Rory McIlroy is coming off an encouraging finish to last week's Wells Fargo Championship, storming late and tying for a fourth-place finish. This weekend, he's competing in The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Before this weekend's tournament, the 27-year-old took the time to chat with AOL Sports and answer a few questions about his life on and off the course.
You can read the conversation below.
What does your preparation typically consist of before a tournament?
Sometimes my schedule doesn't always allow it but, ideally, a week off between events is the preparation I'd hope for. That way, I can get adequate rest, work on my fitness and spend the necessary time on the range. Either way, I like getting to each venue a few days before a tournament a get a really good feel for the layout of the course. During the event itself, I'll always try and keep doing some limited gym work and take the occasional run, depending on my tee times.
What was your reaction when approached by EA Sports to be the namesake of the PGA Tour video game? How much input did you have in the game?
In a good way, I was really taken aback and a little surprised. And it still takes a little getting used to when I see my name and face fronting the video game. I actually spent a surprising amount of time with some of the most creative and clever people I've ever met. Thankfully they spared me the deeply technical, software and hardware stuff but I was delighted that I was so involved and consulted on many of the games features –- I never knew just how much goes into creating facial expressions.
Golf fans are typically more tame than in other sports -- but do you have any funny or interesting stories about fan interactions?
Oh, I could tell some great stories about the strange stuff that has happened with fans, but that'd be tour-talk, right? Anyway, I remember having the best laugh when my drive on the 14th at the Tour Championship in 2014 ended up in the pocket of a spectator. My ball had hit the tree above him and had fallen into his pocket. Of course, I couldn't see this from the tee but when I got there this guy was standing pointing to the pocket of his shorts. After much laughing and joking -- who was going to retrieve to ball from the guy's shorts? -- the rules official allowed me a free drop and I went on to make par.
Golf has seen a huge influx of young talent in recent years -- are there any Tour members you've developed friendly relationships with over the years?
In all honesty, I believe there's a great atmosphere and camaraderie among the players on Tour, even among the younger ones coming through and those – I include myself in this – who've been around a while. Of course there's natural rivalry between many of the top ranked players but because we rarely play matchplay, the focus is shooting lower than the field rather than anything more personal. That said, I would be good friends with Rickie (Fowler). We're of a similar age and our careers have had a similar trajectory, and we always have a bit of a laugh when we're together. He was also a great support to me when he came over to play in last year's Irish Open, the tournament hosted by my foundation.
Outside of golf, what's your favorite sport and team to follow?
Football and rugby would still be my favorites outside golf. It's very well known that I'm a big Manchester United fan but I'm also a big follower of Irish and Ulster Rugby. I still have a couple of friends playing on these teams, so I really do have a vested interest in them. Increasingly, though, and as a result of me living in the U.S. for a few years, I'm becoming a really big fan of basketball -- but I'm still trying to work out where my team loyalties lie.
What's one thing about you that fans might not expect?
Ever since I was about two years of age, my commitment to golf has been uppermost in my daily life. That commitment is still there and as strong as before, but I have learned to switch off from the game when I'm not competing. I've found this to be really beneficial for my game, and I return after a break much more refreshed having not thought about golf or lifted a club. Of course, I still follow events I'm not playing in, but the "off switch" allows me to lead a normal life with family and friends beyond golf.
What's been your favorite moment on the Tour so far in your career?
Oh, I'm very lucky to be able to say that there have been a lot of great moments on Tour. My first win on the European Tour gave me a real sense of actually belonging to the professional circuit while my first PGA win really saw me go up the world rankings. My Major wins were also extremely special but what stays with me the most is the moment my mum came on to the 18th green at Hoylake when I won the Open Championship in 2014. Whatever my golfing future holds, that win, the one I've always felt was my "home" Major, will always remain very special.
32 golf courses every golfer should play in their lifetime (BI)
Interview: Rory McIlroy reveals his best friend on the PGA Tour and more in Q&A with AOL Sports
One of the world’s oldest and most iconic golf courses, the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland can be a challenge for even the best of golfers. The course has been played since the 15th century, and despite its fame, it remains open to the public.
At Mauritius' Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club, players can enjoy a championship golf course set on a stunning private island. The course covers 38 hectares of the island and includes nine lakes, making for a challenging game.
Yas Links, located in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, was the first links golf course to open in the Middle East. The semi-private golf club offers paid memberships, but it also welcomes daily guests, who can play a round while enjoying dramatic views of the Arabian Gulf.
At Port Royal in Southhampton, Bermuda, players get views of the water from nearly every hole. The 16th hole, which is played from a tee on a cliff edge, is unforgettable.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Old Head Golf Links in County Cork, Ireland, is built on 220 acres of land that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean. Players will feel as though they’re enjoying a game on their own island, with numerous caves that run beneath the course and acres of unspoiled cliff that frame it.
