Sep 12, 2019: The PGA TOUR acknowledged a stellar season of consistency from Rory McIlroy, electing him the Player of the Year. In this interview, McIlroy reflects on a memorable season, one that contained 14 top-10 finishes, and looks ahead to the next season, with hopes of adding more majors and sustain his high standards.
The 2019 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year is Sungjae Im of Korea, just 21 years old. He was the loan rookie to qualify for the season-ending TOUR Championship. An incredibly consistent year with seven Top-10 finishes on the year. He joins Stewart Cink as the only players to be named the Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year and PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons. Sungjae will receive the Arnold Palmer Award in recognition of his accomplishment. Our congratulations to Sungjae who is playing this week’s military tribute at the Greenbrier, as well as the other nominees, Cameron champ, Adam Long, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff.
And I’m very pleased to be sitting next to our 2019 PGA TOUR Player of the Year, Rory McIlroy. Rory’s season was a model of consistency punctuated by landmark victories, and ultimately, the FedExCup; to win THE PLAYERS Championship and the FedExCup in the same season, with the third victory coming at the RBC Canadian Open.
In capturing the FedExCup, he became just the second player to win the season-long race multiple times, joining Tiger Woods.
Finally Rory also won the Byron Nelson award for adjusted scoring average at 69.057 and led the PGA TOUR in Top-10s with 14. Rory has received a Jack Nicklaus Award for winning the PGA TOUR Player of the Year for the third time in his career.
Rory, on behalf of the PGA TOUR, congratulations.
RORY McILROY: Thanks, Jay. Yeah, I’m at a loss for words. So think that I’ve won my third Jack Nicklaus trophy, to be presented with the Jack Nicklaus trophy by the man himself today was very surprising.
Yeah, look, I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve achieved this year. You know, I wanted to try and bring my best every single week that I played and I feel like I did that to the best of my ability, and I feel like the Top-10s, the consistency, the work that I’ve put in, I think that the greatest compliment you receive is that your peers feel like you’ve done something pretty special and for this award to be voted on by my fellow players, I’m very humbled and very honored. And I think it says a lot about what I’ve put into this year and it validates some of the decisions that I’ve made starting off the year, and you know, I couldn’t be more proud to win this award for the — for the third time.
Yeah, very — somewhat surprised, but very honored that my fellow players thought enough of my year to award me this honor again.
Q. You just made a mention and said you’re somewhat surprised. Why is that?
RORY McILROY: You know, I think, you know — look, Brooks has had an incredible year, an incredible two, three years, whatever it is. He’s the No. 1 player in the world in the world golf rankings, and I don’t know, I think this speaks volumes of what PGA TOUR players feel is important, and you know, because I think that — and I’ve harped on about this a little bit over the course of the year.
You know, I think players don’t just feel that four weeks a year is important. It’s more than that. We play a lot more. Why do we play 25 times a year if only four weeks are important? I think that’s a huge vote of confidence from the players that we play for more than just, you know, maybe what the narrative suggests, and that’s sort of — you know, I don’t know.
I thought maybe Brooks winning the PGA Championship this year was going to be the difference-maker, but you know, the other players thought differently and I’m very honored that they thought enough of my season to give me this award.
Q. I’m just wondering, just given the success you’ve had with the schedule you’ve put in place this year, will you be repeating that next year, or can we maybe hope to see you back in Ireland for The Irish Open?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I’m definitely going to repeat what I did this year. Again, I think that winning the FedExCup, winning the PGA TOUR Player of the Year, it’s validation of what I decided to do at the start of this year, which was focus a lot of my efforts in the United States and on the PGA TOUR for the first seven or eight months of the year.
You know, I don’t think I’ll miss — I don’t think I’ll miss The Irish Open for two years in a row. I saw that the dates changed to the end of May it looks like, and if that’s the case, I will definitely make the trip. I will definitely make the trip back over for that event.
But yeah, again, I’ll start, I’ll focus my efforts on the PGA TOUR in the United States for at least the first half of the year.
