Rory McIlroy confirmed there will be no new coach, no new caddy and no other changes in his ‘team’ following last Sunday’s disappointment at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The new World No. 11 left the golf world guessing in making the comment that he needed to find a ‘new direction’ immediately following his share of 10th place in the event he had brilliantly captured in 2018 at Bay Hill.
McIlroy began brightly with an eye-catching 66 but he was hardly sighted over the ensuing three days with scores of 71, 72 and 76 and ahead of this week’s ‘second’ defence of his Players Championship crown he clarified his ‘new direction’ remarks.
“I mean, I certainly didn’t mean like a change of personnel per se,” he said.
“I think more of a change in philosophy or maybe what I’m trying to work on, maybe going in a slightly different direction.
“Not so much in terms of — yeah, swing-wise I think there’s some things that I’m working on that haven’t quite bedded in or I’m struggling to grasp what I’m trying to do, so that’s sort of what I meant, talking about going in a different direction.
“Just sort of maybe trying something different or thinking about another way to do it, I guess. More so I was coming from that point of view.”
Sunday night was spent back home with his wife and young daughter reflecting on the events earlier Sunday over a few glasses of wine and, as he mentioned smiling ‘watching a pretty compelling interview on Sunday night”.
As for what he thought was askew at Arnie’s event McIlroy said: “I think you have to go — I sort of alluded to this a little bit earlier, that it felt so good on Thursday and then felt off a little bit on the weekend, so it’s like what happened, what changed, what is the difference? I think that’s where I’ve sort of struggled the last few weeks is that inconsistency of the good being very good, good enough to lead the golf tournament, but when it just gets slightly off, not being able to manage it.
“From thinking over the last couple of days where my swing is, it’s an unusual pattern for me.
“Usually what happens is the club gets out in front of me on the way back and then drops behind me on the way down, where at the minute it’s the opposite, it sort of gets behind me early and then I sort of throw it back out in front of me on the way down, so it’s a completely different pattern that I’m having to manage and one that I’m not used to managing, so it’s just been different. I know for years and years my whole golf career I’ve got used to dropping it underneath the plane on the way down, and from there I can manage it. I can hold it off.
“I’m used to that feeling. But this feeling that I have at the minute, I’m not used to managing it, so that’s where the two-way miss comes in, and that’s where I just have to figure out what to do to get it back to a familiar pattern.”
Twelve months ago, McIlroy went into the Tour’s flagship as the defending champion and despite growing uncertainty over the Coronavirus, the opening round went ahead with McIlroy birdieing his closing three holes in a level par 72.
It left him trailing nine shots behind Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who led the field by a shot with a round of a nine-under par 63.
A few hours later and now mid-evening, a text was sent to all Tour players and caddies advising the Players was cancelled and with Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan then announcing the next morning of a three-week lockdown that would eventually extend for three months.
McIlroy was also asked his thoughts now 12 months on following those events of March 12th and 13th, 2020.
“I think back I do as it’s the anniversary of where the world really changed, especially the sporting world, what happened in the NBA and then every other sport sort of followed what they did,” he said.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, at the start of the week you had people sort of fist bumping or elbowing and I’m sort of thinking, what are these people doing, like this is stupid. And then five days later the world shuts down.
“It’s amazing, and to think that we’re a year into it and we’re still having to do certain things. I mean, obviously back in the UK the vaccine rollout is going incredibly well, which is great to see, and that bodes well for hopefully sporting events and golf tournaments being staged there in the summer.
“But yeah, it’s surreal. I was saying to someone yesterday, it’s felt like an incredibly slow 12 months, but at the same time it’s gone really fast. I can’t believe we’re back here already. But happy that we are back and happy that we get to play.
“And back again as the defending champion. But it’s nice, as I said, to be back, and hopefully I can get off to a better start than I did last year, shoot something in the 60s, not be too far away from the lead and try to build on that.”
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