It's official. There is a Youth Movement in golf and it is being lead by Rory McIrloy. In the past 5 majors, the 5 different winners were all 30 years old or younger! (Actually, McDowell was 30, the rest are all in their 20s!) Rory is the youngest at 22 years old, and he is going to stay on top because of the experience he has gained playing in the past few majors (most notably at Augusta when he lost his Sunday lead), the mechanics he uses in his swing and the mental strength he has exhibited during this week's US Open.
Rory came out fighting Sunday, not protecting his lead but increasing it. How was this different from the collapse at the Masters in April? It was all his perspective.
"What I did today, I tried to set myself a little target, little goals, just because it kept me from focusing on the leader board and focusing on how far ahead I was or anything like that," McIlroy explained. "... That really kept me in the present."
Mental Strength in golf is simply staying present. As Rory described, setting the little goals that keep you focused on the shot at hand is the best way to keep you moving in the right direction in your round. Here's how you can do it, too:
Before every swing, describe to yourself everything you can about the shot you are about to attempt. Find out:
- How far is the target, is it level, elevated or lower
- How is the lie of the ball, fairway, rough, sand
- Is there wind, will the ball fly to the target or roll
- What shape of shot will you need, draw or fade?
- Then decide how these factors will affect your shot as a low, medium or high risk play. Fully commit to your choice.
- Finally, describe to yourself how you will execute the shot you've chosen. Keep these swing thoughts simple.
- Use this process when the heat is on and your mind will not drift into negative self thoughts that can ruin a round.
The Mechanics in Rory's swing are perfection. Statistically, he lead all players in Greens In Regulation for the US Open with 86% (62 of 72!). That is 20% higher than last year's Open at Pebble beach. Phil Mickelson's caddy, Jim "Bones" MacKay said after seeing McIlroy's game up close for the first two rounds of the US Open, he had never seen a better two rounds of golf played, EVER. Here are a few keys to emulate in your swing:
- Start with a clean, well balanced address position. Getting perfectly centered in your golf stance means having evenly distributed weight from left to right and heels to toes. In this "ready" position, you will feel little or no muscle activation as you hold the club. (Drill: Stand in your golf posture and get centered. You will feel relaxed and ready to turn. Drift slightly toward your toes and you will notice your leg muscles will slightly contract, locking up the farther forward you drift towards your toes. Drift back to center and notice how the muscles in your stance relax again, returning you to a perfect "ready" position.)
- Turn First! Rotation is the first move to every swing you will make in golf! Too many players "shift" to the right to begin their take away and this is wrong. Once you have achieved the "Ready" position at address, Rotate your upper body over a stable lower and you will start a perfect sequence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX_ksI7j63c&feature=related 
- Learn to control the club face like Rory. On the take away, the club face will match the forward tilt in your spine angle. Watch this video and stop it at the 0:02 mark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aok_KCTtI9k&feature=related This is a perfectly square club face to the swing path Rory is swinging, ensuring a straight ball flight.
- Get to your left side at impact! Shifting to the target as your arms drop in front of you is a powerful move that will increase distance, something Rory did better than anyone this week. Watch this video from 0:04 to 0:07 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u03BE7iwI5g&NR=1 
Remember this US Open and the perfection we witnessed. I think it will be the first of many trophies raised by Rory McIlroy.
Joe Plecker is the PGA Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club. To learn more about Joe, click here.