In the world of professional golf, the question of whether two adults are in a full player-coach relationship can often be controversial. Are they just talking? In an open exchange of ideas? Full working together?
Come in on Rory McIlroy and his team of game developers, the number and nature of which have come under scrutiny. Months ago, McIlroy announced that lifelong coach Michael Bannon would move into the background role, while he planned to seek the advice of Tour whisperer Pete Cowen on a weekly basis. Then there was last week’s report Golf week under the eye-catching headline: “Rory McIlroy is resigning from Pete Cowen, returning to be a long-time swing director.” The language of the article itself was a little softer when McIlroy announced through the text that he had “always had a relationship with Pete and I ask for his input if I feel I need it.”
But Cowen questioned this characterization Golf Digest. “It’s not a deal I made with Rory. And I only made the deal last Friday,” Cowen told Digest’s Daniel Rapaport. through the text.
Do you have all this? These are complex relationships. Interested parties will inform friends via text message. There is seemingly contradictory information. All the best from a distance. But the coaching limo is probably not an ideal incubator to improve the game, and explaining complicated relationships to the media doesn’t sound very fun, so when McIlroy picked up the microphone at DP’s World Cup on Tuesday, he tried to figure things out. Ready?
“It’s like – Michael has always been my coach,” McIlroy said. – He’s been coaching me since I was 8 years old. He’s also been there, even though he wasn’t visible, he’s been in the background for the last six months, and I think Michael knows my swing and my game better than I probably know it at this point.
“So I just thought I was struggling, especially in the Ryder Cup, it’s fun, I chatted with him long after the Ryder Cup, and we had arranged for him to come out the week after Vegas to start working again. And apparently I went and won. [The CJ Cup] In Vegas.
“But these two weeks between the Ryder Cup and Vegas, I feel like I came up with a few things myself. Which sometimes has to be done. Sometimes you have to go throw hundreds of balls down the field and hit them and come up with it yourself.
“And I feel like I did it. I’m not claiming I’ll ever need help again, and I’ve understood it, but I talked about it in Vegas, just that I’m myself and I’m not trying to do anything other people do or do what I can. Don’t tea.
“So I tried to figure it out for myself. And I guess I went to Vegas a little more confidently and won that tournament, and it gave me even more self-confidence. And then, if anything, Michael has more of a sound platform at this point. I tell him I’m trying to do this. Tell me , if I’m not entirely right. “
This is part of McIlroy’s ongoing effort to return to the essentialism of golf, which means the best possible version of playing his own golf game instead of trying to chase some other ideal. “It’s good to be me,” he said concisely after that latest win. It makes sense for his lifelong swing coach to be part of that process. But McIlroy made it clear he hasn’t lost Cowen’s number either.
“Like I said last week, I’ve always had a relationship with Pete, I’ve known Pete since I was 13 about Irish arrangements, and if I want to ask his opinion on something, I can still do it. If I feel I need his input, I’ll ask for it. I’m happy with the arrangement I’ve basically always had and I’m excited about the road ahead.
McIlroy also hinted at some specific swing ideas that have worked for him – including an increased focus on visualization instead of swing mechanics.
“I think when you’re pretty consumed with technology, you start to lose – I’m a very visual person, I visualize things and I think I’m kind of different from that mindset,” he said. “I looked at the ball, looked at the goal and tried to make a swing to get the ball to that goal, but I wasn’t see what i wanted to do with the ball.
“So those two weeks after the Ryder Cup, basically every shot I hit is very easy to hit the ball, hit another, every ball I was very disciplined, I stood back and visualized what I wanted to do. That shot, I tried to be what I was trying to do and just let my body reacts to what I see.
“So it was very important to me … To be more visual, to see more shots, to see the trajectories, to see the shapes. That’s what I’ve always done really, really well. And I got rid of it, and I had to try to come back to do it more.”
As always, McIlroy is a tour champ in English proficiency. Everything sounds particularly clear when he says it. Can this clarity translate into performance on the course, we’ll get a couple more samples from this calendar season – in Dubai this week and the Bahamas next week – before it’s holiday season and then it’s 2022, and McIlroy is back looking for something a little better.