Rory McIlroy was on some kind of run in the spring. From March of 2019 to March of 2020, he had four wins, 14 top 10s and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year. Then, the world shut down and golf was shuttered for over two months. When play resumed, McIlroy was a shell of his old, dominant self.
Since golf’s restart in June, McIlroy has just two top 10s, and one of them came at the handicap-adjusted Tour Championship. Outside of that and the U.S. Open, McIlroy has been painfully pedestrian. His Strokes Gained: Off the Tee metrics were still in the upper tier, but every other metric ranked him outside the top 70. Hardly the form he wants as he searches for the final leg of the career grand slam.
But in his availability with reporters on Tuesday at Augusta National, McIlroy indicated that he’d found something in his swing: A key change that has him more comfortable than he has been for the last six months.
“I’d say over the last two months I’ve worked on some technical stuff in my swing that I needed to,” he said. “Swing was getting very flat and very deep underneath the plane on the way down. I feel like I had to sort of hang on to it through impact to hit it straight, where now it’s getting back down on plane, I feel I can fully release it and the ball is going it’s starting straight. I don’t have to feel like I hold onto it to hit a straight shot.”
It might not seem like McIlroy’s swing has changed much, but when the margins are as slim as they are on Tour, every little tweak is important. When you get your hands too deep (behind you) on the backswing, it can be easy to develop a hook. Coming from the inside and being a touch out of sync will make your hands flip at impact and sent the ball careening left, which is the miss McIlroy was alluding to.
Now, however, he is able to turn fully through the ball without having to rely on timing to hit the ball straight. His hands can fully release without having to “hold on” in order to find fairways.
If this new swing thought can hold up under pressure, we might have a new member of the career grand slam club come Sunday night.