Rory McIlroy calls on Butch Harmon to set up a two-swing showdown ahead of the Masters

Rory McIlroy went to Butch Harmon to get another opinion on his golf swing – Getty Images/Stuart Franklin

Rory McIlroy has enlisted legendary coach Butch Harmon as he tries to fix his ‘two swings’ in time for next week’s Masters.

The world No. 2 is playing in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open as a preparation event for his 10th attempt to become the sixth player in history to complete the career grand slam. Since the start of a thrilling season in Dubai in January – where he finished second and first – McIlroy has performed indifferently on the PGA Tour, recording one top-20 finish in five tournaments.

The 34-year-old has made no secret that he has struggled with his game, mainly with his approach play. He has been putting in the work for the past two weeks and last week he was spotted at Michael Jordan’s ultra-exclusive Grove XXIII near his home in South Florida.

McIlroy went through several exhaustive sessions on the range with Michael Bannon, his fellow Ulster who has overseen the famously rhythmic offering since the four-time major winner was eight years old. It has emerged – first via the website GolfWRX – that he made the 2,000-plus mile trip from Nevada to seek Harmon’s famous advice.

The 80-year-old guided Tiger Woods to his first eight major wins, including three Green Jackets, and also enjoyed Augusta success with Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Harmon has retired from the Tour world, but still teaches from his base in Las Vegas.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood is now a client and on Wednesday McIlroy’s management confirmed to Telegraph Sport that he was involved in the whole experience.

“I was struggling with my pace and after The Players I thought ‘I’m obviously missing something here’ and I’d love to go and let him have a look, a second set of eyes,” he said.

“When I was going I said to Poppy [his three-year-old daughter] that I had a golf lesson. She said ‘but you already know how to play golf’. So I left with those words of wisdom.”

It’s not the first time he’s consulted Harmon and, despite Poppy’s perfectly justified questioning, it makes sense. McIlroy has admitted that he is in danger about his “feelings” with his clubs and it comes down to what some experts argue is old-fashioned swinging.

Undoubtedly, he is one of golf’s premier drivers, but from 150 yards in, the failings have been all too apparent of late. He leads the ‘Total Driving’ statistics on the PGA Tour this campaign, but on the ‘Strokes Gained – Approach Play’ charts he is 119th.

Swing back

McIlroy has a ‘front-back’ swing with a wood where his weight stays on the front foot compared to his ‘back-back’ iron swing and the weight on his back foot leading to a sharper take.

The most important stat at Augusta is ‘Proximity to Hole’, so McIlroy’s urgency is understandable and he has addressed the disconnect in his game.

“I have this great feeling with my woods at the moment, but when I try to recreate that feeling with the iron, it starts left and goes further left,” he said. “I think it’s because you swing harder with a wood, you’re kind of clearing [your body] more difficult.

“It’s almost like two different swings. I have a swing in mind for my woods and I need a different swing for my irons, so that’s what I’m working on.”


McIlroy has more wood in front of him at impact compared to behind him with an iron which is shown by the difference in space between his arm and thigh with each club.

His demons at Augusta are the stuff of golf folklore and there are many doubts whether he will ever clear the mental block. But in terms of the “two swings” only, is it between the ears or between the shoulder blades?

Instructors have previously claimed that McIlroy has what is known as a ‘back-back swing’ with his clubs – which basically means that most of his mass remains over his right foot at impact – and with his irons “start it. -back swing”, with his weight over his left leg. This is problematic because, as McIlroy said, elite golfers like to play “shots” and don’t think about “swings” in competition.

“I have to remind myself on the tee box that okay, this is a wood, and I’m going to go on the fairway, and this is an iron, and I have two different feelings and two different thoughts,” a he said.

Follow through

McIlroy finishes with a traditional follow-up loop with the wood around the back of the head that differs from his high and short finish with an iron.

However, Pete Cowen disagrees with the two-swing assessment. The Yorkshireman, who rivals Harmon as the “world’s best coach” umpire, worked with McIlroy in 2022 when he briefly left Bannon and no doubt gained an insight into the weakness that left, more more than any other, it is back from winning the fifth major. and the first in ten years.

“It’s not a two-swing thing, it’s a speed thing,” Cowen told Telegraph Sport on Wednesday. “Rory is able to square the club face and hit it off center at 125 to 130mph. But it struggles at lower speeds. So with wedges he struggles with ball flight. If that’s what people think it’s a two-pronged problem.”

What is not in question is that McIlroy needs a quick cure if he is to challenge among the cathedral pines of Augusta next week and it will be interesting in the coming days at TPC San Antonio to see if the Harmon effect having accepted it. But McIlroy is feeling positive.

“A few things really stood out to me from seeing Butch in Vegas,” he said. “It’s feeling a little more cohesive… it feels like they’re sort of meshing back into one. It was well worth the trip.”

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