As ever, Rory McIlroy’s pre-tournament press conference has delivered lots of talking points, not least his further softened stance on players who’ve opted to join LIV being welcomed back onto the PGA Tour.
But there were plenty of other admissions worthy of note, including one for the equipment junkies as he explained exactly why he’s put a slightly different ball in play.
“Yeah, I thought it was a good opportunity to at least test it in Dubai,” he said when asked about putting TaylorMade’s new TP5X ball in play, having used the 2019 model for the best part of two years. “You’ve got desert conditions, there’s not a ton of wind, it’s a place that I’m comfortable with. I obviously tested it a little bit at home, liked that it was a touch of a lower launch than the golf ball I was previously playing, then a touch lower spin as well.
“And it was a great test, it was two weeks in Dubai, because the greens got pretty firm at the weekend on both courses, so it was a good test to still make sure that the mid irons were spinning enough going into greens and still being able to hold greens. And it’s fast, it’s a really, really fast golf ball. Definitely feel like I’ve picked up a little bit of speed with it, especially off the tee.
“And it’s a little funny, it’s a lower spinning ball, but it feels a touch softer to me around
the greens, so I like that feel of it. I think the sort of lower launch with the short irons and then the little bit more of a softer feel around the greens was sort of the big selling point to me.
“Yeah, as you said, it’s worked pretty well the first two starts of the year.”
Those first two starts yielded a runner-up finish to Tommy Fleetwood in the Dubai Invitational before going on to claim his fourth Dubai Desert Classic victory a week later at his favourite stomping ground, Emirates Golf Club.
“Yeah, I like to play a low spin ball but not so low spin that when you’re hitting a 6-iron or something into the green that you can’t hold it,” he added.
“But I also like that — a very comfortable shot for me at the minute is sort of hitting this like hold-off sort of cut. The fact that it doesn’t spin too much when I hit that shot I really like because I’ve always had this fear with whatever golf ball that I’ve played that if I hit that shot, there’s a tendency to come up short because it spins a little too much. But I don’t really have that fear with this golf ball, which is a really nice feeling.”
A confident McIlroy, in tune with both his game and his equipment, spells danger for his competitors, particularly given his decision to step down from the PGA Tour Policy Board and focus on his on-course career.
But despite no longer being a board member, he did reiterate his hopes that a formalised deal happens sooner rather than later, allowing golf tournaments to take centre stage once again, also hinting at the frustrations which may have played a part in his decision to step down late last year.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m involved in the decision-making process at all really,” he responded when asked about a deal being officially signed. “I just hope they get it done. I know that they were supposed to vote on it Sunday night and there was a delay, they were supposed to vote on it last night and there was a delay. I feel like this thing could have been over and done with months ago. I think just for all of our sakes that the sooner that we sort of get out of it and we have a path forward, the better.”