Q. Obviously this is the first chance you've had to compete in The Open since you lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool two years ago. How much are you looking forward to challenging here this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I'm excited to be back. Obviously missed last year at St. Andrews. It was one that I'd earmarked since 2010, and possibly have a chance to win a Claret Jug there. I feel of all the courses on the Open road, that's probably my best chance to win, so to miss that last year was very disappointing. But excited to be back and to a golf course that I've never played before. I don't really have any experience here at Troon, so it was good to get a couple of good looks at it last week, and then I just played another 18 holes this morning.
So, yeah, excited to be back, and hopefully by the end of the week I can try to put my name on that Claret Jug a second time.
Q. I was just wondering if you could explain how the inclusion of golf in the Olympics has changed drug testing a little bit, if it has for you guys, and what you think about drug testing in golf in general? Is it robust enough?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've been tested by the IGF or Olympic testing once this year and that was the Friday of the US Open, but it was only a urine test. I haven't been blood-tested yet. It was only a urine test.
Yeah, I mean, I on average probably get tested four to five times a year, which is very little compared to the rest of the Olympic sports. Obviously I've gotten to know a lot of athletes over the years, and whether it be coming to their houses and doing blood and urine, I think drug testing in golf is still quite far behind some of the other sports.
But, again, I don't really know of any drug that can give you an advantage all the way across the board. There are obviously drugs that can make you stronger. There are drugs that can help your concentration. But whether there's something out there where it can make you an overall better player, I'm not sure. Physically, obviously, you can get stronger, recover faster. So, I mean, for example, HGH is only -- you can't really pick it up in a urine test. I could use HGH and get away with it. So I think blood testing is something that needs to happen in golf just to make sure that it is a clean sport going forward. But, yeah, I think if golf is in the Olympics and golf wants to be seen as a mainstream sport as such, it has to get in line with the other sports that test more rigorously.
Q. Can I just take you briefly back to last year. I just wondered how difficult it was for you and whether you actually watched the event? Did you try to ignore that it was actually happening? Did you sit and watch it day to day? And also, are there any sporting events that you were offered to play in this year that you got back?
RORY McILROY: It was difficult. I actually thought it was going to be more difficult watching it. I think because it was at St. Andrews and because I was going in there feeling like I was playing well. I was coming off the back of a decent spring. I had a couple of wins. Didn't have the best U.S. Open, but gave myself somewhat of a chance on the last day. So I felt like I was going in there with some form. Not to be able to have a chance was disappointing.
But I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching over the weekend, as funny as that sounds. But I sort of realised that it put things in perspective for me, as well. I think I went to the gym or I went to the pool as the playoffs started and I was rehabbing my ankle at the time and everything.
Q. You say you haven't played Royal Troon until coming here. Does that put you at a disadvantage this week?
RORY McILROY: I don't think so. I've gone to plenty of golf courses before that I haven't played and been able to do well on them. So I think the majority of the field, you've got some of the older guys, obviously, like your Ernie Elses or Phil Mickelsons that have played at Troon before in an Open Championship. But I think most of the guys here that are either up around the top of the World Golf Rankings or at the top of the sport at the minute probably didn't play the Open at Troon when it was last here.
So I don't think I'm at a disadvantage at all. I had two good looks at the golf course last Thursday and Friday. I just played another 18 holes this morning. I'll probably play a bit of a loop tomorrow. Might play the first five and the last five, something like that. So I feel like I've had enough good looks at it to know what I'm doing around here.
Q. If there's no blood testing in golf, what's that tell you about golf's attitude to the threat of doping?
RORY McILROY: I'd say it's pretty low the threat of doping in golf. As I said, I don't know myself of a banned substance that could help a golfer across the board, with driving, with putting, with concentration. I just don't know of one.
I mean, you look at the guys out here, there's a few guys that you would call athletic. But apart from that, we're not trying to get on our bikes and cycle 200 kilometres every day.
Q. Shouldn't the sport be more vigilant?
RORY McILROY: No, definitely. I'm all for it. I'm all for it. That's what I was alluding to in my last answer. I think it should be. So whether that happens or not, I'm sure it will. If golf wants to stay in the Olympics and wants to be part of the Olympic movement, it has to get in line with the rest of the sports.
Q. Regarding your 18 holes this morning, how did the Postage Stamp go?
RORY McILROY: I think I took an 8 or a 9, so that didn't go too well. Headed into the front right bunker and it took me like five or six goes to get out of it. There is a lot of sand in the bunker. So when the ball just trickles in back into the bunkers, it doesn't go into the middle. It sort of stays. Obviously that lip there is basically vertical, so it sort of just stayed there. And every time I tried to get it out, it would go back into the same spot. So bit of a struggle at the Postage Stamp for me. So hopefully the struggle is out of the way for that hole.