Q. Your comment about validating the decisions you made, obviously the focus on the PGA TOUR was a big one. Was there another one or two things that you sort of set out to do in addition to focusing hopefully here in the States that sort of got you to where you are, particularly with the consistency level you’ve ended up with?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think, you know, I really wanted to treat — I really wanted to treat every week the same. I wanted to try and bring the same intensity level each week I played. I didn’t want to try to — I’m a competitor. I want to win every event that I enter, and I didn’t want to feel like I was putting less importance on some events and more importance on others. I treated every event like it was, you know, the biggest week of the year for me, and I think that’s why you’ve seen the consistency, the 14 Top 10s, the amount of chances I give myself to win.
You know, I think one of the great things this year is I found a formula that works for me, and if I consistently repeat that formula week-after-week, you know, I’ll give myself plenty of chances to win, and you know, at the end of this year, I won three times on the PGA TOUR. I won, you know, two of the biggest events in THE PLAYERS and THE TOUR Championship, which obviously culminated with the FedExCup.
I think if I just keep doing what I’m doing and what I’ve found helps and works this year, that’s really the plan going forward. I think it’s some of the stuff I worked on mentally this year, and then some other things in my game, but then I think just the approach of trying to treat every week the same has really worked for me.
Q. You mentioned validates some decisions you made, and you just talked about scheduling. I’m wondering if your swing, any of the little technical things this year that you felt like you might have tweaked, that paid off in your performance this year?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, so I think one of the big things that I’ve realized this year is with my coach, Michael Bannon, it’s better if we do our work away from tournaments. So Michael hasn’t even been to a tournament this year. We do all our work way from tournament play.
So here at The Bear’s Club, for example, he’ll come in for three or four days. We’ll do some intensive work and he jets off again. Because the last — you know, at this point, the last thing I want to think about when I get to a golf tournament is my golf swing. I just want focus on planning my way around the golf course, course management, what I’m going to do this week. You know, get adjusted to green speeds and course conditions and all that stuff.
So that’s been probably one of the big things. I’ve probably thought about my golf swing less at golf tournaments this year, which I think has played a big role in the consistency.
Q. During the course of the season, you disclosed that you had to switch your strategy and Sunday rounds were not going to be treated like Thursday rounds; that you came to the recognition that, you know, Sunday is a Sunday and it has to be treated that way. What led to you making that statement?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think luckily, I’ve played on a lot of Sundays where I’ve been in the final group or I’ve had a chance to win a golf tournament, so I think all of this comes from experience and learning every time that you don’t win, right; you either win or you learn.
Sometimes I would maybe go into Sundays a little too relaxed, a little too — I don’t know what the word is, but just sort of trying to treat it like a Thursday when it’s not. You know, basically, trying to kid myself into the fact that it doesn’t mean any more or any less, and on a Sunday, the body of work that you’ve done Thursday through Saturday to get yourself in that position, you know, Sunday is pretty important.
I think there’s a balance to be had between making it too important and suffocating yourself, but then I think it’s almost just as bad if you — if you don’t give it the respect or the attention that it really deserves.
So I just had to find that balance this year. That was it. You know, in Canada, I really wanted to go out and be aggressive and really just take the tournament by the scruff of the neck, and I did that, and it was a big lesson for me.
You know, when you do all that great work for the three days, you know — I don’t know, I’m hopefully going to have a lot of opportunities to win golf tournaments going forward. But you never know. So any time you do have an opportunity, you want to try to grab it with both hands.
Q. If you had an option, would you rather have a year like this or a year like 2014?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean, I guess, look, every year’s different. Every year, I’ve already had a year like 2014. I might have a year like that again. You know, I’m probably — I’m happier with my game, put it that way. I’m happier with where my game is now. I feel like I’m a better player now than I was in 2014, and that gives me a lot of — that gives me a lot going forward.
Q. Since the TOUR won’t tell us, did they mention to you how close it was, the vote?
RORY McILROY: I inquired and they — they are keeping tight-lipped on that.
Q. Well, either way, congratulations. See you next year, same schedule.
RORY McILROY: Yeah (laughing).
AMANDA HERRINGTON: At this time we would like to conclude today’s call. I would like to say thank you to Commissioner Monahan and our 2019 PGA TOUR Player of the Year Rory, for joining us today. Thank you, both, and congratulations again, Rory.
RORY McILROY: Thank you.