After seven-weeks putting balls into a $US5 coffee cup on a rug in his Bear’s Club palatial abode, World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is finally back on the range sharpening his $US122m golf career.
It’s been two days short of seven weeks since McIlroy teed-up on March 12th before brilliantly regrouping from an average first round defence of his Players Championship title at TPC Sawgrass to birdie his closing three holes only for the flagship Tour event to be cancelled later that evening.
The McIlroy house does not boast an indoor range, no net to hit into and unlike Padraig Harrington or Tiger Woods, there’s no backyard chipping green, no practice bunkers nor any practice putting green.
All McIlroy’s had to work with is hitting a handful of golf balls into a coffee cup lying at one end of a living room rug.
“There’s no indoor range, practice putting green or whatever as I have none of that as I live on a golf course,” he said smiling.
“So, when I go out in my back garden that’s where I practice, and that’s the Bear’s Club. It’s been closed for some time now but we’re back open tomorrow (April 29th).
“The thing is it will be a big change from practicing on the rug in our family room though the good thing with the rug, it’s decent and the ball runs true.
“What I do is get a mug from the kitchen and a few balls, and you just try and hole some putts but then the rug only breaks four different ways.
“In saying that, it’s just good to be able to get back on the range and to be able to hold a golf club in your hand and get a feel for it again.
“But then during these difficult times, it makes you feel just how privileged we are and to have that ripped away at the Players Championship.
“So, that’s why it’s good the golf courses down here in Florida are starting to open up again so we can all get back out there.”
Rory practicing for the first time in 7 weeks. Yep… still got it ?
— Harvey Jamison (@HarveyJamison) April 28, 2020
McIlroy, who turns 31 on Monday 4th May, said he’s been also keeping busy watching videos including being impressed by a 60-minute National Geographic documentary hosted by actor Will Smith entitled: “One Strange Rock”.
“Watching that documentary just blew my mind,” he said.
McIlroy also relived memories of his 2019 Players Championship win, remarking: “You lose a lot more than you win in golf, and if you get a 10 per cent win ratio throughout your career, you have had one hell of a career.
“I enjoy my wins, I celebrate them as much as I can, and it never gets old. It is such a great feeling and it’s what you work hard for, and it’s why I’ve been outside hitting balls for the first time in seven weeks.
“That was my first journey to getting back to playing on Tour and hopefully having more moments like winning The Players Championship.”
If McIlroy chooses to tee-up in the June 11th commencing Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth in Texas it will not only be a first appearance in the event but also a first event since his amateur days not competing in front of spectators.
In fact, the PGA has ruled the opening four events of the restart to the 2019/20 wraparound Tour will be without fans due to continuing Coronavirus fears.
“I could play without fans but I don’t think I could play as well, especially if you are in the heat of battle on a Sunday,” said McIlroy.
“Sunday, back nine, in contention and you just feed off that energy. You hear roars on other parts of the golf course and you sort of know what’s going on like if someone made a birdie and it has you looking at a leaderboard, and saying to yourself ‘Okay, I need to do this or I need to do that’.
“All those dynamics are in play when you have people there and watching-on, and to take that away … I would find that very difficult. I would feel flat. I would feel lethargic as I am so used to playing in front of people especially when it means something.”
And what would the scenario be like for those sitting at home watching coverage of the Charles Schwab, the RBC Heritage, the Travelers or the Rocket Mortgage without spectators?
“There’s no atmosphere without spectators and even watching a basketball game from Europe and there’s only a few hundred spectators, and it’s nothing like the buzz at an NBA game, but there is still an atmosphere,” said McIlroy.
“The great thing is that I will be restarting having birdied my last three holes Thursday at the Players. The last three holes were all birdies.
“So, I’m good.”
After his first range session in some seven weeks, McIlroy spent Tuesday afternoon on a telephone conference call with his fellow PGA Tour Players Advisory Committee members.
It is the second occasion in a fortnight the Committee has met with the Tour Commissioner bringing committee members up-to-date with issues leading to a hopeful June 11th return to competition at Fort Worth in Texas.
However, McIlroy revealed dual Masters champ Bubba Watson has used the meetings to jokingly push a case to lower the Champions Tour entry age from 50 to 45.
“Every time Bubba is on one of the meetings he’s trying to get the Commissioner to lower the Champions Tour starting age to 45,” said McIlroy.
“So, we have Bubba in the Commissioner’s ear at the start of the meetings but then I don’t think they’re going to lower the age because you still have guys like Phil (Mickelson) at 50 who is still competitive on the main PGA Tour.
“Of course, Tiger’s 44 and he’s still doing his thing really well.
“So, I wouldn’t be too sure about the fact they will lower the age but then that’s what Bubba wants.
“We’ve also seen guys like Vijay (Singh) playing in a few main Tour events this year because he feels he’s still competitive among the younger players but I just don’t see that working as you do need to concentrate on one or the other”.
Watson turned 41 last November so will not turn 50 to 2028.