What We Can Learn from Rory: Impact is Important
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his shot from the 11th tee during the first round of the 2022 PGA Championship at the Southern Hills on May 19, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/PGA of America)
Rory McIlroy’s 2021-22 PGA Tour season rivaled that of his 2014 and 2019 campaigns. He claimed the Vardon Trophy, presented since 1937 to the men’s touring professional with the lowest adjusted scoring average. He won three times - the Tour Championship, the RBC Canadian Open and The CJ Cup @ Summit. And perhaps more impressively, he also finished the season ranked first in Stroke Gained Total - gaining over two strokes against the field. McIlroy gained strokes tee to green against the field in all 15 PGA Tour events he played in the wrap-around season.
Getting more well-rounded with our ball striking is a goal we should all share with McIlroy. To help ensure we can make those improvements, it’s critical that you make great contact.
Here are three drills to improve your ball striking to help you gain more strokes tee to green:
- When practicing your driver, place all 10 fingers on the club. This may sound funny, but for 99% of you only eight or nine fingers touch the club with a normal grip. Separate your hands just enough that your lead index finger and trail pinky finger are on the grip. Within one swing, you will quickly realize the purpose of this drill. Many of us tend to pull the handle with our driver and never get a true “hit” feeling through impact. By placing both hands completely on the grip, you will activate both sides of your swing and get a little more contact at impact.
- Rory hits his irons very high. Part of that comes from incredible clubhead speed, but another part comes from his approach on the ball. On the range, take a mid-iron and address the ball with your feet together. The ball should sit in front of you between your feet. Now take the club back until your lead arm is parallel to the ground. At that moment the shaft should be vertical. This position would look like the letter “L.” Swing down through the ball and mirror that position on the target side with your trail arm parallel and the shaft back to vertical forming another “L.” The L drill gives us a feel of how the clubhead rotates through impact. This movement is what launches the ball high and far.
- When you’re working on your short game, try chipping with an extra club. Take your normal chipping stance. Alongside your trail foot, lay an iron against the outside of that shoe. The grip end should extend so that it is laying past the target line and the middle of the shaft is the part pressing against that trail foot. With the club in place, hit a couple of chips shots. This drill will improve these short strikes on the ball by moving your weight forward and creating a descending blow on the ball at impact. Stop scooping these shots and strike them crisply.
As you work on these drills, you'll notice that you're striking the ball more pure and as you progress you'll see your impact improve and your scores drop.
For additional inspiration from Rory's swing in action, check out these highlights from the PGA Championship!
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