‘The turning point of the year’ for Rory McIlroy was a gear change

rory mcilroy taylormade tp5 golf ball

McIlroy changed golf balls prior to this year's Masters.

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Where did Rory McIlroy’s season go from a good season to a great season? It’s easy to point to the RBC Canadian Open victory and claim it was the moment McIlroy found his mojo. Following his title defense against a star-studded field, he’d go on to win the Tour Championship (along with his third season-long FedEx Cup title) two months later, and again in October at the CJ Cup.

The third victory of the year in South Carolina just happened to vault him back into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. The yearly resume also included a fourth season-long Race to Dubai title and four top-10 finishes at the four majors, but you’d be forgiven if neither accomplishment was front of mind with the myriad of accolades McIlroy stockpiled this year.

Needless to say, it was a good year to be Rory.

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But let’s forget about the Canadian Open for a moment and rewind the clock back to April. According to McIlroy, the Masters was the moment it all changed for the better — and it was tied to an equipment change.

In an extensive interview with journalist Paul Kimmage of the Sunday Independent, McIlroy detailed how a pre-tournament golf ball change completely altered his season trajectory for the better. In preparation for the Masters, McIlroy headed to Augusta several days prior to the start of the Valero Texas Open to get in a last-minute cram session.

“I went to Augusta at the start of the week, and the balls they use on the range there for members are Titleist ProV1s,” McIlroy recalled. “I started warming up and remember going, ‘Oh! That’s nice.’ And I didn’t really think anything of it but I’d been having a few issues with the ball up until that point.”

The “ball” in question was TaylorMade’s TP5. According to McIlroy, the ball wasn’t giving him problems in benign conditions, but when the wind kicked up, as it did that week in San Antonio, his carry numbers were inconsistent, causing him to question distances during his round.

“I went to the TaylorMade guys after the round and said, ‘Look, I’m done with this golf ball. I have no idea if it’s going long or short,'” McIlroy revealed in the interview.

To help McIlroy rectify the situation, the TaylorMade Tour team suggested he give the 2019 TP5x — the same Robert MacIntyre was playing at the time — a hard look to see if the ball’s characteristics solved the issue. And just like that, everything clicked.

“I hit a bunch of them, the 2019 TP5x, on the Thursday afternoon and the spin rates were a lot more consistent,” he said. “Then I played with it on Friday and missed the cut, which was a blessing in disguise.”

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The time at home after the missed cut allowed McIlroy to get acclimated to the slightly firmer TP5x with the putter and wedges and by the time he arrived at Augusta, he was completely confident with how the ball performed in all conditions.

“There are some stats on it: before Augusta I was ranked 207th on the PGA Tour from inside 125 yards; and since Augusta I’ve been ranked number one,” he said.

McIlroy called it “the turning point of the year,” and rightfully so. In his next 10 Tour starts following the Masters, McIlroy only finished outside the top 20 once — a missed cut at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

“It was a massive change to make on the eve of Augusta but it ended up being the best thing I did this year,” said McIlroy.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.