we do, and it happens everywhere. It just doesn't happen here. But as I say, golf is relatively new and people are learning and will continue to learn. They are more and more knowledgeable every time we come back.
MODERATOR: Rory, we appreciate you joining us, as always, and best of luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.