Q&A with a true champion
Last updated: 26th November 2012
When Rory McIlroy told the media after his Dubai triumph on Sunday that it was "a great way to end a great year" he was certainly not overstating the case.
His thrilling, five-birdie finish and two-shot victory over England's Justin Rose in an edge-of-the-seat, European Tour season-closing DP World Tour Championship thriller at Dubai's Jumeirah Golf Estate on Sunday was indeed a magnificent climax to a brilliant year.
For it not only strengthened his grip on a World No 1 ranking that has been fluctuating between at least five players in the past year or two, he also made it clear that for the next few years this hugely talented 23-year-old from Holywood in Northern Ireland is going to be the man to beat, Tiger Woods or no Tiger Woods - and yes, Caroline Wozniacki or no Caroline Wozniacki.
There has been a feeling in some quarters that when tennis star Wozniacki the current lady in his life, was around, his game lacked focus, but his storming finish on Sunday seemed to lay that theory to rest.
Wozniacki was very much present - from his slow bogey start through his highly-focused birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish and all the way to his beaming victory parade where, apart the two gleaming trophies he picked up, one for winning the World Tour Championship itself and the other for finishing a clear first in the season-long Race To Dubai, he also took away winners cheques for both contests that totalled all of £838,000 and £629,000 respectively.
That in turn took his total Race to Dubai earnings to £4,445,925, more than £1 million clear of Justin Rose, his closest pursuer, and confirmed his regal status as only the World's second top money earner after Luke Donald to win the most prize money on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the same season.
He also cleaned up on the US PGA Tour this year, his second Major triumph at the US PGA Championship helping him bank the more than tidy sum of $8 047 952 - close on $2m more than second-placed Tiger Woods earned this year.
But To hear what McIlroy himself felt and thought after his Sunday bonanza, here is the full text of the Q & A he conducted with the international media.
We start with the European Tour's Michael Gibbons saying: "Rory, many congratulations. I think we're all just a bit running out of words to describe your season, but to start us off, can you explain yourself and the day you had?"
Rory McIlroyM: Yeah, I mean, I've said it all week. I just wanted to finish the season the way I thought it deserved to be finished.
You know, I've played so well throughout the year, and I didn't want to just let it tail off sort of timidly. I wanted to come here and finish in style, you know, I was able to do it.
Obviously going out today, myself and Luke were tied for the lead, and we both didn't get off to the greatest of starts. And then Justin had that incredible back nine, shot 62, and I knew midway through the back nine I needed to do something special.
Somehow summoned up the energy from somewhere to make five birdies in the last five holes. Just a great way to end this tournament, a great way to end the season, and already excited about 2013.
Question It's hard to believe that you started that round with a bogey, but a victory of that nature resonates beyond The European Tour; already in America, they are Tweeting like bonkers. So it does kind of send a message, doesn't it, about not only this event, but the nature of the win and what it means for the world No. 1 to come back and dominate.
RM: Yeah, I mean, it means a lot to me to win in this fashion, as well.
I guess in a way, Justin gave me the opportunity to do what I did. I guess seeing a target there and shooting at something, it definitely makes you more focused.
But yeah, I mean, this is a great tournament. The European Tour is still very strong. We have got some of the best players in the world that play on this tour. I think it was a great way to end the 2012 European Tour season.
So yeah, I mean, I'm obviously over the moon and I'm sure a lot of the guys are. Just looking down the list of their seasons: Like Branden Grace winning four times, it's a great story, coming from Q-School last year; Justin playing so well and getting himself into the Top 5 in the world; Luke having another great year.
There's so many strong players on this tour, and there will continue to be strong players and there will be strong players coming through.
Question How much of that finish was motivated by what Justin had done? Do you think you would have done that different circumstances? And two, with the world No. 1 status, how much does that mean to you - can you speak about how important that is to you to keep hold of it?
RM: Yeah, I think when I saw Justin, I had just made birdie on 11 to get to 19-under, and when I walked up to the 12th green, I saw Justin had gone to 20. So he had obviously eagled 14 and birdied 15.
So I knew I needed to find a few birdies on the way in, but I thought with the two par 5s and the short par 4, 15th that I had some chances coming in.
I just tried to stay patient and I guess as I said, when you have a target like that, I find that the best way to approach final rounds like this. My target was 22 going out today. I wanted to get to 22-under. I thought that would be enough. Thankfully I got to 23 and gave myself a bit of a cushion.
That's the way I sort of approach these final rounds when it's quite close like this, giving myself a target that I think if I get to and it comes up short, then fair enough. Other guys just played better. But usually it works out in your favor.
I've spoken so long, I've forgotten your second question.
Question World No. 1?
RM: I guess I already had - I got back to world No. 1 after the PGA at Kiawah and I sort of cemented that spot with the two wins in the Playoffs over in the States.
But to finish off the season like this, and gain another, I don't know what it is, 70 World Ranking points or 65; it puts me in a really strong position going into next year. It's great to know that going into the off-season.
Question Five titles, your second major, biggest lead in the World Rankings since Tiger. Is this above and beyond your expectations of the year?
RM: Yeah, I mean, I had a few goals starting off this year. Obviously I wanted to win a major. I think I wanted to win four-- I think I said four times around the world; five; The Race to Dubai I won; I guess getting to world No. 1 which I achieved earlier in the year.
But I guess every goal that I set myself at the start of 2012, I've achieved this year. So it doesn't really get much better than that.
Question So what targets do you set for 2013?