Q. Obviously, you've been known as a very streaky player yourself. How difficult is it to sustain that?
RORY McILROY: It is quite difficult, but I feel like you get on a run where you start to win a couple of events and you have momentum on your side. The summer that I had in '14 and then Jordan right after in '15, and then Jason from the end of '15 into this year, Dustin starting as well.
I think golf -- I mean, golf is 75%, if not more, mental. Once you get into that good groove and you get some momentum and you feel good about yourself and you get that confidence going, you just try to keep it going as long as you possibly can. But then there is a balance to be had between playing a lot and trying to keep it going, and making sure that you're well-rested and fresh every time you tee it up to play.
Q. Rory, it hasn't happened with you very often, but when you're in a period where things aren't quite right and it just seems as though it would be quite easy to hang your head and so on, what do you hang on to? What keeps you going? What are the things you must adhere to to help yourself get out of that run?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I don't know what it is. It's not a case of trying to wait for something to happen. You have to try to make something happen. So I think one thing that I always try not to lose the belief, you know, the belief that you can hit the shot that's required at the right time or hole the putt that's needed. I feel like that's the big thing. Once you lose belief in yourself and start to doubt yourself, that's when it can start to go the other way.
So I think the big thing for me, and for most players, is still having that belief. I don't know if it's to keep telling yourself you can do it. But for me, sometimes I can doubt myself on the course and then it snowballs and starts to go the other way. I feel like belief is a big thing for me, and that comes from confidence at the end of the day and seeing yourself hit good shots and hole putts.
Q. I think I read something over here that, yeah, you're still a member of the big four but you're in danger of becoming Ringo. I don't know if you hear stuff like that or read stuff?
RORY McILROY: I haven't heard that, no. Probably not the first time I've been compared to the Beatles.But I mean, I'm happy where my game is. I can't worry about other guys. If I focus on myself and make sure that I'm playing the best that I can, I'm pretty confident that if I go out and play my best golf I'm going to win more times than not.
I've got four major championships, and I'd love to add to that tally, just as those guys would love to add to their one or two majors that they have and just keep going.
Q. When you won those back-to-back majors in 2014, would you have believed it when someone would have said to you, it's going to be at least 23 months before you win another one?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, winning majors is not easy. It's not just about turning up and playing and collecting a trophy. There is more that goes into it than that. Yeah, I would have believed it if someone said you're not going to win. If someone said at the PGA Championship at Valhalla, you won't win one of your next five majors you play. I'd be like, yeah, well, sometimes it goes like that and it goes in cycles. It's a very long career, so there's plenty of time to try and rack up more major championships. If that means I have to go through a dry spell of two years, then so be it. But I feel like when I play my best golf, yeah, if I'm not the favourite, I'm one of the favourites. I'm pretty confident that if I do play my best golf, then there's a good chance that I'll end up coming out on top.
Q. Jordan just said a little while ago that pulling out of the Olympics is the most difficult decision that he's ever made....do you guys feel that maybe you've let the game down a little bit considering non-golf fans will be watching in Rio?
RORY McILROY: Honestly, I don't think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for him. I don't feel like I've let the game down at all. I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships, and all of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game, and I get that. But at the same time that's not the reason that I got into golf. I got into golf to win. I didn't get into golf to get other people into the game.
But, look, I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions. But I'm very happy with the decision that I've made and I have no regrets about it. I'll probably watch the Olympics, but I'm not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.
Q. Which events will you watch in that case?
RORY McILROY: Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.
Q. As you've matured as a golfer, do you feel you've become a little bit less aggressive and more pensive about the way you're playing the game and maybe that leads to more tentative play than maybe you might like?
RORY McILROY: I definitely feel like I've become a little more conservative or tentative over the years. A little bit, yeah. Sometimes there's been a couple of times this year where I have felt like that, whether it be the third round at Augusta or even the first round at Oakmont where I've been a little bit tentative and just haven't -- maybe just haven't had the confidence in myself to hit the shots that are required, and that goes back to that belief. Sometimes if you're not quite playing your best golf and you start to doubt yourself, it's hard to hit the shots that you need to at the right time. So, yeah, a little bit.
I mean, I think with experience sometimes there's a little bit of memories that sort of stick with you and stick in your head. Sometimes they're good, and sometimes they're bad. I wouldn't say -- I think I've become more conservative. I've tried to play smarter. I still feel like if I play smartly, I can still make enough birdies to win tournaments. I feel like one of the big things this year is why I haven't won more is because I've made enough birdies, but I haven't limited the damage. I've made too many bogies. And whether that comes from maybe being a little bit aggressive at some points to being a little tentative and missing on the wrong side or, I think there's -- yeah, but I definitely think one of the criticisms I have on myself this year is maybe not being aggressive enough and committing and trusting myself.