Rory McIlroy was pleased with how his new driver performed as he saw off the gallant challenge of Scott Stallings 3&1 in the opening round of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play.
Clubbing a Taylormade Stealth 2 with a shorter shaft, McIlroy was keen to improve his driving having complained about his now previous big stick at The Players Championship a fortnight ago.
The 2015 Match Play winner found himself cruising at 3UP through six holes before Stallings came back into the match with wins at 8 and 9.
The back nine proved tense with McIlroy winning holes 11 and 17 to finally shirk his opponent and he felt his driving was key.
“So it was good to see. It was good to put it in play today and have to perform pretty well. Drove it well, especially on the back nine.
“So, yeah, I mean, obviously this part of the season you’ve got one eye on what you’re doing now and one eye on Augusta. It’s trying to do both.”
McIlroy added that the new shaft in his driver is for the now but also with an eye towards Augusta National in two weeks time where he played 54 holes last week.
“I think just has to do with my play. I think it’s funny, I think — it’s hard because you look at strokes gained off the tee and you would think that I’m driving the ball well or I have been driving the ball well.
“Then you look at my driving accuracy and it’s down around 50%, which is quite low for me. Strokes gained, I’m hitting the ball a long way so strokes gained over — maybe overvalues length sometimes depending on the course.
“So, yeah, I knew I just needed to change it up a bit going back to a driver length that I’m a little more comfortable with. But the thing is, going to 44 inch driver with the previous shaft I was using I was too stiff and I couldn’t spin it.
“I needed to go to a slightly softer shaft and I can hit more shots with it and feel a bit more comfortable sort of playability-wise.”
Seamus Power meanwhile snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Adam Scott as the Aussie came from 1DN after 15 to take the win on 18 courtesy of a 26-foot birdie and Shane Lowry fell to a 2&1 loss to Taylor Montgomery.
Elsewhere, Rickie Fowler pulled off the result of the opening day as he edged world number two Jon Rahm 2&1 to keep his slim Masters hopes alive.
Needing a quarter-final berth to break back inside the top-50, Fowler was also helped by virtue of 2021 Match Play winner Billy Herschel drawing with Keith Mitchell.
US Open winner Matthew Fitzpatrick’s dismal matchplay record continues as he slumped to a 5&3 loss to JJ Spaun in the opening match.
World number one and defending champion Scottie Scheffler continued his remarkable record here with a 1UP win over David Riley while the big win of the day went to Canada’s Corey Conners who thumped Sepp Straka 6&5.
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