Golf World (UK) - - Contents -

With a new swing, new clubs and a new wife, Rory McIl­roy sat down with Golf World to dis­cuss where his life and ca­reer go from here.

Af­ter great suc­cess in his first decade on tour, 2017 has so far been a year of tran­si­tion for Rory McIl­roy. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view for Golf World, Brian Wacker talked to the North­ern Ir­ish­man about where his life and ca­reer go from here.

Septem­ber 18th, 2007 will for­ever be marked in his­tory as the day Rory McIl­roy, the wee lad with the long curly locks, big drives and even larger ex­pec­ta­tions, turned pro­fes­sional.

It was the eve of the Bri­tish Masters, and the Ul­ster­man would go on to fin­ish in two-over 290 to tie for 42nd that week. The fol­low­ing month, how­ever, is when McIl­roy showed flashes of fu­ture suc­cess, fin­ish­ing third at the Al­fred Dun­hill Links Cham­pi­onship be­fore a tie for fourth the next week at the Madrid Open se­cured his Euro­pean Tour card for the fol­low­ing sea­son.

A decade later, he’s shed the baby fat, mar­ried a blonde Amer­i­can (Erica Stoll is the for­mer PGA of Amer­ica em­ployee who res­cued him from miss­ing his tee time at the 2012 Ry­der Cup), been world num­ber one for a to­tal of 95 weeks and racked up 22 wins around the world, in­clud­ing four ma­jor cham­pi­onships.

It has been a ‘Ror­ing’ start in­deed. But nearly three years re­moved from his last ma­jor tri­umph (as­sum­ing he doesn’t win The Open be­tween this ar­ti­cle go­ing to print and land­ing in your hands) and in the midst of a sea­son where he’s bat­tled in­jury and changed equip­ment again, McIl­roy has reached a tran­si­tional phase in his ca­reer. Where will the next 10 years take him? We sat down with the newly-wed and now fit-again world num­ber four to find out.

How is be­ing a mar­ried man af­fect­ing you per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally? Is there a greater sense of per­spec­tive?

Yeah, I had a chance to think about that. It’s go­ing to be 10 years in Septem­ber that I’m a pro, and I’m sort of look­ing at it as a 10-year jour­ney. If I look back over 10 years, am I happy with where my ca­reer’s at? I would say, yes, I guess. But I def­i­nitely feel like I can do bet­ter in the next 10 years, 2018 to 2027. You know, I al­ways felt 2017 was go­ing to be a bit of a tran­si­tional year, with Nike go­ing out of the golf equip­ment busi­ness and get­ting mar­ried, mov­ing and chang­ing res­i­dences and all that sort of stuff, it was al­ways go­ing to be a tran­si­tional year. I didn’t fac­tor an in­jury into that as well. But, yeah, it feels like the first 10 years of my ca­reer are nearly over. Not quite yet. It’s still got two ma­jors to play in, so I’d like to fin­ish my first 10 years very well. But I feel from 2017 on­wards is my win­dow to do as much as I can to make my mark on the game, to see how many tour­na­ments and ma­jors I can win. This game is what I’ve wanted to do for my whole life, so I’ll al­ways be de­ter­mined, I’ll al­ways be in­tense and try to get the most out of my game. I don’t think that will change just be­cause I’m mar­ried. My men­tal­ity will just be the same. It might help me get over dif­fi­cult losses a lit­tle eas­ier. But I’m in a great place in my life and I feel very set­tled and very lucky to be in this po­si­tion. So, yeah, I guess it’s a

bit of a part two of this thing we call a ca­reer or jour­ney or job or what­ever.

How have your re­cent in­juries af­fected you and what are you do­ing to pre­vent more?

Not at all. I feel good. I feel re­ally good. I feel it’s im­prov­ing each and ev­ery week. I feel bet­ter than I felt last week, and last week I felt bet­ter than the week be­fore. I think I’m man­ag­ing it the right way now and con­cen­trat­ing on play­ing, con­cen­trat­ing on my short game, and not hit­ting as many balls. I’ll hit balls for maybe 30, 40 min­utes max­i­mum, and that’s re­ally it. It’s qual­ity over quan­tity at this point. If I can get qual­ity prac­tice for those 40 min­utes that I hit balls, I should be to­tally fine. Hon­estly, I haven’t lifted a weight all year, and it’s tough for me to come out and say I don’t. The most I’ve lifted in the gym is 15 pounds this year be­cause of my in­jury. I’m nowhere near as strong as I used to be. I’m not. But I don’t need to be. I feel like phys­i­cally if I’m sta­ble and I’m strong in the right ar­eas, then I’m OK.

How dif­fer­ent is your ap­proach to the game now com­pared to 12 months ago, and say, five years ago?

