Featured Golf News
McIlroy Reflects on Second Major
Rory McIlroy is making a habit of becoming a big story in big golf tournaments. Whether it was at the 2011 Masters when he took a four-stroke lead into the final round - which he quickly blew en route to posting a record-setting-for-futility 80, or his amazing rebound two months later at Congressional where he demolished the field to win by eight shots in the U.S. Open for his first major title.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman again took center stage Sunday in the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course in South Carolina. Starting the last round with a three-shot edge, he methodically kept building that lead, firing three birdies on the front nine and three more on the back - with nary a bogey in sight - in reaching 13-under 275, eight strokes ahead of the closest runner-up.
McIlroy is already halfway to a career Grand Slam; all he needs to accomplish that is victories in the Masters and Open Championship. The only players to do that are Bobby Jones (pre-Masters era), Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen. Arnold Palmer never reached that milestone, nor did Tom Watson.
But that discussion will assuredly begin at the start of 2013 season, since the PGA is the final major of this year. On Sunday evening, after accepting the Wanamaker Trophy, McIlroy sat down with reporters and discussed his record-setting performance, which broke the all-time margin of victory in a PGA Championship of seven strokes previously held by Nicklaus. Here's what the young and buoyant Ulsterman told reporters.
MODERATOR: Joining us in the interview room is the 94th PGA champion, Rory McIroy. With his victory today, Rory has earned his second major golf championship and has become the second golfer from Northern Ireland to win the PGA Championship and becomes the youngest player to win the PGA Championship since the championship first converted to stroke play in 1958 and he sets the all time record for widest margin of victory, eclipsing Jack Nicklaus' seven stroke victory at the 1980 PGA Championship. Rory, an absolute tour de force. Congratulations and comments on becoming the PGA Champion, please.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, just an incredible day (big smile). I just sort of continued on from the rain delay last night. Played some beautiful golf on the back nine this morning, even though I didn't hole any putts - I could have holed a couple of putts and been a bit better. Went out this afternoon and just tried to play solid golf and I set myself a target. I said, look if get to 12 under par, nobody is going to catch me and I was able to go one better than that. To sit up here and see this trophy and call myself a multiple major champion, I know I've talked about it in the past, and not many people have done it, and yeah, I'm very privileged to join such an elite list of names.
Q. Pádraig said something earlier which was interesting. He said the first major Rory won, there was a lot of pressure that came with that, and he thinks now that you've won two, it actually will be good for you because it will relieve some of that pressure and make you feel more comfortable. How do you feel going forward?
RORY McILROY: I think I made it very clear that I wasn't too happy with how I've performed in the majors since the U.S. Open. I didn't really contend. And come in here Wednesday and just talked about giving myself a chance and to be honest, that's all I wanted to do. I feel these days when I give myself a chance to win one of these big tournaments, I can draw on the memories of Augusta, of Congressional, and now of today, and know what I did out there and know what to do again. So you know, there's a few emotions going through. There's quite a bit of relief to get the second one out of the way. But you know, just so happy that I was able to play like this and win another major.
Q. 18th hole, kind of closed your eyes, put your head back. What was going through your mind as this all became real to you? And second, when you weren't giving yourself a chance to win these things, did a tiny bit of doubt creep in?
RORY McILROY: You know, I just - on 18, I was just taking the whole thing in. I didn't allow myself to think about it until the 18th. I said, all right, I still have a long way to go. I still have to keep in the present, keep hitting my shots. I allowed myself the luxury of walking up 18 knowing that I was going to win. I enjoyed the moment, just let it all sink in. And yeah, not really. I was a little frustrated with how I was playing earlier on in the year, but a few people in this room were probably pushing panic buttons for no reason. It's just great to be able to put my name on another major championship trophy, and looking forward to April next year and getting a crack at another one.
Q. Back in 1991, the course was just a bloodbath with so many great players, having so many meltdowns. This year there were so many players under par, and you put up a record performance. Was it that the rain really softened this course, or is it that the pressure of the Ryder Cup is just that much more than even major championship?
RORY McILROY: No, I think it was the conditions made the difference. You know, we had a lot of overnight rain a lot of the nights. And you know, if this golf course was firm, the scoring wouldn't be anywhere near what it was. And you know, I've seen a few clips of the Ryder Cup in '91, and it looked very windy and it looked very dry. There's a certain - there's a different pressure with playing in a Ryder Cup. You know, you're not just playing for yourself. You're playing for your teammates. You're playing for your country. And that brings a whole different type of pressure. I mean, I can handle losing if I'm just losing for myself, but if I have to go back into the team room and feel like I've let down another 11 guys, it doesn't feel very good. It's probably slightly a little bit to do with that, as well, but I think more the conditions were quite benign, apart from Friday this week, and a lot of players were able to take advantage of that.
Q. Be a perfectionist. Pick one part of your game that you wish would have been better this week.
RORY McILROY: Nothing. It was all good. (Laughter).
