McIlroy says trying to copy speed of DeChambeau was mistake

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Swinging faster and hitting the ball longer worked for U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.

Rory McIlroy tried to copy him and said Friday it was a mistake.

McIlroy posted his worst 36-hole score since 2013, following his 79 in the opening round with a 75 to miss the cut by 10 shots at The Players Championship. This came one week after a 4-over weekend at Bay Hill cost him a chance to win.

He attributed the problems to trying to be like DeChambeau, minus the protein shakes and 40 additional pounds.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open,” McIlroy said in candid comments following his second missed cut in four events, after going two years without a weekend off.

“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.’”

It hasn’t done much for him.

McIlroy said he was frustrated by swing issues he said dates to October — one month after DeChambeau blasted away at Winged Foot and, with a superb wedge game out of the rough, won the U.S. Open by six shots.

The bulk on DeChambeau was to be able to handle swinging harder and faster to generate more distance. McIlroy said he started doing some speed training and “started getting sucked into that stuff.”

“Swing got flag, long and too rotational,” he said. “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.”

McIlroy, whose last victory was in Shanghai in the fall of 2019, was among the hottest players in golf until the pandemic shut down the PGA Tour for three months. When he returned, he went eight straight events without a top 10.

He felt his game slowly turning around at the Tour Championship and the U.S. Open.

“I sort of look back at Winged Foot and I look at my swing there, and I would be pretty happy with that again,” he said. “And then after Winged Foot I had a few weeks before we went to the West Coast and 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.

“So it’s just a matter of trying to get back out of it.”

Now it’s time for a break. He set an ambitious schedule at the start of the year. The Players Championship was his seventh event in eight weeks. McIlroy will not play next week in the Honda Classic, or at the Valero Texas Open a week before the Masters. His only event is the Dell Match Play in two weeks, where only having a better score than the opponent in all that really matters.

Even so, his form is a concern with the Masters a month away. This will be McIlroy’s seventh time going to Augusta National needing a green jacket for the career Grand Slam.

“First and foremost, I have to be able to hit the shots and get the ball starting on my line and control the flight and control the spin,” he said. “At the minute I’m struggling to do that, and if you can’t do that going to Augusta, you’ve got no chance.”

The only upside to his two-day total of 10-over 154 was the company he kept. McIlroy is close friends with with Sergio Garcia, who is two shots off the lead, and Webb Simpson, a favorite of most players.

McIlroy and his wife had their first child in September, a girl named Poppy. Garcia and his wife had their second child, a son named Enzo, last April.

“His young son and our daughter met each other for the first time yesterday,” McIlroy said. “They came over to the house afterwards and we had a good time. So that was fun.”

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