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Rory Looking to Make History
After winning two of the first three events in the FedEx Cup Playoffs - the BMW Championship on Sunday and last week's Deutsche Bank Championship - Rory McIlroy has joined Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh as the only players to have a pair of victories during the same year in the season-ending event.
If the 23-year-old Northern Irishman can win the Tour Championship in two weeks at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, he'll not only run away with the Cup - and its $10 million bonus - but will become the first player in the six-year history of the Playoffs to win three of the four tournaments.
On Sunday at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., McIlroy shot rounds of 64, 68, 69 and 67 to finish at 20-under 268, two strokes ahead of Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson. The young Ulsterman carded 23 birdies, two eagles and just seven bogeys over 72 holes at the Pete Dye-designed course.
He averaged 307 yards off the tee and found 73 percent of the fairways, a crucial factor since all four rounds of the BMW were played under lift-clean-and-place conditions due to the rain-soaked course. Perhaps even more impressive is that McIlroy, who hit 71 percent of the greens in regulation, averaged a mere 27 putts per round.
With two victories in consecutive weeks, McIlroy becomes the first player to do that since Tiger Woods in 2009. Woods, who closed with a 68 to finish tied for fourth at 271 in the BMW with Robert Garrigus and played with McIlroy in the first two rounds of the BMW, is certainly impressed with the youngster.
''He's going out there and is up near the lead and posts a good number,'' Woods said Sunday. ''He's doing the things he needs to do, and as he said yesterday, he's feeling very confident about his game. Right now he's just really played well, and he's making a ton of putts. That's a great combo.''
On Sunday evening after accepting his latest piece of hardware - along the with BMW winner's check of $1.44 million - McIlroy sat down with reporters and discussed his recent dominance and what he feels about making it three in a row at the upcoming Tour Championship. Here's what he had to say during that Q&A.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the 2012 BMW Championship winner, Rory McIlroy, 5 under par 67 today in the final round, good for a two shot win at 20 under. There really aren't words to describe the kind of golf you've played this year. The past two weeks alone you're 40 under par, winner of the past two tournaments, so with that I'll turn it over to you. Just some comments on the week and then we'll open it up and take some questions.
RORY McILROY: Yeah. Just another great week. You know, I came here with the mindset from Boston that I just wanted to keep going on this roll. Some suggested that I could have taken a week off and still could have been in the top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings going into Atlanta, but I felt like I was playing really well and didn't want to stop that run. I sort of picked up where I left off in Boston, shot 64 the first day here, and just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I'm confident in my ability and confident with the shots that I'm hitting and confident on the greens. You know, I'm making the right decisions out there, and everything is really just going to plan at the minute. It's a nice run to be on, and I want to try and keep it going for as long as possible.
Q. If it were easier to win in back to back weeks, it would have been done before. Tiger was the last time in 2009. For you what was the biggest challenge in pulling this off?
RORY McILROY: I think yesterday was a very important day. I thought yesterday I didn't have my best golf, but I still managed to shoot 69, not to shoot myself out of the tournament, I went and did some great work on the range last night after I played, figured a couple things out. My driving yesterday was horrendous, and today I think I only missed one fairway. You know, it was a big turnaround, and I'm glad I went and did that session on the range last night.
Q. You kind of answered one of my questions in regards to making decisions, and one of them going and doing some practice last night. Do you have any more to say on that? And on 17 you hadn't had a bogey all day, and tough shot there and good for par.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I sort of wanted to play this last 18 holes without a bogey. That didn't happen on 18 unfortunately. Well, it didn't matter, but it was a big par save on 17 after hitting a great tee shot. I didn't hit a very good chip shot, and made another really good par save on 14, as well. They were important. And yeah, you know, just good decisions. Knowing when to go for flags, knowing when not to go for flags, knowing when to be aggressive, knowing when not to be. I felt like I have been doing that very well for the past few weeks.