Golf is such that no one can stick to the ex­act same rou­tine the whole time be­cause you need to change it up and mix it up. Things get stale and you get tired of stuff. I re­mem­ber back when I was liv­ing in North­ern Ire­land in 2010 and 2011 and maybe part of 2012, all I would do was see Michael [Ban­non] once or twice a week and just prac­tise the other days. I would rarely play. Then I would pitch up at tour­na­ments and I’d be to­tally fine. I didn’t need to play golf. If I just prac­tised and knew that I was swing­ing it well then ev­ery­thing else would sort of fig­ure it­self out on the course. Over the past cou­ple of years though, it’s gone the other way. If I’m

‘I play more than I prac­tise. It hink I fig­ure stuffout on the course more now than by beat­ing balls’

hit­ting it great on the range it doesn’t trans­late on the course, so I need to go out on the course and play. One of the big­gest things now is I play more than I prac­tise, be­cause as golfers, that’s what we are. I think I fig­ure stuff out on the course more now than by beat­ing balls.

Do you feel the crit­i­cism of your putting is un­fair, or is it some­thing you agree with and you’re work­ing to fix?

There are fine lines and there are days you feel re­ally good and some days you don’t. But it’s the days you don’t that you have to make sure they’re not too bad. Ev­ery­one’s go­ing to get hot with the put­ter once in a while, and I’ve proved over the years that I can get hot with it and play well and win tour­na­ments. It’s one of those things, there’s parts of the game that come easy to peo­ple and parts of the game peo­ple have to work hard at. The swing­ing of the club and hit­ting shots is what feels nat­u­ral to me. The putting just doesn’t. It’s funny, my dad jokes that when­ever we hope­fully have kids, Erica and I, that one day he said he wants to try to men­tor them and make them bet­ter than me. I said ‘what do you mean?’ He says, ‘Well, I think I made a few mis­takes with you. I’m go­ing to start him on the putting green and work back­wards’. So my dad has this Rory 2.0 project in the mak­ing. He goes, ‘I started you the wrong way around’. It’s just been one of those things since I was a kid, I al­ways had to work harder at putting than the rest of it. It comes and goes. Not that I’ve ac­cepted it, but it gets to the point where you try to make a putt and if it doesn’t go in there’s no point beat­ing your­self up too much.

Is it harder to win ma­jors now than be­fore the likes of Jor­dan Spi­eth, Jason Day and Dustin John­son came to promi­nence a few years ago?

I think so. I think guys have started to play this mod­ern game of golf that we know. If you look at the last few ma­jor win­ners – DJ, Hen­rik, I mean, Jimmy Walker gets it out there – they all hit it a long way. Ser­gio and Justin go­ing down the stretch (at the Masters), they don’t hit it short, and most re­cently Brooks at the US Open. It’s get­ting to the point where guys are go­ing to hit driver more of­ten. I felt like when you watched Tiger dom­i­nate, it was a lit­tle more of a con­ser­va­tive game. Nowa­days, most guys are say­ing, ‘OK, I’m go­ing to hit driver, I’m go­ing to get it down there, and I’m go­ing to be ag­gres­sive’. And if you’re on that week with the driver, the course be­comes so much eas­ier. I think that’s part of the rea­son. Guys aren’t afraid to be ag­gres­sive and to score. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think it’s got­ten harder. It’s al­ways been hard to win a ma­jor cham­pi­onship. I just think, as you said, the depth of tal­ent out there is as deep as it’s ever been.

Why do you think the tal­ent pool is so deep th­ese days, around the world?

There are a num­ber of fac­tors. The teach­ing is bet­ter, the knowl­edge is bet­ter. Yeah, there are just more play­ers. I think it comes back to Tiger, too. His big­gest im­pact on the game is the fact there are so many kids now that are try­ing to make it. It used to be kids used to play golf as a hobby and some­thing to do in the sum­mer­time. Now, kids want to play golf to win tour­na­ments and be a pro­fes­sional golfer.

So that’s been a huge im­pact as well. I mean, you look at this high school class of 2011, you’ve got Jor­dan, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, and all th­ese guys are com­ing through. So it’s deep out here. It’s great for the game. You might not see a dom­i­nant player in the game like we’ve seen in the past, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Ob­vi­ously, I’d love to try to em­u­late some of that dom­i­nance, but I think in this day and age, it’s a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult.

Do you feel you need to kick on again at this point to keep ahead of the young guns and be­come one of the greats?

A lit­tle maybe. You look at Dustin and the lead he has in the world rank­ings; he’s far ahead of the rest of us at the minute. I wanted to play a heavy sched­ule lead­ing up to the Masters and couldn’t. Then I wanted to play a lot this year and it just hasn’t panned out that way. But I’m go­ing to play a lot this sum­mer. I don’t feel like I need to kick on nec­es­sar­ily, but I did miss it when I was in­jured. When you’re away from it you re­alise how much you miss it, how much you love it and how lucky you are be­ing able to play this game for a liv­ing. But at the end of the day, I’m not wor­ried be­cause it’s a long ca­reer ahead and I’m only 28 years old. I still have quite a long way to go, hope­fully.

‘When Erica and I hope­fully have kids, my dad say she wants to men­tor them and make them bet­ter than me!’

McIl­roy is con­vinced his next 10 years can be even more suc­cess­ful.

With wife Erica at the Ry­der Cup last year.

McIl­roy’s dad Gerry has been a driv­ing force.

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