TOUR Insider: More competition will cure McIlroy's struggles

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April 03, 2013

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

SAN ANTONIO -- Since we’re in Texas, let’s talk about Harvey Penick. The longtime teaching pro from Austin dispersed golf nuggets that still brighten our landscape:

Take dead aim.

The woods are full of long hitters.

It’s not the fiddle, it’s the fiddler.


I think Harvey would have been amused with the discussion of Rory McIlroy’s equipment change. He has certainly done some curious fiddling this year.

It’s easy to look at his new Nike clubs and cast a curious eye at results. The world’s former No. 1 player is 103rd in FedExCup points.

What gives here?

It’s gotta be the shoes? It’s gotta be the clubs!

It’s always easiest to look at a club change because that’s the simplest explanation for McIlroy’s struggles.

It may be the easiest explanation but it’s also incorrect.

The equipment is performing. That Nike driver produces a clubhead speed of 119.47 miles per hour, that’s 16th best on TOUR. Rory hits his drives between 300 and 320 yards 30 percent of the time. That’s fourth best on TOUR. That 310.8-yard driving average is the best on TOUR.

The problem isn’t distance. Maybe it’s the short game?

That Nike putter has made 29 of 30 putts this year between 3 to 5 feet. That’s best on TOUR. His strokes gained-putting ranks 39th.

No sir. Those Nike clubs and golf balls are performing just fine.

So what’s wrong?

McIlroy has become a slow starter. He’s ranked 103rd on TOUR in front-nine scoring while fourth in back-nine scoring.

His final-round scoring average of 67.5 ranks third best on TOUR.

If you want to know why McIlroy has been inconsistent, look at his schedule, not his equipment.

The man has played nine rounds of stroke-play competition on the PGA TOUR this year. How can you develop feel when you have played in just a trio of stroke-play events?

That’s why I’m glad to see him at TPC San Antonio this week. Following Friday’s round at the Shell Houston Open, I asked McIlroy if he would consider adding the Valero Texas Open to his schedule. He looked surprised and said he never even considered adding it and didn’t know if he could still get into the field.

Two hours later, McIlroy was committed to playing.

McIlroy’s Nike equipment will perform just fine once he regains his level of competition concentration. He needs to eliminate those bad starts on the front nine and inconsistent opening rounds.

The numbers show, the more McIlroy plays the better he scores.

I’m guessing the fiddler starts producing some sweet music this very week.

Observations:

Kinder, gentler: It’s no secret, TPC San Antonio has been one tough golf course the last three years and players have criticized some design features. Give tournament officials credit, they listened and accommodated. Greens at holes 1-4-10-12 have been softened; some of the undulations have been eliminated. Players said the greens were too severe, given the irons they were required to hit into the putting surfaces. Nobody minds a difficult golf course but too many strange bounces were occurring to the point that luck was factoring into scores.

Calendar change: The tournament takes place about three weeks earlier than it did in previous years and that created some turf issues. The bermuda is dormant until temperatures stay above 50 degrees at night, so the course was over-seeded with rye – which has given TPC San Antonio a lushness players have not experienced in the past. The course will play a little slower with more grass on the fairways and not as many balls will race into the rough and trees.

Opening act: The first hole at TPC San Antonio was a tough start to a tough golf course. It played to a stroke average of 4.289 last year, making it one of the more exacting opening holes on the PGA TOUR schedule.

Those numbers should drop this year. The fairway is wider and the green has been softened. The rough is also less intimidating as the grounds got a general clean up.

Winner, winner: Charley Hoffman is 106th in FedExCup points but has just been waiting to get back to San Antonio. He finished 13th here last year and tied for second in 2011. Hoffman is also coming off a strong 20th place finish at the Shell Houston Open. He is eighth in par-5 scoring ,which is very important this week considering how difficult the par 5s are at TPC San Antonio.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here

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