Just over an hour after tapping in the winning putt on the 18th green at Congressional, new US Open champion Rory McIlroy was in the media centre giving his first press conference.
Q. Rory, have you had any time in the last hour or so to let it sink in that you're the U.S. Open champion?
Rory: Not really. Obviously I have a lot of commitments, photos and interviews and everything. But it will probably take a little bit of time to sink in. But just to sit here, knowing that I've just won that trophy and following in the footsteps of one of my best friends, Graeme McDowell, last year at Pebble, you know, it's a great feeling. And I got my first Major Championship out of the way quite early on in my career, especially after what's happened the last couple of months. It feels great. And just looking forward to putting myself in the picture for hopefully many more.
Q. Rory, phenomenal golf out there. You said that you knew that you had the game to play here and you felt good about it. Was there any point during the week that you said, yep, I think this might be the week?
Rory: I think yesterday was a big day for me to get over that, playing in the last group, going out with the lead. To play such solid golf, that gave me a lot of confidence going into today. And knowing that I could handle it and to go out there and to basically, from the get-go, birdie the first hole. And then to play such solid golf after that, it felt good all week.
Even when I got here last week to do my practice rounds and everything, I felt like this golf course was well suited to me. The conditions helped, as well, you know. It was soft. With my high ball flight, I was able to stop it on the greens. When you hit the fairways like I was able to this week, you're going to give yourself a lot of opportunities for birdies.
Q. Could you talk about the 10th hole and that shot and how cool it was with that theater and everything and the reaction you got at that moment?
Rory: Yeah, it was -- I thought that was probably the biggest point in the round because Yang had just stuck it in there close. So to follow that shot up with mine was pretty cool. To get the ovation coming on to the green, it was nice. And I was very happy to play the 10th and the 11th hole at 1-under par today, because they were two holes that you had the possibility of making a big number on. And to play those at 1-under par was big for me.
After I got past the 11th, I sort of knew I would have had to have done something really, really stupid to not win.
Q. You said outside that you were trying to emulate Tiger. What were you trying to emulate and why, exactly?
Rory: Just growing up and watching him, watching him dominate at the Masters at '97, watching him dominate at Pebble in 2000 and St. Andrews. And just trying to go out there with the same intensity that he has, and the same -- no lead is big enough. That's all I was trying to do. I was trying to go bogey-free today, which didn't work for me. I missed the putt at 12, which I was quite annoyed at.
I don't know if he went bogey-free at Pebble on the last day. I'm not too sure. I was trying to go out and trying to make no mistakes, and really not give anyone a chance to catch me.
Q. You mentioned at the beginning that you were glad to get your first major out of the way. Even though you haven't played in that many, were you already starting to sense a little bit of pressure as each one goes by? With so much hype about your game and the ability to win Majors, did you feel that pressure already, especially being close a few times?
Rory: Yeah, definitely. The Open last year, you know, you shoot a bad second round, it's okay. And I thought nearly getting myself into the playoff at Whistling Straits was a great experience.
But then I felt like coming back to Augusta this year, I felt like that was a great opportunity to get my first major and it obviously didn't quite work out. But to come back straightaway at the U.S. Open, straight after and to win, that is -- it was nice. And as I said, to get one out of the way early, you can always call yourself a Major champion. And hopefully in the not so distant future I'll be able to call myself a multiple major champion.
Q. How much of it is joy winning and how much is relief given how much you've been through and all the build up in your career?
Rory: Yeah, there's a lot of joy, and especially with this victory, there's quite a bit of relief, as well. More joy, though. I knew going out today that I was very comfortable. I knew most of the field were going to have a hard time to catch up to the score that I was on. So, yeah, obviously just very happy to win the U.S. Open and to win it in a bit of style, as well, is always nice.
Q. After Augusta, a lot was written about a mental scars and all that kind of business. I wonder did you see any of that, and if you did have any mental scars, how were you able to get over them so quickly, if there was a key moment or key thought or somebody said something?
