Rory McIlroy, on visiting Butch Harmon and someone else’s 9 words of advice

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on Wednesday on the 2nd hole at TPC San Antonio.

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Rory McIlroy talked with Butch Harmon. 

And his 3-year-old daughter.

When it’s a Masters win you’re chasing, and it’s a worrying swing thought you’re fighting, one turns no one away. All resources are tapped into. All stones are turned.

Now one week away, the Masters has proved elusive for McIlroy. Well known is the fact that he’s a win at Augusta National away from the career grand slam — and much discussed has been his Georgia failings. But the swing issue had recently been concerning him. Or issues. Early last month, at the Players Championship, McIlroy said he had had an “amazing” feeling with his woods — but upon trying to duplicate it with his irons, his ball was going left. 

“I think it’s to do with you turn harder with a wood and you’re sort of clearing harder,” he said, “and then I think sometimes — it’s really, it’s a feeling at the top in transition, and when I try to do it with an iron instead of a wood, I think it just sort of drops behind me. I love this feeling of firing my right arm down the target line, and I can do that with my woods really well, but then when I try to do that with my irons, the club face closes over and goes left. It’s almost like two different swings.

“I have a swing thought for my woods and I need a different swing thought for my irons, and that’s what I’ve been working on over the last couple days.”

In short, he was understandably troubled. The stats supported him. This season on the PGA Tour, McIlroy’s second in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and a less-than-desirable 134th in SG: Approach — and iron placement is prized Augusta. On leaderboards, he’s finished no better than a tie for 19th at the Players, following a win and a runner-up finish in Dubai to open his year.  

So, shortly after the Players, McIlroy visited Harmon, the GOLF Top 100 Teacher Hall of Famer whose resume includes periods with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson, all Masters winners. While Michael Bannon would remain McIlroy’s coach, this would be a check-up at Harmon’s Vegas base, which he’s done previously, and he first noted the relationship on the most-recent “I Can Fly” podcast

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Wednesday, ahead of his appearance at this week’s Texas Open, McIlroy expounded on the visit. He said he’s known Harmon since he was 14. He said if there would be anyone he would seek a second opinion from, it would be Harmon. 

They worked for four hours. Some swing things. Some other stuff, too. 

“The one thing with Butch,” McIlroy said, “is you go spend time with him, and you’re always going to feel better about yourself at the end of it whether you’re hitting it better or not. He’s sort of half golf coach, half psychologist in a way. It’s fun to go out there. … 

“He said a couple of things to me that resonated. It’s the same stuff that I’ve been trying to do with my coach, Michael, but he sort of just said it in a different way that maybe hit home with me a little bit more.”

But will it work quickly?

McIlroy is confident. On Wednesday, he said he’s put in more swing time since the Harmon visit. He feels he’s made “big strides.” His swings — the woods one and the irons one — feel more “cohesive.” He also likes that he’s playing this week. It’s momentum for next week. “It’s good preparation to get a card in your hand,” he said, “and actually have to step up and make some really committed swings. If I realized anything over the last few years, it’s I definitely play my best golf in runs.”

Then again, maybe McIlroy was already good. 

Poppy thought so anyway. We’ll end things here with nine words of advice from his 3-year-old daughter, which McIlroy also talked about on the “I Can Fly” podcast. 

Before he left to see Harmon, she asked where her dad was going. He said he’d be back soon. He said he was taking a golf lesson. 

But she wondered why.  

“She goes, ‘But dadda, you already know how to play golf,’” McIlroy said on the podcast. “And I was like, that was probably the best piece of advice I’ve gotten in the last few years.”

Wednesday, a reporter followed up on it.  

He wondered about the line between thinking about the swing “and kind of letting your mind do what it can do and your body naturally do what it can do.”

“Yeah, it’s also like the chicken or the egg, right?” McIlroy said. “You can say all you want that let it go, let it flow, all that stuff, but if you don’t have the technique to back it up, then it’s sort of going to be hard to do that. 

“I just needed to clean a couple things up in the golf swing and then it makes it easier to then not overthink and to let it go and try to get in that really good mindset. 

“As I was walking out the door on my way to the airport to go see Butch in Vegas, those were Poppy’s words of wisdom. It sort of hit home with me, like yeah, you’re probably right.”

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