THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
July 19, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
MIKE WOODCOCK: We're delighted to welcome Rory McIlroy back into the interview room. Rory, that's a great performance, a superb finish with eagles on 16 and 18. Gives you a six-shot lead going into tomorrow's final round. You must be very pleased with the way you're playing.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. I feel like today my patience was rewarded. I didn't get off to the best of starts again, and had a few chances around the turn to maybe make birdies, and I wasn't able to do that and then dropped a shot. But then I made a big par save on 13. And then to make that birdie putt on 14 was a bonus. And then obviously the finish speaks for itself. I was just sort of waiting for those two holes. I felt like I was driving the ball well, and if I could drive it on the fairway on 16 and 18, I knew that I would have irons into the greens for my second shots. And to be able to make two threes there coming in was very important, and obviously sets me up nicely for tomorrow.
Q. Great match today. Talk about how much you're aware of the score when it evened up on the leaderboard and the last five holes when you jacked it up again, and the focus you need to be able to do that.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I knew that Rickie was playing well in front. I didn't know how well. I saw on 12, I think, that he got to within one of me, and then I bogeyed the hole and then it was tied. But I never panicked. I didn't feel uncomfortable. I knew that I had some holes coming up that I could take advantage of and make some birdies on the way in. As I said, I was just very patient today and just waited for my chance for my time when I was able to make some shots, and I was able to convert those. I was conscious of it. I was conscious that Rickie was getting a little closer or Sergio or whoever it was. But it was nice to be able to come up with the goods when I needed them the last few holes, and restore those few-shot lead.
Q. Could you talk about the comfort level you have, how comfortable you feel out there, how at peace you feel out there. I know it doesn't always work that way in every tournament, especially in a major.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I feel very comfortable. I was in here last night talking about I'm comfortable in this position. I'm comfortable sort of leading the tournament. This is the third night in a row that I'll sleep on the lead. So I'm comfortable. It helps that I've been in this position before and I've been able to convert and I've been able to get the job done. Comfortable with the position that I'm in, but just really comfortable with my golf game. Comfortable with how I'm hitting it. Really comfortable on the greens. I feel like that's been a big help this week. And I just need to go out there tomorrow and play one more solid round and hopefully that's enough.
Q. We're still waiting for those two words tomorrow, right?
RORY McILROY: If everything goes the way I want it to, then, yes.
Q. There's been some criticism today of the decision to go off two tees early. Do you think what we're hearing overhead vindicates that decision?
RORY McILROY: Definitely. I think it's the second best decision the R&A made this year. The first being bringing The Open back to Portrush. But I think it was a great decision. They got it right. You don't want to be stuck out in that. Well, I definitely wouldn't want to be stuck out in that. I thought they made a great decision by doing what they did. And looking at the forecast tomorrow, it looks nice. And we'll get a full day's play.
Q. What were the yardages and clubs on 16 and 18? And then standing over the putt on 18, you're going to be leading The Open by a handful of shots, anyway, was the idea, let's kind of put the foot down there?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. I had two -- I can't remember, it was 252 into the 16th. And then 239 into the last. 4-iron on 16 and a 5-iron at the last. And, yeah, I mean, the way I look at it, six shots is better than five. Seven shots is better than six. Eight shots is better than seven. So I just wanted to try and be as much ahead as I possibly could. And that's why I was grinding over the putt at the last, just to try and finish the round off well. I felt like those two shots into 18 deserved an eagle. I wanted to finish it off that way.
Q. The first two days you said you were delighted with the way the driver was behaving. But today it must be the putter. You made some great putts out there. Was it one of your best putting days of the year? And what did you think about the performances on the green?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was -- the putter definitely saved me. Even as early as the second hole. The second hole I made a good par save there. And then from the 5th onwards I putted really nicely. I made a big par save on 7. I made another good par save on 9. It was a very good putting round. Sort of momentum putts. Putts that you really need to make just to keep the round going. Those were the most important putts for me today. Some of those par putts were even more important than the birdie putts or the eagle putts. It was nice to see a few go in today.
Q. From here on in how much is it a test of nerve as opposed to a test of golf over the final day? And what will you do from now until tomorrow afternoon to keep those nerves in check?
RORY McILROY: It is. I think whenever you have such a big lead, you really can't think about anyone else but yourself. You have to think about how you're going to control your emotions. How you're going to control whatever thoughts you have, trying to stay completely in the present and focus on what you need to do. And I'll go home after this, I'm going to go to the gym. I'll have some dinner. And the last couple of nights we've just watched a movie. So I'll probably do the same thing and try and get a good night's sleep. I'll probably do some light workout in the morning again in the gym and get out here and be prepared to play.
Q. What movie? Rain Man?
RORY McILROY: A couple of nights ago it was Django. And then last night it was The Internship. And I don't have a clue what it's going to be tonight.
Q. Rain Man?
RORY McILROY: Could be.
Q. Kind of a twofold question: How do you hit that tee shot and 5-iron the way you did on 18 and make the putt and convince yourself this tournament is not already over? And secondly, how do you compare what you're going into tomorrow with a six-shot lead versus Congressional, having been there once before?
