What missed cuts? What bad finishes? What swing problems? In your face! Boom.
Despite working on swing changes (or tweaks), Rory McIlroy recovered from a rough start to post an impressive one-under 71. He posted a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 No. 12. At that point, just about everyone is thinking, “What’s the deal with Rory?? He’s done. He’s on his way to an 80. The kid has no chance.”
In the past when things have started going bad, they continue that direction. He’s been scrutinized at times for his lack of fight to turn it around. Well, the 23-year-old U.S. Open champ certainly showed guts and heart today.
How in the world did McIlroy take 7 shots on a par-3, anyway? Well, he hit his tee shot over the green into the back bunker. Then he bladed his bunker shot into the water hazard guarding the green. He went back to the drop area, where he had about 98 yards to the pin. From there, he hit a wedge heavy, and for a second, it looked like he’d be taking another penalty shot and drop, but it just made it in the front bunker. He knocked it to ten feet and missed the putt for triple-bogey. Finally, he rolled in a 3-footer for a 7. Whew.
“It wasn’t the start that I wanted to get off to, being 4‑over through three holes, especially after the last few weeks,” said McIlroy after his round. “I was just like, here we go again. But I hung in there well, and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par I thought was a really good effort.”
With the unforeseen and somewhat shocking results in the last two starts and the U.S. Open in two weeks, Rory realized it was time to press the panic button after shooting a second-round 79 at Wentworth. He’s been grinding on the range with his coach Michael Bannon on fixing the flaws, so his swing is back in form in time to defend his title at the Olympic Club.
Unfortunately, Rory doesn’t have much time and he’s having to work through them during competition, which is less than ideal, but he’s in all-systems-go mode. Since I consider him more of a feel player (which he is), it’s weird to hear him talk about swing thoughts and the technical side of things.
“Very much so, a lot of swing thoughts, and just trying to put the club in the right position,” said Rory when asked if he was constantly thinking mechanics during his round. “I know if I can do that, then I’ll hit good shots. But I’m really just trying to focus on the process and my swing. I know if I can get that right, what I can control, then the shots should start to go my way or go the way I see them.”
That makes his one-under 71 even more impressive. At the same time Rory has nothing to lose, which allows him to freewheel or not focus on his score (after all, it can’t really get any worse, right?). He just needs the reps to work it out in time for the U.S. Open.
“It happens where you just don’t feel quite comfortable, and that’s when you have to get technical, you have to get mechanical and really work at it, and I’ve worked at it for not that long, and I feel like it’s getting better and better every day, but it still is a work in progress,” said McIlroy before heading back out to the range.
“And I’m still going to have to hit a lot of balls between now and the U.S. Open to feel like I’m really ready for it.”
However, it was Rory’s solid putting that bailed him out.
“(Putting) definitely saved me today, especially at the start,” said McIlroy, who only needed 25 putts. “I made a few good ones for pars, and yeah, so I think I have ‑‑ must have been the low 20s in putts out there, so that was good to see.”
(Photos by Getty Images/Scott Halleran)