Rory McIlroy has revealed he has found a “new love for golf” following his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. But what was the key to his success?
McIlroy won the prestigious tournament for the first after a stunning 8-under 64 on the final round to see off his nearest challenger, Bryson DeChambeau, by three shots.
It was the Northern Irishman’s first win on the PGA Tour since September 2016, his and first with his new sponsors TaylorMade.
The four-time major winner signed a jaw-dropping $100m deal with the club manufacturers back in May 2017, joining fellow pros Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Jon Rahm with the brand.
It appears the big-money-move finally paid off for McIlroy, as the famously long hitter averaged 317.2 yards off the tee with his TaylorMade M3 460 driver at Bay Hill, ranking him first in the field.
The 28-year-old scrambled well too with his wedge game. His TaylorMade Milled Grind and Milled Grind Hi-Toe wedges saw him climb up to 21st for the PGA Tour season. A chip-in birdie on the 15th one of the many highlights for the 2016 Tour champion on the final round.
Despite his impressive figures off the tee, however, it has been the drastic improvement on the greens that has been the key to his recent success.
Using a TaylorMade TP Soto blade with a slant neck, that he put in the bag for the first time, McIlroy—who has been no better than 125th in strokes gained from putting in each of the last three seasons and ranks 124th so far this season—posted a tournament winning 2.503 strokes gained last week.
‘This long-awaited rise in form has come at just the right time for the former world number one’
That means McIlroy picked up approximately 10 shots on the field on the greens.
The 28-year-old noted that he had spoken earlier in the week with Brad Faxon, one of the game’s best putters for a number of years, and the discussion led to the former Ryder Cup winner trying to be more “relaxed” with his stroke.
“I didn’t really hit many putts,” he said, “it was more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”
Collating all of these strengths was the most frustrating issue for McIlroy last season, but last week he became the only player to win a tournament while leading the field in strokes gained putting, driving distance and scrambling (since the PGA Tour introduced strokes gained stats in 2004).
This long-awaited rise in form has come at just the right time for the former world number one, as the Tour counts down to the first major of the season, the Masters, at Augusta National in April, where McIlroy aims to complete his career grand-slam.
What Rory McIlroy had in the bag at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Driver: TaylorMade M3 460 (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage Silver 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M3, 15 degrees
5-wood: TaylorMade M3, 19 degrees
Irons (4): TaylorMade P750; (5-9): TaylorMade P730 Rors prototype; (PW): TaylorMade Milled Grind
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 58 degrees); TaylorMade Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade TP Black Copper Soto