7 Takeaways From Rory McIlroy's Latest Press Conference

Rory McIlroy discussed a range of subjects at his press conference before his appearance at the Cognizant Classic

Rory McIlroy talks to the media before the 2024 Cognizant Classic
Rory McIlroy has shared his thoughts on a range of subjects at his latest press conference
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy takes part in his third PGA Tour event within a month at this week’s Cognizant Classic.

Before teeing it up in the opening round at PGA National, the 34-year-old spoke to the media, where he touched on a number of subjects, including memories of his win at the event in 2012 and Talor Gooch’s controversial “asterisk” comment concerning the possibility of McIlroy's winning The Masters.

Here are seven of the main talking points from the press conference.

He Keeps Flags From His Wins For Motivation

Rory McIlroy holding a flag at the 2023 Players Championship

Rory McIlroy has revealed he keeps the flags from the 18th holes of his winning tournaments

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McIlroy has no shortage of wins in his career, with 24 on the PGA Tour alone. It’s common practice for players to give their caddies the flags from the 18th green following a victory, but that’s not something McIlroy subscribes to. Instead, he keeps them for motivation.

He explained: “I like to keep those, and they're all in my gym sort of more for motivation. I go in there and I see all the flags on the wall and I want to add flags to those walls. That's my motivation."

That begged the question, what does McIlroy’s caddie Harry Diamond receive? McIlroy answered jokingly: “10%,” before continuing: “No, so Harry actually has - I think he has in his house framed the four shirts that I wore to win the four Major championships. But, yeah, I mean he's happy enough.”

His Win At The 2012 Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy with the Honda Classic trophy

Rory McIlroy has explained what motivated his win at the 2012 Honda Classic

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On the subject of victories, McIlroy took the honours at this week's event (then named The Honda Classic) in 2012, and he revealed missing out on World No.1 the week before had inspired the triumph.

“I remember having a chance to get to World No.1 the week previous at the World Match Play in Tucson,” began McIlroy. “Hunter Mahan beat me in the final and I was pretty motivated. I don't know if I quite needed to win to get to World No.1 that week, but I was pretty motivated to get the job done seeing I missed out on an opportunity the week prior.”

The State Of His Game

Rory McIlroy with the Hero Dubai Desert Classic trophy

Rory McIlroy has assessed the current state of his game

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A dozen years on, and McIlroy is still as good as at the top of his game, standing second in the world rankings, which was helped by a win at the Dubai Desert Classic in January. He assessed the state of his game heading into a crucial part of the season.

He said: “I had two events in the Middle East and played well in Dubai. I feel like Pebble, the weather disrupted it and the courses were super soft. Won the pro-am portion, so I guess it wasn't all bad. And then Riv was pretty good. I made a mess of 15 and 16 on the first day, but apart from that, I felt like I played some pretty good golf. Feel like my game is in pretty good shape.”

He’s Planning A Pre-Masters Trip To Augusta National

Rory McIlroy during the first round of the 2023 Masters

McIlroy is planning a trip to Augusta National to prepare for The Masters

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One of the main reasons McIlroy has such a crowded schedule is to ensure he is as prepared as possible for the first Major of the year, The Masters, in April. That is the one Major title that eludes the 34-year-old, and he also revealed a trip to Augusta National is on the cards to assist his preparations.

He explained: “So I think for me, I'm going to try to get through this Florida swing here this week, Bay Hill and The Players, and just really focus on those three events and try to play well.

“Then I've got two weeks after The Players, and I think that's when I'll start to turn my attention to practicing and maybe trying to hit some shots that I might need for that week. Then probably go to Augusta on the way to San Antonio and play for a couple days. Yeah, so I think try to do a good job of not thinking about it for the next three, then after that, it'll be all systems go.”

He's Giving Talor Gooch ‘The Benefit Of The Doubt’

Talor Gooch and Rory McIlroy shake hands at the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational

McIlroy is giving Talor Gooch "the benefit of the doubt" over his controversial "asterisk" comment

(Image credit: Getty Images)

LIV golfer Talor Gooch thinks even if McIlroy wins The Masters it needs an “asterisk” without some of the world’s best from the circuit in the field. However, McIlroy was in forgiving mood on the matter.

He said: “I think to be fair to Talor, if you read the entire - the question and then the answer, it's not as if he just came out with that. I feel like whoever did the interview led him down that path to say that, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt there a little bit. He just agreed with what the interviewer asked.”

Playing Opportunities For Upcoming PGA Tour Pros

A PGA Tour Q-school flag

McIlroy has acknowledged the frustrations of Korn Ferry Tour graduates and players going through Q-school

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While McIlroy has aspirations of completing a career Grand Slam, asterisk or otherwise, for some players, merely getting a chance to play on the PGA Tour and keep a card is becoming increasingly difficult.

McIlroy gave his verdict on their struggles, saying: “Yeah, seems like it's getting more difficult to get your card and it seems like it's more difficult to keep your card, especially with this sort of tiered system now we have on Tour.

“But, I mean, I understand it, but then you look the - what Nick Dunlap did at Amex or what Jake Knapp did last week, I get that you need the opportunities, but when you do get those opportunities, you just need to go out there and play well.

“But it's supposed to be tough I think is the thing. It's supposed to be competitive. Supposed to be cutthroat. And I think that's sort of what we're trying to make the Tour, is more like that, so that you try to make the most competitive product that you can.”

'Maybe On The 10th Green Or 11th Tee'

Rory McIlroy at the Genesis Invitational

Rory McIlroy has offered his thoughts on where he is in his career

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McIlroy also considered how far into his career he is. He said: “I turned pro in '07. What is this, my 17th year? Another 17 I'll be 51. Yeah, I would say I'm pretty close to the turn at this point, if not a little bit after. Maybe on the 10th green or 11th tee.”

Then, when asked if he could sustain the same hunger for the game over the next 17 years, he responded: “For the next 17, no. I would say for the next 10, absolutely. Seventeen feels like a stretch.

He then jokingly hinted at quitting if he wins The Masters, saying: “Or a green jacket and just walk away.”

McIlroy is in a group with defending champion Chris Kirk and Jake Knapp in the opening two rounds of the Cognizant Classic. The three go out at 7.40am ET (12.40pm GMT) in round one, with a 12.40pm ET (5.40pm GMT) start in round two.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.