Golf

McIlroy: Chasing Bryson’s distance has cost me

  • Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
  • Covered golf for more than 20 years
  • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rory McIlroy missed the cut by 10 shots on Friday at the Players Championship, and that wasn’t even the most surprising aspect to his day.

After shooting 79-75 at TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy lamented issues with his swing that he traced to chasing speed — and Bryson DeChambeau’s length — last fall.

When asked what he was frustrated with, McIlroy paused for a long time before answering.

“Probably the swing issues and where it all stems from, probably like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff, swing got flat, long, and too rotational,” he said. “Obviously I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer, but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn’t a good thing, so I’m sort of fighting to get back out of that. That’s what I’m frustrated with.”

When asked why he would do that given he remains among the longest drivers in the game — McIlroy ranked first in the field in driving distance through two rounds at the Players — he admitted DeChambeau’s increased length was a factor.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open,” McIlroy said of DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open in September at Winged Foot by 6 shots. “I think a lot of people saw that and were like, ‘Whoa, if this is the way they’re going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps. It really helps.’

“The one thing that people don’t appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough. Not only because of how upright he is but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than us, than other guys.

“And I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing, and I maybe just — to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there, but I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit.”

McIlroy hasn’t won since the HSBC Champions in November 2019, and in 20 tournaments since the restart in June, he has just two top-five finishes with two missed cuts.

“It’ll take a bit of time,” said McIlroy, who has just one event scheduled prior to the Masters, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks. “Like with anything, the slightest change in your swing is going to feel uncomfortable for a while.

“It’s not like it’s that far away. I go back to last September, October is where it looked and felt pretty good, so it’s just a matter of sort of — maybe not erasing the stuff, I’d still like to keep the speed and what I’ve been able to — but just not make the swings that are sort of producing that speed.”

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