Q. When you hear that you broke Jack Nicklaus's record for margin of victory in the PGA Championship, is that a little overwhelming, to consider who Jack Nicklaus is?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a nice record to have. I don't know, I'm - yeah. It's just great to be - you know, I don't really care if I win by one or if I win by eight. I just want to win and I was able to do that today. Of course, it is nice to be able to have the luxury of knowing that you're going to win with a few holes to go, but you don't take anything for granted out there. But you know, it is; it's nice to break a record like that, especially of Jack Nicklaus, who is the most successful player of all time so far. Yeah, it's a nice achievement.
Q. A lot of big putts today, but I want to go back to Friday's 75. How important was that round for you, a round that could have gotten away from you? And do you feel like you're at a point in your career where you can manage a round that could get away much better than you used to?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. I was 4 over through 13 holes on Friday. It had all the signs of a round that could get away from you. I dug in there deep and made that birdie on 14, and it was a silly bogey on 15, but to come back and play 16 well and birdie that, and par the last two, that was definitely a line that I held together well and that 75 could easily have been a 77 or 78. Still wouldn't have made a difference (chuckling). (Laughter). But no, I definitely feel like I'm getting better at handling conditions like that and being able to just know when a 74, 75 is a decent score and move on and know that the next day should be a bit better.
Q. Did you have any idea what Ian was doing earlier on? And also, would you like to be involved in a close finish sometime?
RORY McILROY: (Laughs). Yeah, I knew what Ian was doing. I had a peek at a couple of leaderboards out there and saw he was 7 under through 8 or 6 under through 7 so I knew he off to a great start. I set myself a target at the start of the day and said I wanted to get to 12 under par, got to 10 at the turn and knew that if I just had a couple opportunities on the back nine, if I played solid golf through 13; once I got through 13, I knew there was a couple of chances coming up and I was able to take them. Yeah, and - no. I would like to win like this all the time but I'm sure that's not going to happen.
MODERATOR: For the record, Rory has won his two major championships by a combined 16 strokes; eight strokes in each championship.
Q. There will be some inevitable comparisons to Tiger Woods both in the way that you won and the fact that you won your second major at such a young age. What do you make of those comparisons?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as he had. But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002 and won so many. You know, I'd love to sit up here and tell you that I'm going to do the same thing, but I just don't know. It's been great to win my first major last year and to back that up with another one this year; I can't ask for any more. I just want to keep working hard, keep practicing, and hopefully there's a few more of these in my closet when my career finishes.
Q. When you talked about setting a target for today, did you set a target on the last day at Augusta and at Congressional, and if you did, was that one of the lessons you learned from Augusta?
RORY McILROY: I didn't set a target at Augusta. That was one of the things I should have done. At Congressional, I was eight shots ahead. At Congressional, I wanted to shoot in the 60s. I wanted to play all four rounds in the 60s and I was able to do that. Today, I thought with the conditions being a little better, obviously Ian made a run on the front nine, and wasn't able to sustain it. But I thought a couple other guys might have done the same thing, so I thought if I would get to 12, it would mean someone from the pack would have to shoot 8 or 9 under par, which I didn't think was going to be possible. So you know, my focus was just on getting to that 12, getting to 12 under par. And I got to 12 and stood on the 18th tee and was seven ahead and I said to JP, I said I'm going to win this one by eight, as well. Just birdied the last for good measure.
MODERATOR: If you would, go through the length of the putts on the six birdies, please.
RORY McILROY: 2nd hole, birdie putt from six feet. 3, birdie putt from 12 feet. 7th hole was a 2 putt birdie from 60 feet. I putted it down there to within tap in range. 12, was 12 feet, 15 feet again. 16, six feet. 18 was, I don't know, whatever it was, 20 feet.
Q. You talked about setting the goal of 12 under. Was there any point in time as you were looking at the leaderboard knowing you had a cushion, was it dangerous for to you change mindset to play a little more defensive or to manage the game a little differently?
RORY McILROY: No, not at all. Of course, I saw with a few holes to go, I knew I was six - I think I was six ahead with six to play. You know, I knew I could be a little safer; play for the middles of the greens. I knew I had a good chance - two good chances coming up on 15 and 16 for birdies. But, you just have got to stick to your game plan and not try and let anything change; and even if you do get so far ahead, still stick to the original plan. That's what I tried to do today.
Q. Wednesday morning, you told us that you would grade your season thus far as a B. If you could re-grade tonight, what's it going to be?
RORY McILROY: A plus. (Grinning). Yeah, I think I heard Tiger say, you can have a good season, but to make a good season a great season, you need a major championship. Now I've had two great seasons in a row no matter what happens from here on in. Hopefully I can play some great golf from now until the end of the year and get myself ready for another great season next year, too.
