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Rory McIlroy rethinks need for speed

Rory McIlroy at 2021 Players Championship
Rory McIlroy (right), with Webb Simpson, makes an early exit from the Players Championship but vows a new approach to his game.

After missing cut at Players Championship, Northern Irishman vows to gear down in pursuit of Bryson DeChambeau-like distance

Though he ranks second in driving distance on the PGA Tour to Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy has vowed to give up the chase. The need for speed is not worth it, McIlroy said Friday after missing the cut at the Players Championship.

In the weeks after DeChambeau overpowered Winged Foot for a six-stroke victory in the U.S. Open in September, McIlroy figured that he needed to supercharge his swing speed.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open,” said McIlroy, who led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 2017 and 2018 and, at 319.8 yards per drive, ranks second this year only to DeChambeau’s 323.5 average.

“The one thing that people don’t appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough,” McIlroy said after he shot 79-75 for an early exit at TPC Sawgrass. “Not only because of how upright he is, but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than other guys.”

McIlroy said he gained 3 mph in swing speed, to about 122 mph. That’s still more than 10 mph behind DeChambeau’s PGA Tour-leading 133.08.

Though McIlroy entered the Players Championship with consecutive top-10 results on the Florida Swing – T-6 at the WGC Workday and a T-10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which DeChambeau won – the Northern Irishman vows to play more within himself in the future.

“I felt like that was sort of the infancy of where these swing problems have come from,” said McIlroy, 31, a four-time major champion who completed a run of seven tournaments in eight weeks as he seeks his first victory since the HSBC Champions on Nov. 3, 2019. “So, it’s just a matter of trying to get back out of it.”

For his part, DeChambeau expressed flattery upon being informed Saturday about McIlroy’s comments.

“I appreciate it, first off,” said DeChambeau, who underwent a physical transformation during the three-month shutdown last season that resulted in an addition 40 pounds or so of mostly muscle. “I wasn't trying to influence anybody. I was just trying to play my own game and hit it as far as I possibly could. And I knew there was going to be an affect. I didn't know what it would be or who would be affected by it, but again, golf is a weird game.

“This journey that I'm on is not taken lightly. I've tried to figure out a bunch of different variables that you have to in order to hit it straight, hitting it really far. I knew that there would be some people that would try and some people it would potentially not work for them and some people it may help them. So, I really don't know that, but I do appreciate Rory's comments. It's kind of a sentiment almost and something that keeps me going every day.”

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