Q. Can you just tell me the clubs you hit on nine and 15, on the par 5s?
RORY McILROY: 4 iron both times, 4 iron from 233 on the 9th and a 4 iron from 226 on 15.
Q. In layman's terms at all, can you tell us exactly what you fixed last night?
RORY McILROY: It's actually something very simple. I feel like on the way down, it was just my body was spinning too fast, the club was late catching up and I was hitting everything to the right, so just a little bit of timing, waiting on it from the top of the backswing, and releasing it, not being afraid to release it on the way through, and that straightened up the driver a lot today.
Q. Was that hard to take to the course?
RORY McILROY: No, not really. I trusted it. I just went out there, and as I said, the thing about the last two weeks, I've just played with complete trust and complete confidence in my ability.
Q. This run you're on here over the past month, does it give you any appreciation for what Tiger did for all those years, and do you find it easy or difficult to keep this up?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. I mean, I think I've always had an appreciation for what Tiger did over the years, winning seven, eight, nine times in a season for I don't know how long, 10 years. But yeah, you know, it's - the more you put yourself in this position and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal, and it feels like this is what you're supposed to do. I'm sure that's how he felt when he was on that run and how he still feels. He still won three times this year. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I'm getting to that stage where I'm thinking, this is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week. It's been great. The last four weeks, five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I've ever played. I'm going to try and keep the run going for as long as possible.
Q. The swing adjustment you made on Saturday night, that ability to go from horrendous to beautiful in your own words, is that newly acquired, or is that something you've always had?
RORY McILROY: It's something that I've always had. The difficulty is not trusting it when you get out on the course. But as I said today, I played with complete trust and complete confidence, and just went out there with it. I striped it on the range last night for about 40 minutes after I played, and that gave me the confidence to go out with it today on the course.
Q. And will you get to New York in time to watch the men's singles final tomorrow?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I will. I probably won't go. I don't even know who Andy is playing in the final. It is Novak, is it? So I'll be there. I'm not sure I'll go. I'm good friends with both of them, so it's sort of - I'll probably just watch on TV and see how it goes.
Q. Do you get tickets okay?
RORY McILROY: I think I should be okay. Do you want some? (Laughter.)
Q. Last week and this week and also at the PGA, we've seen where you've had just sort of little runs where you made a spurt of birdies here and there and sort of separated yourself a little bit. Was there a different mindset in those periods of time, or is it just coming to you naturally?
RORY McILROY: To be honest, I feel like it's just coming to me naturally, and as I said before, the more that you're in that position, the more you're able to do it. You feel more comfortable doing it. That's basically it. All these feelings that I had today, I'm used to because I just had them last week, and the feelings that I had last week, I still was used to them because I only had them a couple weeks ago. Every time you put yourself in these positions and you end up winning the tournament, it just gets put in the memory bank, and it's great to draw on if you ever need it.
Q. Where do you learn more about yourself and what do you take more pride in, winning by eight or coming down the stretch with five or six of the very best players in the world all over you?
RORY McILROY: You know, I think both are great achievements in themselves, just being able to separate yourself from a major championship field and winning by eight, or whether it's grinding it out at - I didn't play my best golf last week in Boston, but to close out the victory, and today I did, I hit two beautiful shots into 15, birdied 16, hit a great shot into 17, and by that time I had sort of done enough. You know, both give you just as much satisfaction as the other.
Q. Why are you practicing with the Knicks, and how did that come to be, and can you teach them how to win?
RORY McILROY: My fitness trainer, Steve McGregor, is I'm going to say the head of the medical staff with the Knicks. It's obviously preseason for them, and I'm in New York next week, and he's there with them. He said, come along and join in the sessions. It'll be good. We're doing a bit of track work next week. I think their stride is probably a little longer than mine (laughing), but it should be good fun. I'm really looking forward to next week because of that, just to completely get away from golf for a few days and hang out with those guys.
