Among the first text messages leaving Rory McIlroy’s mobile last Sunday was a message to Pete Cowen. Cowen has been working with the four-time Major winner for just over a month and naturally was delighted to receive the first of hopefully more such messages.
“We are getting there and it was nice to get a text from Rory on Sunday night saying ‘I never expected it to turnaround this quick, but I’m glad that it has’”, said Cowen in an article appearing in the Telegraph.
“Watching the tape back and hearing that US crowd chanting his name was extraordinary. Everyone wants him back to his best. He’s fantastic to watch.
“He has not won a major in seven years, but he won by eight the last time the [US] PGA was held at Kiawah Island [in 2012] and he’s just shown by winning for a third time at Quail Hollow that he can be very dangerous when he feels comfortable.”
McIlroy’s first victory anywhere for some 18-months has seen him installed as a 10/1 favourite to capture next week’s 103rd PGA Championship. Though Cowen admits McIlroy needs to get his driving sorted out if he’s to win for a second time at Kiawah Island.
Looking back on McIlroy’s stats for Quail Hollow his ‘Driving Accuracy’ was 21.43% with the average over the four days being 33.93%. This average was not helped with McIlroy finding just three fairways over the final round and then in looking at his 2020/21 PGA Tour season stats, McIlroy is well down in 172nd place on the ‘Driving Accuracy’ table hitting just 54.97% of fairways in his 45 rounds to include 321 of 584 fairways.
“If we can sort out his driving when I see him in a few days’ time, then he should have a great chance in next week’s PGA Championship,” Cowen added. “It’s funny, because the stats guys are saying that was one of Rory’s best-ever performances on the greens and I gave him a putting lesson before he went off to Quail Hollow.
“And that’s the one aspect of the game I never teach. Maybe I should branch out. I watched the highlights and he played some great shots under pressure down the stretch, and again, that’ll do wonders for his confidence.
“That’s what I wanted him to do – forget about technique and just play and with his irons you can see he is doing that. But his driving has had this two-way miss going on and when people are saying, ‘what has Cowen done to his beautiful draw?’, they must realise that the modern equipment will not let him do his old slinging right-to-left and it was him trying to do it that was forcing him all over the place.
“So, we are looking to be more neutral and if that creates a slight controllable fade then so be it. It’s a cliche, but it really is all a process. As it was, he and Harry [Diamond] dealt well with the situation on the last. It showed Harry’s qualities, persuading Rory to take a penalty drop from which he’d get a good lie and could go for the green, rather than risking chopping it out. A lot of rubbish has been talked about Harry being Rory’s mate and not being up to the job. But there’s an awful lot of crap spoken about Rory.”
As AGW colleague, Jamie Corrigan also wrote in his article, Cowen has coached players who have won 14 majors and more than 300 titles between them in his near-40 years as an instructor.
Though Cowen admits feeling enormous pressure given the coverage McIlroy’s decision to appoint Cowen has received, especially having been with Michael Bannon since a very early age.
“I’ve told him, ‘you have no idea how much pressure you are under’,” Cowen said. “I had a couple of days with him before the [WGC] Match Play and some of the TV pundits were analysing him, picking holes in what we’d supposedly been working on.
“I’d had a few sessions with him and former pros who should know better, some of whom I’ve actually coached in the past, were blurting out all this knee-jerk nonsense.
“Judging my work with Rory so quickly was as daft as calling me a miracle worker now. That’s what I meant about intense. It’ll help him if it’s a bit more low key and if we just keep working hard and getting on with it. I’m not saying Rory didn’t work hard before, but getting me and Bob [Rotella, the famed psychologist] in shows that, in a sense, he is rededicating himself. But the hype over him is on the Tiger Woods level and that’s not fair as there’ll only ever be one of Tiger.”