The big takeaways from Wednesday's press conferences at the PGA Championship? The course is long, paspalum is true, and it's as hard as ever to win a major. Here are some highlights from the day's pressers:
Fresh off his with at The Open, Els talked about his new-found calm, his relationship with Adam Scott, and what sort of player has the advantage at a rain-soaked Kiawah.
Q. How would you describe the way you felt, your emotions, whatever, since playing the back nine at Olympic Club, and if it was calm, where did that come from?
Els: I think just being more secure of what you're doing and basically my routine was really good. You know, and I feel whenever you have a good routine, the pre-shot routine into your golf shots, and you're clear in your mind of what you want to do, there's not too many things flying around in your head. I was just more secure of what I wanted to do. And I think that obviously started at the U.S. Open, I felt that, and obviously it was a lot better at The Open.
Q. Do you feel you have had and will have the level of credit for winning The Open this year, or do you think what happened with Adam could become a dominant story in some ways, and that would be unfortunate?
Els: I think you're going to remember what Adam did. There's no two ways about it. And then hopefully people remember the putts that I made, because I still shot 32 on the back nine to give Adam something to think about. You know, I think for the short term, probably they are going to think about Adam's mistakes that he made, and I think long term, eventually my name is going to stay on the Jug (chuckling).
Q. Along those lines, I know you spoke with Adam Sunday at Lytham; have you spoken at all with him since then?
Els: Yes, we have. We've spoken. We stayed in the same hotel last week and saw him a couple of times. I'm actually playing nine holes with him this afternoon. So as I say, I've known Adam since he's come out here ten years ago, and we have got a pretty good, close relationship. He's a good friend of the family and of mine. You know, if he needs any help to win a major, I'll definitely give it to him; if he needs any encouragement, I'll give it to him. He's a great friend.
Q. Does anybody who cannot hit the ball 300 not have a chance in this thing because of the softness in the fairways?
Els: Yeah, I mean, everybody's got a chance in the field, but I think it definitely helps the super long bombers, Bubba, Dustin, Tiger, the real long guys that can fly it 320. Those guys can reach all four par 5s now, where I can hit it 300, but I can't fly it 320. So I'm probably going to lay up on all of the par 5s. Doesn't take me out of the tournament, but you know, it definitely gives those real super long bombers a great advantage around this golf course now. There's no run out there. It's just plugging where it is.
Scott, who came up on the losing end of Els's Open, spoke about the course, lessons learned, and how good it feels to get another shot at a major.
Q. From what you've seen so far, perspective on The Ocean Course?
Scott: I've had three pretty good looks at it, twice last week and then I played Monday morning this week. I feel like I'm getting a fairly good understanding of the golf course. It's obviously very long and very severe if you're off line. It's going to test every aspect of your game. But certainly, I believe there's no secret recipe to it. If you can hit some fairways and greens, you're going to give yourself a chance to score well. Start with a focus on ball-striking and work on it from there
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your strategy playing when the wind is very high? At Lytham, you did very well in the wind, I noticed you didn't hit it particularly lower than usual it seemed to me. How do you approach playing in the wind?
Scott: Well, it's different at Lytham than, say, playing here. Obviously the ball runs a lot on a links course and there's often an entryway into a green on the ground there.So if you can control your ball flight low, you can keep the ball out of the wind and have it not as affected, and I was swinging well and had everything under control. I drove the ball great. I teed it very low and just hit very low, hot runners off the tee and they were going straight all week. I was at a huge advantage, because I was hitting a lot of drivers out there and playing somewhat aggressively I guess.
But probably a different story here if the wind gets up, because you're still going to have to hit the ball in the air. There are a lot of forced carries off tees and there are some forced carries into greens, so there's no option of running the ball along the ground up on to the greens. You just have to really have to stand up there and hit a great shot. And it's kind of an educated guess on how much the wind will affect your shot. If you hit the shot well, you'll have a good idea how much it affects it, but if you mis-strike it, it's up to Mother Nature to determine where your ball is going to finish.
Q. You put on a clinic through three rounds at Lytham last month; if you find yourself in the same position here on Sunday, are you worried about some of those feelings creeping back, some of those emotions that maybe you were feeling on the back nine there at Lytham?
Scott: I don't think I'd be worried about it. It may or may not happen. You know, if I was in that position again, I'd feel like I'm playing pretty good. So at that point, I'd be quite confident.
But, the couple of things that I took out of it, hopefully put into practice at that point and not let that happen again. It's certainly not something you'd like to make a habit of, and I never have; I've generally been a good closer of golf tournaments in my career. You know, I'd like-- if I was in that position, I'd like to turn it around this time and close the golf tournament out.
McIlroy rated his season, gushed over the conditions, and even took a stab at the spelling bee.
Q.Comment on what you've seen so far from practicing and preparing on the course for this championship. McIlroy: Yeah, it's a long golf course, a big golf course. It's a golf course you not only have to hit it well, but you really have to think about what you're doing out there. You know, you really have to pick your spots where you want to hit it, and obviously with the weather the way it's been this week, that's going to play a pretty big factor, too.
But you know, I like what I see. I think the course is in phenomenal shape. I love the greens. I love the paspalum. I think the ball rolls really, really well. So I'm looking forward to the week.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the paspalum greens. I wonder if you could tell us at what stage in your life you first heard that word, if you can spell it for us, and your general thoughts.
McIlroy: P-a-s-p-a-l-u-m, and the Bear's Club actually have paspalum. We practice on paspalum all the time; me, Luke, Keegan, Dustin. It's something we are quite used to and something I was talking to Luke about yesterday, something that the guys that are members of the Bear's Club might have an advantage because we are used to how it reacts and we practice on that stuff on our off-weeks, so it's actually quite nice.
It's very spiny. When you see guys chipping off of greens and hitting wedge shots, it bites a lot. Even as I said earlier, when the greens are firm, just this certain type of grass, it just really grabs the ball. So you can be aggressive with your chip shots and definitely aggressive with your wedge shots, too.
Q. How would you rate your year to date, and what are you pleased with and what are you disappointed with?
McIlroy: It's been good. You know, there was a few goals I set myself early at the start of the year, which I achieved; getting to No. 1 in the world, and playing well, winning a tournament early.
And then the second half of the season has been-- it's still been pretty good. It's been a little bit more of a struggle. But you know, I feel like I'm playing pretty well, so, I mean, if I had to give my season a grade to this point, I'd probably give it a B. There's still a lot of golf left to play, but very happy with some of the golf that I've played this year. You know, I've still got a lot of good golf to look forward to.