Rory McIlroy’s caddie lets McIlroy do this only once per round

rory mcilroy hitting driver off tee at bay hill

Rory McIlroy on the tee at Bay Hill last week.

getty images

Rory McIlroy’s driving has always been one of his strongest assets, but this season his long game has been particularly potent. Thanks to a combination of power (his 316-yard driving average is second-best on Tour) and accuracy (he’s hit 67.62% of his fairways, which ranks 19th), he is hammering his opponents in SG: Off-the-Tee, picking up a whopping 1.251 strokes on the field; in that category no other player registers more than a shot.

“I have this amazing feeling with my woods at the minute,” McIlroy said Wednesday from the Players Championship. “I love this feeling of firing my right arm down the target line, and I can do that with my woods really well.”

Never was that more evident than on the 400-yard, par-4 10th hole at Bay Hill last Saturday, when McIlroy blasted his tee shot over the corner of the dogleg right and became the first player in Arnold Palmer Invitational history to drive the green. There were many things powering that swing — muscle, torque, flexibility, a 9-degree TaylorMade Qi10 LS driver and TP5x ball — but also juicing the shot was a strategic move to a longer tee.  

That’s according to Brandel Chamblee, who in Golf Channel’s Players coverage Wednesday said that McIlroy told him he and caddie Harry Diamond had all but banished McIlroy’s bag of long tees to help him find more fairways.

“He’s given one long tee to Harry Diamond, and he said, ‘Only allow me to use the long tee one time a day,’” Chamblee said. “So for the rest of the day he’s trying to hit these cover little fades or cover draws.”

There’s nothing little about those shots, of course, but point taken.

rory mcilroy's tees from players championship
Rory McIlroy’s tee options. Golf Channel

McIlroy will employ the same tee tactics this week at the Stadium Course, Chamblee said.  

“The one place where he’s going to go long this week — where Harry Diamond’s going to let him use the tee — is the 16th hole,” Chamblee said. “He’s taking it up over the trees.”

The par-5 16th is a gentle dogleg left that, after a good tee shot, is comfortably reachable in two. A year ago in this tournament, McIlroy twice missed the fairway right at 16 on his way to a missed cut. This week, it seems, McIlroy will be taking a more aggressive line.

Or at least he did on Thursday morning. After birdieing four of his first six holes in the first round, McIlroy arrived on 16 and teed up his ball — with some height, it appeared — on the far right side of the box, from where he smashed his drive down the tree line. His ball drifted right of his aim line but didn’t lack for pop, rolling out into the first cut on the right side of the fairway, 336 yards from where he’d started. An 8-iron from there and two putts later, McIlroy had a no-sweat birdie 4.

And the early lead by two.

rory mcilroy hitting tee shot at 16 in first round of 2024 players
McIlroy’s tee shot at 16 in first round of the Players. ESPN+

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.