Rory McIlroy says he’s been sucked down the Bryson DeChambeau rabbit hole in recent months, chasing distance to the detriment of his swing as he looks to close the gap with the game’s biggest hitter.
McIlroy was speaking after adding a 75 to his opening 79 in a meek defence of The Players Championship title he won playing the Rory McIlroy way in 2019. A double digit 10-over par tournament tally, littered with poor swings, mental errors and a dollop of doubt around everything he’s doing, the 31-year old was asked to identify what frustrates him most about his recent fairway woes.
“The swing issues – where it all stems from is probably like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff, and swing got flat, long and too rotational,” said McIlroy. “Obviously I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn’t a good thing. So I’m sort of fighting to get back out of that. That’s what I’m frustrated with.”
Consistently one of the longest on Tour, the four-time Major winner has never been short of distance. Fans of McIlroy would sooner point to his putting, wedge-play, approach play with his irons and distance control as areas to improve. Like a young lad heading to the gym for the first time, it seems McIlroy’s become obsessed with working out his show muscles to the demise of his core strength. The need for speed is killing Rory, but why change at all?
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the US Open,” McIlroy added. “I think a lot of people saw that and were like, ‘Whoa, if this is the way they’re going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps. It really helps.’
“The one thing that people don’t appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough. Not only because of how upright he is but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than us, than other guys. I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing and maybe just to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there. I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit.”
Sadly, there were a number of issues around McIlroy’s game that pre-dated any pursuit of power in October 2020. For me, the problem is that the man behind the swing changed, and not the swing itself. The McIlroy who won four majors is not the McIlroy taking to the fairway today. The killer inside him has left the building, and I’m not sure how one ever gets that back.
This latest admission about chasing distance he doesn’t need only adds to my suspicions. There’s an identity crisis going on with McIlroy, the golfer. McIlroy the man is just fine, perspective intact. But a new wave of talent has flooded the game’s top tier and McIlroy’s powers have been diluted because of it. He’s outside the top-10 in the world rankings now, hasn’t won a major in seven years, has more money than he could ever spend, a wife and kid, different priorities and little motivation other than what he can find inside himself.
Right now, McIlroy’s just admitted that what’s been motivating him of late is a distance battle with Bryson DeChambeau. A distance battle Bryson wasn’t even aware of… Would any of the top players – DJ, JT or Morikawa be so impressionable? Would the killer inside Rory McIlroy circa 2014 allowed for such self-doubt?
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