RM: I guess the same. To be focused on the majors, try to win more of those. I've won one in 11, one in 12, it would be nice to keep that run going next year.
As I said, as I've said the last few weeks, just try to keep improving as a player. I can feel like I can improve in different areas of the game still. I guess that's the challenge and the fun of practise is trying to get better all the time.
Question With all the great wins you've had this year, where does this one rank in the grand scheme of things?
RM: I'm not sure. I haven't really thought about it too much yet. I mean, I guess the PGA is going to be my highlight of 2012. I guess The Ryder Cup, as well, is up there. And then this is probably close behind I would say.
But yeah, I probably need to think about it and reflect over the next couple of days. I haven't really had a chance to reflect on the season at all. It's just been nonstop all the way through.
So you know, it would be nice to have a few weeks off and reflect and think back about all the great moments of this year.
Question When you made the bogey on the 13th, can you just tell us what were your thoughts at that moment, and can you just run us through your play through the front 13 today; what did you hit, and the distance?
RM: I guess I was one behind Justin playing 13, and 3-putting there, I was two behind with five holes to play and I thought, you know, while he's 20-under, I'm 18, I've got three good birdie chances.
So if I can make my birdies there and maybe make one other, it might be good enough. But I wanted to at least-- I thought if I could birdie those three holes, 14, 15 and 18 I knew it would be good enough for a playoff at least because he's 20-under on the last and I saw he birdied that. I heard that he birdied it, so when I went to 20-under on the 15th, he just went to 21, so I knew I needed two of the last three to win or one of the last three for a playoff.
I guess after the bogey on 13, I just focused and just tried to play as well as I could coming in. I hit a good drive down 14. I only had a 7-iron in and I didn't hit a very good shot there. Pulled it left but made a good up-and-down to make birdie. I hit a great drive on 15. I had 69 yards to the pin and hit it very close there.
16, hit another great drive. Had 150 yards in. I hit pitching wedge maybe 20 feet short of the pin. It was nice to hole that putt. That was a big putt to tie the lead at 21.
And then to hit I think the most important shot-- the most pleasing shot for me on that stretch was the iron shot into 17. I think that was a big shot. It was a tough pin position.
You could easily be a lot right into the bunker and leave yourself a tricky up-and-down. I committed to it and hit a great shot and followed it up with a great putt for a birdie to give myself that cushion going up the last.
Question What club?
Question And you played the 18th the most unlikely way; you never laid up.
RM: Yeah, I guess I didn't need to do anything else but make a five.
I sort of had a similar situation at The Honda Classic this year. Tiger was chasing me down the stretch and had posted a number. I only needed to make 6 down the last.
But same thing; you know, hit a great drive and had a chance to go for the green with an iron but decided to lay up with a wedge and hit another wedge on to the green and take my two putts. You don't have to be a hero when you need a par up the last.
Question You've not only shown your talent this season but you seemed to have proven that even when not at your best, in second or third gear, you can contend. What gear aside from the last five holes or back nine today do you feel you've been in Dubai, and do you agree with that statement that even when you're not at your best, you seem to be up there on leaderboards?
RM: Yeah, I guess that's been the big difference this year is when I'm not playing my best, I'm still able to compete and able to I guess win tournaments.
That's something I said earlier in the year that I wanted to try and get better at. I felt my previous wins before this year, I've just played great golf and no one could really get near me in any way.
But being able to win not with your best game is I guess what Tiger has done for so many years. That's why he's won so many tournaments, and I feel like I'm definitely not at that level quite yet but I'm learning how to do it.
Question Two weeks ago, you had a ringside seat when your Ryder Cup playing partner finished with five birdies in a row. Did that cross your mind this afternoon?
RM: No, it didn't actually. It didn't at all. It's a little different when you need to make five birdies for yourself and then when you need to make five birdies for a team, I think that's probably a little bit more pressure.
No, I didn't really think about that at all. But yeah, I guess it's a great way to finish a tournament and to finish a season, as well. To finish 2012 with five birdies in a row is quite nice (laughter).
Question Dressed in the final day in red at Kiawah and here, is that the thing?
RM: It seems to work. I know it's worked for someone for a while (laughing). No, I'm not sure. It was actually the only last clean tee shirt I had, that's the honest truth. But no, as I said, it worked for the last couple of times but I don't think there's anything to it.
Question After this, it's going to be even harder to say no to people who want you to play in places; are you getting good at that?
RM: Yeah, I've done my schedule. I'm sticking to it, and I'm not letting anyone persuade me to go anywhere else. I've learned my lesson over the last couple of years, and yeah, I'm going to stick to what I've planned to do.
Question So which events that you played this year won't you be playing next year?
RM: I guess-- I don't really want to make any comment on that so far. (Laughter).
Question We'll find out when you're not there?
RM: Yeah, that's true. There you go. I mean, I guess Singapore and Hong Kong are question marks, whether they are going to be-- or when they are going to be on the Tour schedule. They are probably ones that you can omit.
Plus maybe Memphis before the U.S. Open. I added that this year just to try to get a little bit more golf because I was only playing two-round tournaments.
Question Are you going to persevere at Sawgrass?
RM: Of course, yeah. I'm determined. I'm determined. I feel like I'm a good enough player to get around that course. I'm a good enough player hopefully to get around any course. But yeah, I at least want to see what the weekend is like there.
Question Can you tell us where you're playing before the Masters, your run at the start of next season?
RM: So far I've scheduled Abu Dhabi, Match Play, Honda, Doral, Houston. I think that's it.
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