RORY McILROY: I've won from seven back this year, so I know how leads can go very quickly. And I'm not taking anything for granted. If the guys in front of me had just finished a little better, finished the way I did, then this tournament, my lead wouldn't have been as much as it was. It seemed like Sergio and Rickie sort of struggled down the stretch a little bit. But that could have been a completely different story. Instead of a six-shot lead it could have been a one- or two-shot lead. A lot can happen. And I've been on the right side of it and I've been on the wrong side of it. And that's why you just have to -- you can't let yourself think forward. You can't let yourself think about winning or whatever it is. You've just got to completely stay in the moment and stay in the present, and that's what I'm going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow.
Q. I think, correct me if I'm wrong, 17 you hit an iron off the tee?
RORY McILROY: Yes.
Q. And yesterday you bombed the driver into forever off the tee. Was that a predetermined decision?
RORY McILROY: It was just the wind direction. The wind direction, it was sort of into off the left. And where the pin position was anyway, it was a hole you wanted to make a 4 at. I knew the 2-iron would take those two traps out of play and give me the best chance of hitting the fairway.
Q. Do you get the sense tomorrow that the first few holes will be even more important from a mental side, because you could either give hope to the rest of the field or completely put them under your boot?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I won't go into the first couple of holes thinking about what score or what I need to make on those holes, just to hit good solid golf shots. I think that's the big thing for me. From the opening tee shot, I hit a great tee shot today down the middle of the first fairway and hit a pretty crappy second shot. If you're going to miss it anywhere, miss it right, and give yourself at least some green to work with. I think it's more to go out and try and hit some solid shots early on. Hit the fairway, hit the green. If you make a putt, great. If not, you go to the next hole. And that's sort of the way I'll approach it.
Q. When you came back from 7 down this year, did you notice what the leaders were doing? And did that give you hope?
RORY McILROY: It did, yeah. I noticed coming off the 11th tee at Wentworth that Thomas and Luke had made 7s on the 6th hole. So I knew that it was my opportunity. This was my chance to make a few birdies. And there were some birdie opportunities coming up for me, par-4 11th, par-5 12. And I knew that I could make up some ground on them and maybe put a bit of pressure on them. Yeah, I'll try and avoid the big numbers I got tomorrow, like what they did at Wentworth. Yeah, just try and keep it nice and tight, and play another good solid round of golf.
Q. You mentioned Royal Portrush earlier, I know you've got very good memories of it with that 61 when you were a 16-year-old. The members still have to vote on the proposal to change the course to make The Open possible. What's your advice to the members?
RORY McILROY: Actually I was talking to Darren Clarke about this a couple of days ago about the proposed plans and the new holes that might be added. It would be -- I mean, I don't think they're not going to vote for it. I think for The Open Championship to come back to Portrush after 60-something years or whatever it is, you can't believe the excitement that there is in Northern Ireland about it and the buzz, even though it's still five years away. Hopefully the members do the right thing and vote for it, and we get our Open at Portrush in '19.
Q. Despite the terrible warnings of the thunder and lightning, goodness knows what else, you've got incredible crowds out there. They come out in all weather, don't they? What do you want to say about them?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the support this week has been absolutely fantastic. Getting standing ovations coming up on the greens, even walking onto the 18th today I got goose bumps. I got goose bumps just how loud it was, just how much support I felt from them. It's been incredible. And I said yesterday that I wanted to try and give them something to cheer for, and I'll try and go out and do the same thing tomorrow. But it's a pleasure to play in front of crowds like this. They're very knowledgeable. I'll go out and enjoy that again tomorrow.
Q. I know you don't want to get ahead of yourself, but tomorrow evening you could have three legs of the career Grand Slam by the age of 25. What would that mean to you, given a not-so-good 2013?
RORY McILROY: It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year (laughing). It would be -- not a lot of people have achieved the career Grand Slam. And if everything goes the right way tomorrow to get to that three-quarters of the way there is some achievement by the age of 25. I'd be in pretty illustrious company. So not getting ahead of ourselves, here, but yeah, it would mean an awful lot. I never thought that I'd be able to be in this position. I didn't think that I'd even have the chance at 25 to go for three legs of the Grand Slam. So I'm going to try to put all of that out of my head. It would be way too much to think about and way too much to sort of ponder. First things first. Just play a good solid round of golf tomorrow. And if that means that I'm going to Augusta next year with a bit of hype, then so be it.
Q. Yesterday you and Rickie had a bit of a joke on the putting green about each other's fashion sense, will you be going out tomorrow and having a bit of a laugh or will you be keeping to yourself tomorrow?
RORY McILROY: I'll definitely won't be wearing orange, that's for sure. But no, Rickie is a good guy. He's become a neighbor of mine. We don't live too far away from each other in Florida. I see him around all the time. So we've become pretty close. And that sort of stems all the way back from the Walker Cup in '07 from Royal County Down. I think it'll be quite a comfortable grouping for both of us tomorrow. We know each other so well. There will be chat out there and there will be -- we'll try and treat it like any other day, even though it isn't. But Rickie is a really nice guy and I get on well with him. And it will be a good, comfortable group for both of us.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Thank you very much. Best of luck tomorrow.
RORY McILROY: Thank you.