Q. You mentioned the panic buttons earlier that got pushed in this room. Really since Congressional, there's been a lot of scrutiny about personal life and how much you work and everything like that. How satisfying is it to answer the criticism, and did that motivate you?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't think I could have answered it in any better way. And yeah, to be honest, it did motivate me. I did want to go out there and prove a few people wrong. That's what I did. It took me all of four weeks to get my game back in shape and get out of my mini slump, and this is the result.
Q. Graeme had some words to say about the victory, basically saying that you're a real superstar now, not just a little superstar. He also said that ten years ago there was another superstar that all young kids looked up to, and that being Tiger Woods, and he said that you are now that superstar that little kids will look up to and try to measure their game to. How do you see your role and your place in the game right now, now that you have two titles?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a nice position to be in. I realize that every time my face is on TV or I'm playing in a tournament, that I am a role model for a lot of people and a lot of kids do look up to me. I try to do my best in that regard and put myself across as honestly and as modestly as possible, as well. It's not - some can view it as a big responsibility, but I think if you just go about your life and live it normally and live it the way you always would, I think everything's okay. But you know, it's a huge honor to be put in that position to have an effect on so many people's lives, is a nice feeling.
Q. After your win at Honda, you said very amusingly, when Tiger was making that great charge, to be honest with you, it couldn't be anyone other than Tiger; did you notice today that Tiger was actually not on the board?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I did. Yeah, I did. On the back nine I looked at it a couple of times and saw that his name wasn't there. I'm not sure what he shot or how he did. But yeah, you know, I was also surprised - I looked a couple times, and saw that I was so far ahead, I thought someone was going to come from the pack and maybe shoot a good number. You know, luckily for me that didn't happen and I was able to cruise in.
Q. Was there a point early in this week where you felt like you could win here, and if so, when was that and why? And then secondly, at what point did you feel that today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I turned up here on Monday. I got here Monday afternoon. I went up to my locker. My locker was right by the window overlooking the putting green and overlooking like the beach and the ocean. I was think to go myself, "I just have a good feeling about this week." And I said it to JP and I said it to my dad and I said it to my whole team; something about this just feels right. It's funny how things work out. But yeah, I felt it from the start of the week, that it could be special.
MODERATOR: Good premonition.
Q. Can you tell us your feelings on Kiawah as a whole, and the golf course and possibly getting the championship back here to the Ocean Course?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think it's an incredible venue. It's a great resort, a beautiful island. I think I spent every afternoon this week on the beach apart from yesterday, which was rain delayed. Yeah, it's been incredible. The golf course was fantastic. It was by far my favorite Pete Dye course (laughter). Yeah, you've got so many great courses here, as well, and great facilities. It's been so nice to go - as I said, go to the beach every day and sort of hang out in the afternoons. It's just been a great week in that regard.
Q. Was it your idea to wear the red shirt for the final round, and do you even think about the significance?
RORY McILROY: I did. I thought if I was playing with him, I wouldn't wear it. Obviously him, you know who him is. Yeah, it was in the script that Coakley sent me at the start of the week. If I was going to be paired with him today, I wasn't going to wear red. I remember what happened to Luke Donald in 2006 at Medinah. I wasn't playing with him and thought I would wear it. Might have to do it from now on; no wonder he wins so much. (Laughing).
Q. You talked about your comfort factor here at Kiawah. Can you talk about the ocean courses there in your homeland and did that add to the comfort factor here?
RORY McILROY: Not particularly. The Ocean Course here at Kiawah plays so much different to any links course back home, just because the type of grass it is and the conditions we had this week. Obviously if it was firm, it would have been a completely different test. But because it was so soft and different grass, Paspalum greens, the whole thing just played a little differently. But scenery wise, it's very similar with the ocean and the sand, the beach and the dunes and everything. Maybe reminded me a little bit of home in some ways.
Q. Can you talk about the influence of Dave Stockton on your mental approach, and in what ways would you say you're a better player than you were 14 months ago at Congressional?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, anywhere Dave's done well, I seem to do well. He's won at Congressional and obviously the Ryder Cup captain here. Anywhere he's had success, I've had success, too, which has been pretty cool. You know, we had a chat last week in Akron and he just said to me, "You know, just go out and play with a smile on your face. Enjoy it. This is what you've always wanted to do since you were a little boy. There's no point in getting frustrated out there or getting upset. Just go out and enjoy it." That's the attitude that I had for the last couple weeks, and it definitely helped.
Q. This victory has obviously taken you back to world No. 1. Can you reflect on that achievement as well, please?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's nice. To win my second major and get to world No. 1 all in the same day is very special. And you know, now I have had a little taste of it, and went back to - switched back and forth with Luke a couple of times, went back down to 3 and back up to 1 now. Yeah, it's nice. It's something that completely wasn't on my mind today. I just wanted to go out and try and win this. But you know, it's a great bonus on top of an already great day.
MODERATOR: 2012 PGA Champion, congratulations to Rory McIlroy.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.