Rory: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I felt like I got over the Masters pretty quickly. I kept telling you guys that and I don't know if you believed me or not. But here you go (laughter) nice to prove some people wrong.
But, no, I don't know, I was very honest with myself and I knew what I needed to do differently. And that was the thing. I had a clear picture in my mind of what I needed to do and where my focus needed to be when I got myself in that position again. And luckily enough for me, I was able to get in that position, you know, the major right after Augusta. To be able to finish it off the way I did, you know, it just tells me that I learned from it and I've moved on and now I've got this, I can go ahead and concentrate on getting some more.
Q. How much does it mean that your dad was here to celebrate this monumental victory with you?
Rory: Yeah, he's been a big help to me all week, just having breakfast with him. I feel like with my dad I can share things with him that maybe I couldn't do with a friend or something like that. So just to sit with him and talk about how I'm feeling and how I'm going to approach the day, he's always so positive. So to have those positive thoughts in your head from him, it's nice to go out on the golf course and think about what he said. He's been a huge help to me, not just this week, obviously, but my entire life. If it wasn't for my mom and dad sacrificing so much, I probably wouldn't be sitting up here right now.
Q. Along those lines, what did you say to each other when you first saw him afterwards? Was the first time you saw him during the round before you tapped in at 18?
Rory: Yeah, I was looking for him. I knew he was going to be somewhere close after I hit my second shot and was walking down the 18th fairway, I was looking for him over on the left side somewhere. I just spotted him before I hit my first putt. And then when I put it up to whatever it was, a foot or whatever, I looked to him and gave him a little smile, a little grin. I think I might have said Happy Father's Day, I think that might have been the first thing. But, yeah, he's obviously going to be proud of me and everything. It's just great to have him here.
Q. Do you look forward to the day when Tiger is a hundred percent healthy and you can kind of test yourself against one of the best ever?
Rory: Yeah, I mean, it would be great to -- I've watched Tiger over the last 15 years. It would be great. When I was growing up, I always had putts to win Tiger Woods in the Masters or U.S. Open. So it would be great to be able to get in contention one day, whether it be a Major or just a regular event and go down the stretch with him because I've never really had that experience before.
As I said, hopefully he can get healthy and can get back playing good golf, because the game of golf is a better place with him playing well.
Q. If you've had expectations on you up until now, they're only now going to grow, now that you've won one. When you hear people saying, here's the next Tiger Woods, or Jack Nicklaus's record is in danger, how difficult is that for you, and how do you think about it? How do you absorb that?
Rory: I don't think you can think about it. It's only people saying these things. It's not -- it's nice that people say that he could be this or he could be that or he could win 20 major championships, but at the end of the day I've won one. I obviously want to add to that tally. But you can't let what other people think of you, influence what you have to do. You have to just go out there, work hard, believe in yourself. As long as you believe in yourself and believe that you're doing the right things, that's all you can really do.
Q. Do you remember when you first thought or when you were first told you could be a Major champion one day?
Rory: No. I think the first time that I realized it for myself was about this time last year, when Graeme won at Pebble, and then Louis won at St. Andrews. And then Martin won at Whistling Straits, and then I got myself in a good position at the Masters, and then obviously now. I think when Graeme won last year, it made me realize that winning a Major championship was achievable, attainable. To see a great friend like that win a Major, it only inspires you. It inspires you to go out and emulate them. And funny enough, I was able to do that this week.
Q. You've just won an away match. You've had a lot of support, did it surprise you and what does it feel like?
Rory: It feels like a home match. The support I got out there today was absolutely incredible, for a foreigner to come over and play in front of these U.S. crowds. I think every cloud has a silver lining, and I think what happened at Augusta was a great thing for me in terms of support. A lot of people, I feel like, when I came back to the States to play at Charlotte, you know, the support for me there was fantastic. It's just been incredible the way people have supported me and cheered for me the whole week. It's nice. And to be able to have that when you come over here and feel like you're one of their own is probably going to be pretty important in the next few years.