Q. Have you ever gotten two trophies from one win?
RORY McILROY: No. I mean, I got - at the U.S. Open you get the trophy and you get a medal.
Q. So two trophies?
RORY McILROY: Two trophies, no, I think it's the first time.
Q. You realize the idea is to do that in two weeks, right?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, sure, exactly. Hopefully this time in a couple weeks' time, I'll be sitting right here again with two trophies beside me. You know, as I said, I just want to try and keep this run going and keep the confidence level up where it is.
Q. You won comfortably or fairly comfortably at the end, but did you see the 14th as somewhat of a pivotal point on the back nine?
RORY McILROY: Definitely. After Lee missing the green, and I had a pretty straightforward shot and didn't hit the green, either, I left myself with the easier chip. Lee's shot was actually quite difficult. I hit a good chip there to five feet, and I made it, and Lee didn't make his. I thought that was the pivotal point. That just gave me that one shot that I sort of needed, and played the 15th hole well to extend that to two. Birdieing the 16th was a bit of a bonus to extend it to three. But 14 was definitely a crucial point in the round.
Q. Last year when you weren't a Tour member, I think you had said that the year prior the FedEx Cup was kind of a grind, words to that effect. I'm just curious how it is now two years later for you and how you've dealt with it because a lot of players do say it's a grind. It's a lot of golf in a short period of time. How have you adapted and sort of changed your mindset here a couple years later?
RORY McILROY: It is a grind. You know, it's not just these Playoffs, it's everything that's come before it. You've got British Open, then you had one week and then it was Akron, PGA, and then some guys might have played the Wyndham and then straight into Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW. It's a lot of golf in a row. I think a lot of guys will be looking forward to that week off next week.
But I think it's a lot easier when you're in contention and you do have a chance to win the tournaments or you're up there in the FedEx Cup rankings. I mean, I was grinding just to try and make the Tour Championship the last time I was in these Playoffs and ended up not doing that. So of course it's easier trying to win tournaments than it is grinding your butt off trying to finish 20th.
Q. What do you think the common denominator is of the three victories you've had in your last four starts as far as your game, what has come through and led you to those wins?
RORY McILROY: I think my ability to save par, the ability to limit the mistakes on my card. You know, I played - I think I had 47 putts the weekend at Kiawah; Boston last week was something similar; and here this week, again, I said my - a few really crucial up and downs yesterday afternoon kept me in this tournament and gave me the opportunity and the chance to go out there today and shoot a good number to win. You know, putting has been a big key to that the last few weeks.
Q. Just a clarification on something: Is it safe to say that really this run began at Firestone, you found some things there and you sort of, I guess, gathered steam for this run?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, definitely. Firestone gave me a lot of confidence. I hit the ball as well at Firestone as I did the entire year. That just gave me a little spark that I needed to go forward. Obviously it was a great week at Kiawah, and then just kept it going, and obviously trying to keep it going for as long as I can.
Q. How long ago does May and June, the time of the year when your career was over, how long ago does that seem like?
RORY McILROY: A lifetime ago. Yeah, it doesn't - I suppose it teaches me a lesson, as well, that you can't get that frustrated. You just have to stay patient because it can just turn around at any moment and at any time. If I ever do struggle again, which I'm sure I will have in the future, I can draw on that memory and know that if I keep working hard and have patience that it will turn around eventually.
Q. Can you talk about the top 5, especially the other four guys, certainly Tiger and Phil have had success at East Lake before, that challenge of beating those guys?
RORY McILROY: Yeah. You know, it'll be my first trip to East Lake, so it'll be a new golf course for me. But that's what the FedEx Cup Playoffs were designed for, to have the best players playing at this time of the year and to make it exciting. I'm 1, Tiger 2, Phil 3, Dustin and Brandt 4 or whatever - Nick Watney. So you've got all these top guys with a chance to win going into Atlanta. It's what it's all about, and it makes it exciting for the end of the year.
MODERATOR: Rory, congratulations, and best of luck in two weeks.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.