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  • Alistair Tait

Welcome to the madhouse, Rory

Good friend Tony Johnstone once told me he had stopped reading instruction in golf magazines. Said it was making him try things with his golf swing that was messing him up.

I was almost speechless.

Eventually I said:

“Tony, you’re a six-time European Tour winner. You went head to head with Nick Faldo down the stretch at Wentworth and won the (1992) PGA Championship. What on earth are you doing reading instruction that’s for handicap golfers?”

Johnstone fessed up, said tour pros were no different from everyone else: they’ll try anything if they think it can deliver the holy grail of a perfect golf swing. If that means something that sparked their eye in a magazine, or trying to copy another player’s swing, then so be it.

Of course, like the grail itself, the perfect golf swing can’t be achieved, at least one even the best players can keep forever.

Tony knew, as we all know, that once you embark on swing changes it’s sometimes hard to get back to what worked previously. Rory McIlroy is finding that out right now.

As I said, yesterday, golf is what’s wrong with McIlroy. He admitted as much after missing the cut in the Players Championship with disastrous rounds of 79 and 75. He’s done what we’ve all done and is paying the price: he’s tried to copy someone else’s technique, Bryson DeChambeau’s technique.

Ever candid, Rory was open and honest about his current frustrations:

“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. 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.
“I started to try to hit the ball a bit harder, hit a lot of drivers, get a bit more speed, and I felt like that was sort of the infancy of where these swing problems have come from.
“I'd be lying if I said it wasn't anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open. 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.”

I’m tempted to say it beggars belief that someone with one of the most beautiful swings in the game, especially with a driver in his hands, would try to change it, but it doesn’t.

Rory isn’t the first player to look at a fellow competitor and think, ‘I need to try that.’ Think of the number of golfers who tried to follow in Nick Faldo’s footsteps when he reassembled his swing with David Leadbetter. Some went so far down the Faldo road they ran into a dead end. What worked for the Englishman didn’t always work for everyone else.

Rory’s hopefully talented enough to get back to the swing that won him four majors and took him to world number one.

Whether he can get it back before the Masters is another question. Trying to complete the career grand slam is hard enough; trying to do so in the midst of swing changes might be well-nigh impossible.

Welcome to the madhouse, Rory.

#JustSaying: “This game has made cry babies out of all of us.” Tom Kite

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