Q. Your swing has been described as the best in golf. Can you give us any idea as to how it evolved or are you conscious of that at all?
Rory: Yeah, I've been working with the same coach, Michael Bannon for, I don't know, 15 years, maybe, something like that, 16 years. So we -- at this moment in time, we know where we want my golf swing to be. And we know the positions that it needs to be in for me to hit good shots. It's been a long process. A lot of the early days was fundamentals, getting a good grip, good setup, good alignment, everything like that, building the base of the swing. And then from there, at an early age I used to be very upright, my left arm used to be very, very high at the top.
And then I remember at about 13 or 14, I was getting a very flat swing, so I was just trying to find a happy medium in there. And it feels as we've got to the point now -- probably felt when I was 16, was I don't feel like my swing has changed that much since then until now. I find a few adjustments here and there.
Q. Curious about what went on between you and your caddie, JP Fitzgerald today. Yesterday you talked about focusing, how aware are you, and how much attention did you -- the spectators, the raucous crowd, the theater that was going on, were you able to focus in today, as well?
Rory: Yeah, that was another thing that I learned from Augusta. I didn't speak to JP enough over that last day. I feel like even if it's not about golf, having a conversation about something completely different is probably the best thing for me because it takes my mind off it and it takes me getting too involved in what I'm doing. To have him there and have him talk about what he did last night or just anything like that, it takes your mind off what you're doing for a couple of minutes. And it's nice to have that. So that was a huge thing for me that I learned at Augusta. I need to keep talking to JP and just have conversations going down the fairways. And it seemed to work out for me this week.
Q. You looked extremely comfortable on the greens this week. It was something Graeme mentioned comparing you with Tiger Woods, as has been done recently, that maybe the only little weakness, perhaps, would be the putter. Could you talk a little bit about the work you've done with Dave Stockton? It seems to have made a big difference between you since the Masters, especially The Memorial, holed all the crucial putts?
Rory: Yeah, you know, again, the work that I've done with Dave Stockton has been more about how to approach a putt, not focusing on technique so much, more like green reading, your routine, and everything like that. And people often said to me we think you're too quick on the greens. But he thought the opposite. You're taking too much time, why are you taking three practice strokes, don't take any practice strokes anymore. See the target, where I want to hit it, and just go with it. If I have any sort of technical thing in my thought, in my stroke, it would just be to keep the back of my left hand going towards the target, and that's all we really worked on. It seemed to work.
I have to give a big thank you to Paul Hurrion as well who helped me on the greens. Without the knowledge and the understanding he has given to me about my putting, about my stroke, and about -- it's a very scientific thing, you know, with him. But if I didn't have that knowledge, then I probably wouldn't be able to putt as well as I am now.
Q. Graeme said he left you a note in your locker this morning. Could you share what the gist of that was?
Rory: First thing he said to me, what golf course are you playing this week? And then he just said that I've been playing great and just keep it going. But I saw that note just when I was putting my golf shoes on to go out to the range today. It meant a lot. I had a note from his caddie, Ken, as well. So it was nice to see those just before I went out to play.
Q. What are the hopes of having another Twitter photo of Charl, this time with that trophy in the picture?
Rory: If he wants one, he can have one. It will be nice that he can wear his green jacket and I can hold this. Maybe. I don't know what he's up to. But, yeah, we'll try.
Q. Looked like you had beautiful rhythm with all 14 clubs, putter and driver, especially. But really all the clubs. Do you have a mantra in your head for rhythm that maybe we could steal from you?
Rory: Not really. When you're swinging well and you're that comfortable, everything just seems quite rhythmical anyway, even the way you walk and just your whole thought process, everything just seems to go quite well. But, no, nothing, really. I didn't really have a swing thought this week. I was just seeing the target and hitting it. It was just one of those weeks where everything was on and it worked out the right way.