McIlroy works with Harmon ahead of final Masters tuneup

In Sports
April 04, 2024



WASHINGTON:

Rory McIlroy said a lesson with veteran instructor Butch Harmon was a “really worthwhile trip” as he prepares for next week’s Masters and another chance to complete a career grand slam.

The 34-year-old from Northern Ireland spoke about his visit to see the former coach of Tiger Woods on Wednesday, the eve of the opening round of his final Masters tuneup, the Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.

“It was a really worthwhile trip and I feel like I’ve done some good work after that,” McIlroy said. “This is a good week to see where that work has gotten me.”

Four-time major winner McIlroy has not won a major crown since the 2014 PGA Championship, but capturing a green jacket next week at Augusta National would put him in select company.

Only Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen have won each major at least once in their careers.

World number two McIlroy, a top-10 finisher in seven of the past 10 Masters, was runner-up to Scottie Scheffler in 2022.

McIlroy, who won the Dubai Desert Classic in January, was unsatisfied after two 21st-place showings and a 19th-place at The Players Championship during three Florida stops, so he went to Las Vegas to visit Harmon.

He said: “After The Players and just sort of struggling through that Florida Swing with my swing and with some of the misses I was having with my irons, I just thought to myself, ‘I’m obviously missing something here and I just would love to go and get a second opinion and have him take a look, a second set of eyes.’

“The one thing with Butch is you go spend time with him and you’re always going to feel better about yourself at the end of it whether you’re hitting it better or not. He’s sort of half golf coach, half psychologist in a way.”

The change in routine helped McIlroy see some things in a new way.

“It’s fun to go out there,” he said.

“I went and spent probably four hours with him in Vegas. He said a couple of things to me that resonated.

“It’s the same stuff that I’ve been trying to do with my coach Michael (Bannon), but he sort of just said it in a different way that maybe hit home with me a little bit more.”

McIlroy has the chance to work on his changes before facing the challenge of Augusta National.

“If I realized anything over the last few years, it’s (that) I definitely play my best golf in runs, so this is the first of probably a four-week stretch for me,” he said.

“It’s nice to try to play my way into form… with the main focus being getting myself ready for the Masters next week.”

McIlroy said he remains concerned about having the world’s top players divided between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, whose backers are in merger talks with the PGA which have stretched more than three months beyond their original deadline.

“If you look at the TV ratings of the PGA Tour this year, they’re down 20 percent across the board. That’s big,” McIlroy said. “I would say the numbers on LIV aren’t great either.

“With the fighting and everything that’s (gone) on over the past couple years, people are just getting really fatigued of it.”

McIlroy said if ratings rise for the majors, where top PGA and LIV players both compete, it’s a sign fans want them on a united tour, but if they are down, it’s a sign people are losing interest in golf if not even the top events can turn the TV trend.

“That’s where I said things need a correction and things are unsustainable because I’m close with… people that really care about these things and the people that tune in to watch golf — 20 percent is a pretty jarring number this year.”

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