Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The Butch Harmon effect: Rory McIlroy’s improved wedge game keys start at 2024 PGA Championship

By admin May24,2024

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In early April, Rory McIlroy flew to Las Vegas to see legendary golf instructor Butch Harmon for a second set of eyes.

“These are my Trackmans right here,” Harmon told his son Claude Harmon III on the “Son of a Butch” podcast, pointing to his nearly 81-year-old blue eyes. “These have worked pretty good for the last 40 years for these guys.”

Harmon had watched McIlroy make 26 birdies at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-21. One week later, McIlroy missed greens at TPC Sawgrass with his short irons.

“I explained to him you have a golf swing built to drive the ball. You’re the best driver of the ball in the game that I’ve seen since Greg Norman. The problem is you hit your wedge shots with your driver swing,” Harmon explained. “You have this big-old long swing and this big-old follow-thru and the balls to high in the air. I need to show you how to hit three-quarter shots, bring the ball flight down so one hop and stop. You’ll control the distance better. I said, ‘Look, you need to put your own take on how you do it’ and so far he’s done a nice job of it.”

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McIlroy, who entered the 2024 PGA Championship having won in his previous two starts, had one of those wedge shots Harmon talked about on Thursday that kept his round from coming off the rails.

At the par-5 18th hole, the ninth hole of the day for McIlroy who started on the back, the Northern Irishman leaked his tee shot to the right and into the water. He took a penalty and a drop and layed up to 120 yards. He had made bogey on the previous hole to fall back to 1 under after a pair of early birdies at Nos. 10 and 13 and was in danger of dropping back to even on a day where balmy conditions and receptive greens were a recipe for low scoring.

But McIlroy hit a beautiful wedge shot that hopped and stopped about 5 feet from the hole. McIlroy drained the par saver, made birdie at No. 1 and strung together three birdies in a row starting at No. 5 and including a chip-in at the sixth en route to an opening-round 5-under 66. Of the up-and-down at 18, which felt as good as any birdie, he said, “That kept any momentum that I had going into the next nine.”

That wasn’t his only good wedge shot. McIlroy had his own way of describing how he’s been dialed in so well of late with the short irons.

“I think just the same feelings I’ve been having with my golf swing, feeling strength in the club face on the way back, and then trying to keep that strength so that it forces me to really get out of the way on the down swing,” he said. “That’s the thought with the wedges and with the irons.”

It’s been a game-changer for the four-time major winner and could be the ticket to get him a third Wanamaker trophy. McIlroy, who is seeking his first major since winning the 2014 PGA Championship here nearly 10 years ago, sits four behind the pacesetter Xander Schauffele, who he chased down last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, and tied for fourth with Bob MacIntyre.

“I sort of felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part,” said McIlroy, who didn’t drive it anywhere near as well as he did last week. “I don’t really feel like I left many out there. I thought I got a lot out of my game today… not really happy with how I played but at least happy with the score.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek


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