Sandy Lane has been a popular Caribbean resort with the wealthy for years, and its Green Monkey course is available exclusively to its guests. The course, which was designed by Tom Fazio, has dramatic elevation changes and spectacular views out to the sea.
At the Legend Golf & Safari Resort in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, players can challenge themselves to the Extreme 19, the world’s longest par 3 course. It's set atop the Hanglip Mountain and accessed via helicopter.
Wolf Creek Golf Club, located in Mesquite, Nevada, is often featured on best-of-golfing lists thanks to its unique canyon setting. Players are spoiled with 360-degree views, various elevation changes, and lush fairways amidst the rugged terrain.
Providing players with ocean views, wide-open vistas, cliffside fairways, and sloping greens, California’s Pebble Beach Golf Links is often ranked as America’s best public course. Jack Nicklaus once said that if he had to choose only one more round to play, it would be here.
Muirfield, which opened in 1744, is home to the world’s oldest golfing society, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Located in Gullane, Scotland, Muirfield has hosted various championships throughout the years, and is a favorite for those who like a challenging game.
The Cape Kidnappers golf course, designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, features narrow fairways perched 460 feet above the Pacific Ocean in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. The course is a challenge for golfers of all skill levels, and its breathtaking setting only adds to its appeal.
For a game unlike any other, head to the Himalayan Golf Course in Pokhara, Nepal. Once you arrive, you'll find a stunning natural amphitheater with mountain views and a river that runs right through the course.
(Photo by Santiago Vidal/LatinContent/Getty Images)
The North Star Golf Club in Fairbanks, Alaska, is the northernmost golf course in America, and includes a property that is underlain by permafrost to create a continuously changing pattern of dips and mounds. Plus, there's a pretty good chance you'll run into several wildlife species during your game.
The Princeville Makai Golf Course in Princeville, Hawaii, was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and includes stunning views over Hanalei Bay at its signature 7th hole. The course is also one of the first to offer players GolfBoards — vehicles that are designed to make players feel as though they are surfing through the terrain.
Play a round at the world's lowest elevation golf course at the Furnace Creek Golf Course, located in Death Valley National Park in California. At 214 below sea level, the course includes majestic mountain views.
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, requires a good amount of strategic thinking, with many holes framed around the lake. It's also known for its infamous 17th hole, which is set on an island green.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for MetLife Blimp)
The Nullarbor Links was implemented to increase tourism along Australia’s Eyre Highway, and it has since become the world's longest golf course. The 18-hole course spans about 4.48 million feet, with its holes situated in participating towns along the highway from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna.
The Coeur d'Alene Resort in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, is known for its floating green on the 14th hole. The course is located about a mile away from the resort, but guests are transported there via mahogany boats.
The par-72 championship golf course at Kauri Cliffs, located in Matauri Bay, New Zealand, offers players five sets of tees and fifteen holes with views of the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs hovering over the sea. Players can also access a world-class practice range, putting and chipping greens, a golf shop, and rental clubs at the golf complex.
Augusta National Golf Club is home to the US Masters. Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones did the original routing, but since then the course has been altered by the likes of Perry Maxwell, Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Fazio. In 2012, the exclusive course let in its first women members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.
The magnificent Ocean Course is located at the easternmost end of Kiawah Island in South Carolina. The course has more seaside holes than any other in the Northern Hemisphere, and players are treated to views of the Atlantic Ocean at every hole.
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock, Victoria, dates back to 1891, and its West Course is regarded as one of the finest in Australia. Its highlights include bold bunkering and some of the fastest greens in the world.
(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, New Jersey, is often ranked as one of the world's best golf courses thanks to its stunning design and its incorporation of scrub pines, natural sands, and trees. Robert Trent Jones wrote that it has more classic holes than any other course in the world.
The Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Ireland, includes two links courses: Dunluce Links (home to unbelievably rough and testing greens) and the lesser-known Valley Links. Portrush is the only club in Ireland to have hosted The Open Championship.
Located on the southern Oregon coast, Pacific Dunes is regarded as one of the best at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and in the world. The 16th hole is a real gem, with its short par four and sloping green. The course includes rippling fairways, spectacular 60-foot sand dunes, and shore pines that make for an exciting game.
There’s a reason why so many of the major championships in the US take place at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. The course features some of the fastest greens and most strategic bunkering you can find.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, dates back to 1891 and boasts the oldest clubhouse in the US. Its course utilizes the rolling terrain of the south shore to offer players variety and excitement.
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The course at Sand Hills in Mullen, Nebraska, was dubbed “the most natural golf course in America” by Golf Digest. The links-style course includes 19 holes that emerge from rolling sand hills, with challenging holes shaped by natural sand traps.
Hirono Golf Club is often considered the best course in Japan and has hosted several major Japanese tournaments. The course has spectacular bunkering, ranging from diagonal cross bunkers to ragged-edged bunkers.