‘Trying to rekindle an old flame’: Rory McIlroy considers major gear change
AUSTIN, Texas — With two weeks to go before the Masters, Rory McIlroy appears to be on the verge of shaking up his equipment setup in a last-ditch attempt to jumpstart a club that’s gone cold in recent months — the putter.
Looking strictly at the results, McIlroy hasn’t skipped a beat this season with a win and two top-10 finishes in 5 PGA Tour starts. But a closer look at the stats paints a different picture.
While McIlroy’s been otherworldly from tee-to-green, he’s struggled to find anything positive once the ball finds the putting surface. Entering the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, McIlroy ranked 133rd from 4 to 8 feet, 173rd in SG: Putting and 209th in Average Distance of Putts made, three statistical categories that sum up his performance with the flatstick.
Not only is McIlroy missing out on the lengthy putts, but he’s also losing strokes from a key distance (4 to 8 feet) that tends to determine the tournament on Sunday.
Instead of sticking it out with his TaylorMade Spider Hydro Blast, McIlroy arrived in Austin on Tuesday morning with a new Scotty Cameron Newport GSS (34.5 inches) that could get the call this week.
Playing a friendly match against Tommy Fleetwood in a light mist, McIlroy recorded three birdies in the first seven holes, including several makes from inside 10 feet. Nothing is assured until Wednesday’s opening match, but it’s telling that the Cameron putter was the only one McIlroy used during the practice round.
For those unfamiliar with McIlroy’s connection to Scotty Cameron, the 33-year-old won his first two major championships (2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship) with a Cameron before inking a deal with Nike in 2013. When Nike exited the hard-goods business in 2016, McIlroy swapped his Method Origin B2-01 for a Scotty Cameron Select Newport M1 Tour Prototype mallet — and promptly won the 2016 Tour Championship. His appearance at the 2020 Olympics also came with a Cameron 009M in the bag.
“I’m trying to rekindle an old flame,” McIlroy said of his decision to test a Cameron this week.
Simply put, a trust has been developed over the years with Cameron’s putter. Now McIlroy is hoping it’s enough to push him over the edge in his chase to claim a green jacket and complete the career grand slam.
Compared to the 009M he used during the Olympics, there are a few noticeable differences between the two putters.
Weight: The overall weight of a putter can dictate feel, tempo and distance control. In McIlroy’s case, he’s going to a heavier head at 350 grams. McIlroy’s previous 009M was 340 grams. Going up by 10 grams might not seem like a big deal, but there’s something about the heavier overall build that appeals to McIlroy.
A heavier putter head can help slow down the stroke, which can be a benefit on fast greens. When Augusta National is playing firm and fast, the greens are lightning-quick. No doubt he’s taking this into consideration ahead of the Masters.
Alignment: McIlroy is once again relying on the line on the side of his golf ball. A long line on the flange — what he used previously — is one way to line everything up. However, some pros have found a short line on the topline (McIlroy’s new alignment aid) allows the line on the ball to flow directly into short line for a more seamless setup with the putter.
McIlroy logged multiple rounds with the Cameron putter during a two-day trip to Augusta National last week and found it to be a good fit for the greens. Assuming the putter gets the call on Wednesday, the next few days in Austin could ultimately determine if the putter makes a return to Augusta for arguably the most important tournament week of the year.
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