Has it been 10 years already? It has. This week marks the 10-year anniversary of Rory McIlroy’s professional debut. He’s delivered some serious numbers over that stretch—and some killer quotes, too. To celebrate Rory’s first decade on Tour, here are 10 of his most memorable sound bites, one from each year. Keep it up, Rors.
2007: “I’ve been getting interviewed since I was about seven or eight years old. I’m pretty good at this talking thing, I think.”
So said 18-year-old Rory, mop-topped and bushy-tailed, in a press conference at his first major (the 2007 Open Championship, where he would earn the Silver Medal for low amateur) just months before turning pro. Now 10 years into his pro career, his play—and that talking thing—have kept viewers entertained ever since. Let’s take a look back at some of the best:
2008: “I must be honest and say that I like the pizzazz. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that in this first year of being a pro I’ve enjoyed my best results when the attendances have been bigger and the interest has been greater. I feel as if I play better in front of big crowds. I just get a buzz out of it.”
This is an early instance of Rory admitting that his focus sharpens and fades based on stakes and situation. Less than a year into his pro career, he was already acknowledging that lesser events didn’t hold his attention, fueling golf pundit speculation for years to come.
2009: “[The Ryder Cup] is not a huge goal of mine. It’s an exhibition at the end of the day…in the big scheme of things it’s not that important an event for me. Obviously I’ll try my best for the team – but I’m not going to go running around fist-pumping.”
In ’09 Rory notably had little interest in making the Ryder Cup team – but by 2016, he’d gotten over the “no fist-pumping” rule.
2010: “Ridiculous. I just got in the zone. I saw my shots and just hit them and I saw the line of my putts and they just went in.”
When superheroes begin to discover their powers, they often don’t understand the extent of their own strength. That was probably the case at the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship, Rory’s first Tour victory, where he surprised even himself with his weekend play. After making the cut on the number, he shot 66 on Saturday and then followed that up with a course record 62 Sunday to claim the title.
2011: “I’m not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather…I mean my game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions, I just don’t enjoy playing in, really. That’s the bottom line. I’d rather play when it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.”
Rory’s honesty has always been refreshing, but it occasionally leaves him open to criticism, as in this case, after he ran into bad weather en route to a tie for 25th at the Open Championship. Doubters began to whisper: Would Tiger have said the same?
2012: “Losing the Masters sets up everything to follow; it changed me…It will always stand me in good stead. I needed to learn how to play at the end of a major championship.”
Rory flattened the field at the 2012 PGA Championship, winning by eight. It was a credit to his perseverance and self-belief after blowing a four-shot lead by shooting 80 at the Masters in 2011, the highest round ever by a 54-hole leader at Augusta. 2012 was peak Rory: major champion, FedEx Cup champion, Order of Merit winner, victorious Ryder Cupper, and new possessor of tens of millions of dollars in prize money. It was a good year to be McIlroy.
2013: “It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate.”
And then, after a record-setting 2012, came 2013. It wasn’t clear whether Rory’s toothache-withdrawal on the Friday of the Honda Classic came from a cavity or whether he was sickened by seven bogeys in his first eight holes. Another possibility? He just couldn’t stomach the new Nike irons he’d just added to his bag.
2014: “The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails. I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we’ve had.”
While most of Rory’s musings are fun and relatively trivial, he might like a mulligan for the way he ended his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Couples break up all the time, of course, but breaking up over the phone, once the wedding invitations have already been sent? That was a tougher look.
2015: “It felt good at the time but now I regret it.”
In March 2015, McIlroy hit his ball into the water on the par-5 8th hole during the second round at Doral, and then pinwheeled his three-iron into the same body of water. “Frustration got the better of me,” he said. But it was a fun, relatable moment for every golf fan who has ever wanted to rinse a club in the drink.
2016: “I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made, I have no regrets about it. I’ll probably watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I’ll watch…I’ll watch track and field, swimming, diving — you know, ones that matter.”
An Olympic ambassador, he’s not.
2017: “Would I do it again? After the sort of backlash I received, I’d think twice about it.”
Rory is used to second-guessers. But even he wasn’t prepared for the Trump-related internet firestorm after he played what he insisted was an apolitical round with the new President.
That’s the beauty of Rory. He does, and he says, and THEN he considers the consequences. Here’s hoping he’ll never change.