LOUISVILLE: World number one Rory McIlroy has become golf’s most dominant player thanks to longer drives and more accurate wedges, but he’s not calling this the “Rory Era” just yet.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland has eight top-eight finishes this season, won his fourth major title at last month’s British Open, captured his first World Golf Championships victory last week at Akron, overtaking Adam Scott for the top of the rankings in the process.
McIlroy goes for another major crown starting Thursday at Valhalla in the 96th PGA Championship.
“I’ve had a great run and I’ve played well over the past few months,” McIlroy said Tuesday.
“It’s just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel I should be, which is near the top of the world rankings, competing in majors and winning tournaments.
“So I’m not necessarily sure you can call that an era, or the start of an era, but I’m really just happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try to continue that for as long as possible.”
McIlroy said he does not read what is written about him, especially the hype this week as the favorite at a course he is seeing in person for the first time.
“If you read everything that’s being written, I would turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I had already won the tournament,” McIlroy said.
“Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions and jump on the bandwagon and jump on certain things.”
People this week are talking about how the ball jumped off McIlroy’s driver.
McIlroy averaged a PGA season-best 334 yards off the tee at Akron and ranked 12th in driving accuracy while leading in greens reached in regulation as well.
McIlroy has his weight at a personal high of 160 pounds (72.5kg) and that extra muscle has helped him power the ball down the fairway with impressive results.
“Definitely over the past couple of weeks it’s the best I’ve driven the ball and hopefully I can continue to do that,” McIlroy said.
“I’m definitely hitting it longer. I’ve started to work harder in the gym and I’ve gotten stronger in certain areas of my body which I needed to.
“I’ve always had the speed and the power but I haven’t maybe had the strength or the stability to hold onto it my whole way through the swing. Working on a couple different things in the gym has definitely helped.
“Is there more to come? Maybe. It’s not like I’m going to get much bigger. I’ve put on three kilograms of muscle in the last eight weeks so that definitely helps. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been.”
Even McIlroy sees that he might not need more distance once he consistently outdrives all the competition.
“I don’t feel like I need to put on any more distance,” he said. “If I can hit it over 300 yards and in the fairway most of the time I’m happy enough with that. That gives me plenty of opportunities to hit it close to flags.”
McIlroy has worked on that as well by stressing work on wedge shots into greens and putting.
“I wasn’t being efficient enough,” he said. “I wasn’t taking advantage of some of the drives I was hitting so my wedge play had to get better.
“I discovered a little thing with my putting after the Masters so I’ve been working on that and it seems to have worked well,” McIlroy said. “I figured out something with my alignment.”
McIlroy took a day off Monday to make sure his mind is as ready as his body for the challenges Valhalla poses.
“I needed just to recharge a little bit,” McIlroy said. “Emotionally and mentally it’s more fatiguing after you win tournaments than physically. So just to give your brain a rest is a good thing.
“People can talk about my driving or how I’m swinging the club but mentally I just feel like I’m in a really good place and that’s what I’m really happy about.” AFP