Equipment Report

    Rory McIlroy’s new 3-iron helps him hit it higher

    That comes in handy at Bay Hill, where players face plenty of long approach shots

  • McIlroy recently put a new 3-iron in his bag and it’s in his bag again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)McIlroy recently put a new 3-iron in his bag and it’s in his bag again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy, who led after one round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a 7-under 65 on Thursday, recently put a new 3-iron in his bag at The Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and it’s in his bag at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. McIlroy said it gives him more “flight.”

“It’s the (TaylorMade P790) head; I have the blades in everything else,” he said after his round. “It just gives me a bit more flight; I hit it up in the air. I can hit it up in the air, and it’s just easier to hit. 

“If I flush my blade with my 3-iron, it should go about 245-247 (yards), but if I miss it, it goes the same distance as my 4-iron. Whereas, if I miss this 3-iron it doesn’t go quite as short.”

Long-iron play can be especially important at Bay Hill, which has seen more approach shots from 200-plus yards than any course on TOUR since 2016, according to Justin Ray of Twenty First Group. That’s due in large part to the course’s long par-3s and reachable par-5s. Last year’s Bay Hill champion, Bryson DeChambeau, led the PGA TOUR in average proximity from 200-plus yards last season.

Like DeChambeau, McIlroy is known for his ability to hit the ball sky high. Entering this week, McIlroy had an average proximity of 43 feet, 6 inches on approaches greater than 200 yards. That would rank him ninth on TOUR if he’d played enough rounds to be included in this season’s statistical rankings. His average proximity from 225-250 yards (38’, 2”) would rank sixth.

According to TaylorMade, the P790 has a forged hollow-body construction that uses newly-engineered SpeedFoam Air, which is 69% lighter than its predecessor, inside the head. That helped TaylorMade to create a thinner face for increased ball speeds and move the center of gravity lower for increased forgiveness and higher ball flights. Thirty-one grams of tungsten in the toe creates more stability and forgiveness. The irons are also more forgiving on strikes low on the face because of a Thru-Slot Speed Pocket.

“When you look at Rory as a golfer and the distances between his driver, fairway woods and his longest iron, that gap is one of the most important parts of his set up,” said Adrian Rietveld, TaylorMade’s senior tour rep. “In order for him to be aggressive into par 5s and land the ball softly on long par 3s, he needs a golf club that has really high launch, good spin and can land softly. Then, he needs that club to have the ability to hit draws and hit fades. It’s almost like trying to fit two clubs into one to cover the yardage gap.

“The average player has 14 golf clubs to cover the distance between 290 carry and zero. With Rory you have a player that’s trying to cover the distance between zero and 325+. The tools in the bag need to be tools that can do more than one job and Keith (Sbarbaro) fitted a golf club in the TaylorMade P790 that can do that.”

McIlroy at first tried a steel shaft in the new 3-iron, like he had in the previous one, but transitioned into a Fujikura Ventus Black shaft, which he also has in his woods. Did he have any challenges in matching it up?

“Graphite nowadays is so much stronger than steel,” he said. “I tried a steel shaft before, and the thing just kept going left. It just wasn’t strong enough at the bottom. So then we tried this Ventus, and they’re very tip-stiff anyway. Yeah, it straightened the ball flight out.”

Armed with a new club that only exacerbates one of McIlroy’s advantages, he finished T10 at The Genesis Invitational and now is in the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, which he won in 2018.