Rory McIlroy is adamant that there are no alarm bells ringing given the arrival of his long-time swing coach Michael Bannon to the States just a month out from the Masters.
Bannon, who has been McIlroy’s coach since his schoolboy days, was expected to meet up with McIlroy last Friday but due to Storm Emma he was unable to leave Ireland until Sunday, with the duo out early Monday on McIlroy’s ‘home’ Bear’s Club practice range.
McIlroy and Bannon then made their way to the Florida west coast spending some 75-minutes on the Innisbrook Resort range and venue for the four-time Major winner’s first appearance in tomorrow’s Valspar Championship.
And Bannon was again by McIlroy’s side for an 18-hole practice round Tuesday played in bright and hot conditions but with a strong pollen presence in the air.
McIlroy insists that since a third and a second in the Middle East, he’s struggled with his swing in the windy conditions prevalent in two of his three PGA Tour showings.
“It’s good to have Michael out here with me as we did a good bit of work Monday morning at the Bear’s Club and we were on the range here late yesterday,” said McIlroy.
“The fact is that it was windy at Pebble Beach and also windy at the Honda Classic and I just felt my swing got a little bit out of sync and that’s why Michael is over here. And geez, there’s no alarm bells ringing so you’d be wrong to think that as I am hitting the ball well and Michael’s here because he can see things with my swing that I may not.”
“All he’s been able to see this year is what he sees from the TV coverage or what video I may email him, so it’s been great already to have him here and the fact he can see the flight of my ball has helped him to assess what is going on with my swing.”
McIlroy did miss a number of fairways in Tuesday’s practice round, however, including sending a drive right down the 11th hole where a bizarre incident unfolded. He found the fairway with his second ball but a spectator had picked-up McIlroy’s first ball with Bannon asking for the ball to be thrown to him.
“Can I keep the ball, Rory? said the mid-20s something male spectator singing out to McIlroy. It was not till McIlroy began calling for the ball that the spectator reluctantly threw it back.
McIlroy will join Tiger Woods as first timers teeing-up in this week’s $US 6.5m event.
Woods, who arrived at the course near lunch Tuesday, has been drawn to play alongside fellow Open Champions Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth, who won the 2015 Valspar before then winning the back-to-back Masters and U.S. Open titles also that year.
McIlroy finds himself playing the opening two days in the company of 2011 Valspar winner and recent Phoenix Open champion, Gary Woodland and also England’s Justin Rose who was fifth behind Woodland in 2011.
And Rory also revealed he is now the holder of a U.S. ‘green card’ or permanent residency card in becoming eligible as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
“I got my green card last week so I guess it means I’m now officially a U.S. resident with a social security number,” he said.
“I am not sure what it means but then I guess it does mean they can take more money from me,” he said with a smile. Let’s hope he’s smiling come Sunday.