The ‘process’ continues for Rory McIlroy as he gets closer to solidifying swing
DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy isn’t there and he probably won’t get there for a minute.
That was the message from the Northern Irishman following a second-round 68 at the Memorial that left him tied for fourth place and three shots off the lead. The swing was good Friday. In fact, he lobbied that the swing was good Thursday – when he stumbled with a triple bogey-7 at the last hole that he called “one bad break” – but not great. It was a startling revelation from the world’s third-ranked player and likely something he’s going to revisit for the foreseeable future.
“If you’ve let your swing get to a certain place over the course of, say, six months, there’s no way that you’re going to work for two weeks and all of a sudden it’s going to be where you want it to be,” McIlroy reasoned. “I think it’s the smart way to do it, to just let it bed in over time. I’m not saying it will take six months to get it to where I want to, but it will certainly take longer than a week or two.”
Despite a solid start to the year that included a victory out of the gates at the Dubai Desert Classic in January, a runner-up showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a third-place showing at the WGC-Match Play in March, McIlroy said the issues with his swing started “creeping in at the end of 2022.”
McIlroy knew then he needed a swing adjustment but he was also aware of how long that process can take, and with the Masters and plenty of big events looming it wasn’t a detour he was willing to tackle.
“My reluctancy to work on it, like I know it’s been creeping in, but reluctancy to work on it was more to do with the fact of how much golf we had coming up and just not really wanting to be thinking about my golf swing a ton,” he said.
Although he didn’t point to a single moment that sent him down the path to something new there’s a good chance his missed cut at the Masters, which still looms as the only missing piece to his Grand Slam puzzle, followed by an equally flat performance at the Wells Fargo Championship (T-47), prompted him to embrace change, even change that would likely take valuable time during the heart of the PGA Tour season.
A glimpse of his issues surfaced at the Masters, where he hit just 20 of 36 greens in regulation at the game’s ultimate second-shot golf course, and he continued to “fight the club face” at Quail Hollow, where he lost 3.25 shots to the field in strokes gained: approach the green (a statistic he’s ranked among the top 20 on Tour the last five years).
But it was at the PGA Championship two weeks ago when the “process” became truly troubling.
“I can’t remember a time where I felt so uncomfortable over the ball for four days,” he said of his swing at Oak Hill, where he tied for seventh.
By comparison, his play at Muirfield Village – another exacting second-shot course – has been, at the least, a statistical step in the right direction. He’s seventh in the field in strokes gained: off the tee and is at least gaining shots on the field (1.38) with his approach play.
That progress, however, didn’t stop the 34-year-old from marching to the range after each of his rounds this week at Muirfield Village, searching for consistency and comfort.
“This is a process, the swings that I make on the range compared to the swings I make out [on the course], they’re not the same. They won’t match up for a while,” he said. “It’s just a matter of working little by little, sort of trying to do it every day that the feels become more and more comfortable so that over time it just sort of beds in itself.”
For McIlroy this is very much an aspirational journey that’s been filled with equal parts trial and error, but he remains encouraged by a simple belief – it isn’t there yet, but in time it will be.