NORTH LAS VEGAS – Rory McIlroy found an ideal place to prep for the November Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
Across the country in the southwest portion of the United States.
McIlroy said Wednesday that this week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in the Mojave Desert and next week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club in a lush forest north of Los Angeles will prove pivotal in his pursuit of his first green jacket and completion of the career Grand Slam.
Both tournaments were relocated from East Asia due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, McIlroy changed his itinerary.
“I was saying with how good the greens are here and how slopey and how fast and how the course is set up, it’s actually not a bad place to prepare for Augusta,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Shadow Creek. “It’s bent, the same conditions you’re going to get there in terms of grass anyway. Climate’s going to be a bit different, but it’s not bad preparation.
“It’s on the other side of the country, it’s not as close, but when you think about the courses that we play leading up to Augusta, they’re all Bermuda for the most part. I think here this week and Sherwood next week, I think that’s going to be a lot of guys’ last event before Augusta and I think they’re going to be two good courses. You both get 72 holes, which is a nice thing as well, so two really good weeks to see where your game’s at and then go home and work on some stuff before Augusta.”
The new father – his daughter, Poppy, was born August 31 – is returning this week after a three-week break. In his last start, McIlroy tied for eighth in the U.S. Open. He also saw firsthand what beefed-up Bryson DeChambeau did to famed and rugged Winged Foot while winning by six shots.
The talk of golf has put on nearly 50 pounds of mass and started lashing the ball distances that have prompted some of his colleagues to try to follow suit.
That includes McIlroy.
During his break, the four-time major winner began working on dialing up his swing speed and distance. Two weeks ago he posted a photo on Instagram of his launch monitor that revealed the shot he had just hit was recorded at 186 mph ball speed with a 340-yard carry.
“Having length is an advantage and I’ve always been pretty long, but what I want to do is at least know that I have it if I need it,” McIlroy said. “I’m not going to try to do it all the time, I’m not trying to get my ball speed into the 190s every time I hit a driver, but at least I know that if I need to do it, I can do it.”
McIlroy said he’s done some speed work in the gym. He also went to a lighter shaft – from 75 grams to 60 – to improve his mechanics, but the switch means he can move the club fasters, which translates to more ball speed and more yards.
“One of the great things that Bryson’s done (is) when he speed trains, he just hits the ball into a net, so he doesn’t really know where it’s going, he’s just trying to move as fast as he can, and it’s trying to get your body used to moving that way and sort of making the target irrelevant for a time being and then you can sort of try to bring it in from there,” McIlroy said. “From what I’ve been experimenting with the last couple weeks, it’s the fastest I’ve ever moved the club, the fastest my body’s ever moved.
“I think it’s the way the game’s going. I got sent a really good article last weekend, it was in the Wall Street Journal just about every single sport becoming faster, longer, stronger, and I don’t think golf’s any different. I’m just trying to keep up with the way it’s going.
“It’s been fun trying to do it. I don’t know how Bryson does it every day. You hit drivers really hard one day and you sort of have to back off for a couple days and do it again. It seems like he’s got a lot of robustness in that body that he can keep doing it day after day.”
Well, McIlroy will try to speed up from time to time.