In the wake of his $15m season-ending success at East Lake on Sunday, Rory McIlroy sat down with the assembled media. Here's a truncated transcript
Q. What was going through your mind facing the putt on 16, and how happy were you with the work you did with the putter this week?
RORY MCILROY: The putt on 16 was huge. Bogeying 14 and 15, I really just wanted to stop the bleeding. And when I hit the tee shot into the bunker on 16, it was a really bad lie. I did well to get it to where it went to, to the front edge of the green. And then the first putt just jumped a little bit and it didn’t really have any momentum to get up and over that hill. But that was a tricky putt.
Maybe, I don’t know, a couple of cups on the left-hand side and just feed it down the hill. I holed a couple of nice ones, a couple of birdies to give me the cushion on the back nine. And then to stop the bleeding there on 16, just so I had a two-shot lead going into those last two holes, I could play those holes with maybe a little more freedom.
Hit a great tee shot off 17, and then to capitalise on that and make birdie, just to really be able to enjoy that walk down the last was nice.
Q. You’ve spoken a lot this season about not letting the highs get too high or the lows get too low, all the way since Maui. Is there something to the fact that you’ve had the most consistent year of your career, and you’ve also kind of reached this point in your career that you want to have these thoughts and make sure you don’t get too high or too low?
RORY MCILROY: I think so. Some of the work that I’ve put in on the mental side of the game and some of the things I’ve been doing, I definitely think you’re starting to see the fruition of that, I guess. Even winning the Players at the start of the year, the Players is a tournament I’ve never won before, but I just did my job. I went out there and played solid golf and got the job done. Today again, I would have been disappointed if I didn’t win because I’ve given myself so many chances.
But there’s something to just — just a different approach, a little bit of a different attitude. I think I played 19 times on the PGA Tour this year, 14 top 10s, three wins, I don’t know how many final groups. So just that attitude and that consistency day in, day out, I think that’s what you’ve seen over the course of this year, and hopefully will continue to see going forward.
Q. There’s a blown-up picture of you in the 18th suites with your arms up, mouth wide open like in full roar, probably from ’16. When you look at the displays of your full emotion from previous years, what do you think...?
RORY MCILROY: I think they’ve been warranted. It’s not — I guess I showed a little emotion on that last putt on 18. But sometimes it’s worked against me, and that’s the real reason that I maybe don’t show as much emotion out there as I maybe used to, because I don’t want to get too high and I don’t want to get too low.
Even when I made the two birdies on 12 and 13, it was great, but then when I made the two bogeys on 14 and 15, I tried to sort of treat those both the same. And I think if you look at my bounce-back stat this year, it’s way up there, and I think that’s a good indication of where my mind and my attitude is while I’m out there playing.
Q. What was your most important shot of the season, not necessarily best, but most important?
RORY MCILROY: I hit a 6-iron out of the fairway bunker on 15 at the Players on Sunday, sort of curved it around a tree, got it up there to 15 feet, and holed the putt for birdie.
The one that I have to pick out now would probably be that shot.
Q. You’ve talked about the importance of the strokes gained stat. You’ve had multiple major seasons, but because of the importance of that stat, is this your best season, just playing-wise?
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, I think it is. We talk about consistency. I don’t know what my strokes gained number finished at, whether it was 2-point...
RORY MCILROY: Yeah, the Holy Grail is three. I’m not going to stop until I get to three because Tiger has done that multiple seasons, and when you get to three strokes gained, you’re just in another league. I mean, that’s what I strive towards. One of my goals every year, plus three. I’m getting closer. It’s been my best season to date.
But all these little goals, like even today, I wanted to win —- so Patrick Cantlay, he went to No. 1 in the stroke average last week because of Medinah, and 100% coming in this week, I wanted to end the season with No. 1 stroke average.
Q. You’ve touched on this, but when you look at all that was on the table this week, the payback as you call it, winning the outright tournament by three from even strokes, $15m in the FedExCup, what are you most proud of and why?
RORY MCILROY: I think honestly, winning the tournament, if everyone started even. Because that was my goal at the start of the week was to just shoot the lowest score of the week. If that happened to work out the right way, then so be it. But I never strayed from that thought process. I was playing a little tournament inside my head.
I wasn’t necessarily looking at the leaderboard the way it was. I was just trying to look at it from, okay, well, Xander is 9-under for the week and I’m 9-under, 8-under. I was just trying to play the tournament as if there was no staggered start.
Q. If someone asked you for advice, like hey, I’m a recreational golfer, I get to the 18th hole and I always choke, what kind of advice would you give them to deal with the situation like you did?
RORY MCILROY: What I kept telling myself today, focus on the process, not the prize. Whether you’re playing for five bucks or 15 million or whatever it is, focus on what can you do right now that’s going to help you get towards your goal.
But you have to be so concentrated on what am I doing and the here and the now that is going to help me get closer to that goal. And that’s what I’ve tried to do all year. I really stuck to that today.
Q. What would be like the primary lesson you would say that you learned?
RORY MCILROY: I think one of the biggest things is sometimes I try to treat Sundays the same as a Thursday or Friday, and they’re not. I go into them maybe a little too relaxed and a little too — it’s not the same, and it’s about trying to get yourself in the right mindset.
And Brooks went out there in Memphis and shot 65 and just basically dominated the tournament, dominated me. And I realised if I want to become the dominant player in the world again, I need to be more like that. I need to — I guess that’s the ultimate compliment I can give Brooks is today I wanted to be a little bit more like him.
Q. If the commissioner asks what you think of the new scoring format here, what are you going to tell him?
RORY MCILROY: I think if you look at the way it all played out, you had the No. 1 and 2 in the regular season FedExCup standings playing in the final group this week, so I think it worked out well.
Q . You get asked so much about mentality and mental stuff. Were there any physical changes game-wise you made that helped you be so consistent this year?
I made a plan at the start of the year not to really focus or worry about my swing the weeks that I’m playing. I try to do all of my work with my coach Michael Bannon on off weeks. So I think that was the first tournament — he was here for — he was doing a couple other things, as well, outside of just doing stuff with me.
But this was the first tournament he’s been at this year, and we didn’t talk about swing, didn’t talk about anything.
I think you should do your work before the tournament starts, and then once you’re there, just go with what you have, and basically that’s what I did this year, I just went with what I had every week.