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Rory McIlroy receives lesson from Butch Harmon after early season struggles

3 Min Read



    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    Rory McIlroy left THE PLAYERS Championship unsatisfied. There were glimmers of good, like his opening round 65 to share the 18-hole lead. He made 26 birdies at TPC Sawgrass, one off the tournament record. Yet, when the final putt dropped Sunday, McIlroy finished 11 shots back of winner Scottie Scheffler.

    “The good is good. The bad is still quite destructive,” said McIlroy, who made three double bogeys and 11 bogeys alongside the barrage of birdies. “I honestly expect a lot more from myself.”

    And it appears McIlroy turned to a familiar and trusted source to help aid his swing woes. McIlroy confirmed Wednesday at the Valero Texas Open that he sought advice from legendary swing coach Butch Harmon. McIlroy first revealed the news on the “I Fly Podcast." He spent four hours with Harmon in Las Vegas

    "I think just after THE PLAYERS and just sort of struggling through that Florida Swing with my swing and with some of the misses I was having with my irons, I just thought to myself I'm obviously missing something here and I just would love to go and get a second opinion and have him take a look, a second set of eyes," McIlroy said.

    Rory McIlroy on recent work with swing coach Butch Harmon

    McIlroy has spoken publicly about consulting Harmon in the past. They linked in October 2020 when McIlroy was unable to see his longtime coach, Michael Bannon, in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. McIlroy mentioned he has seen Harmon multiple times throughout his career.

    The meet-up is unsurprising, given McIlroy’s early-season struggles on the PGA TOUR. After notching 10 consecutive finishes inside the top 11 to close out the 2022-23 season, McIlroy is still searching for his first this year. He hasn’t gone without a top-10 before the Masters since 2010. McIlroy is 66th in the FedExCup and ranked outside the top 40 in Strokes Gained: Total.

    Rory McIlroy (R) talks with Butch Harmon during a practice round prior to the 2016 PGA Championship.  (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

    Rory McIlroy (R) talks with Butch Harmon during a practice round prior to the 2016 PGA Championship. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

    A left miss with his irons and some shaky putting were the culprits in his first TOUR starts of 2024. He felt he solved the putting at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, an assertion backed up by back-to-back weeks ranked inside the top 20 in Putting. His iron play drastically improved at THE PLAYERS, too. He finished 18th in Approach Play and mostly eradicated the left miss. But it came at the expense of his driving performance, McIlroy’s biggest weapon. He hit only half of his fairways and found the water four times at TPC Sawgrass. Ranked first in SG: Off-the-Tee for the season, McIlroy finished 54th at THE PLAYERS. The 23-time TOUR winner detailed that he had two swing feels, one for his driver and woods and another for his iron play.

    “I have to remind myself on the tee box that, ‘okay, this is a wood,’ and I get on the fairway, and this is an iron. I’ve got two different feels and two different thoughts,” he said at TPC Sawgrass.

    That is improving thanks to the trip to see Harmon.

    "It feels like they're sort of meshing back into one a little bit," McIlroy said. "And again, just a couple of things that resonated with me from the trip to Vegas to see Butch. But yeah, it's feeling a little more cohesive I guess is probably the right word."

    Leaders in driving from The Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Harmon is a repository of golf knowledge who has coached some of the game’s best, like Tiger Woods and Freddie Couples. It’s that expertise that McIlroy valued.

    “If you’re trying to explain to him, ‘Look, I’m trying to do this or I’m trying to create that feeling,’ the database of players that he’s worked with over the years, he could say, ‘Well, Freddie Couples felt this, or Tiger did this or (Dustin Johnson) felt that. It’s always nice to have that reference,’” McIlroy recalled in 2020.

    McIlroy will test his game this week at Valero before heading to Augusta National Golf Club. McIlroy is not expected to arrive in Augusta until Tuesday night, per Golfweek. It will be McIlroy’s 16th Masters appearance and his 10th attempt at the career Grand Slam. The 2014 PGA Championship is McIlroy’s last major championship victory.

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