Rory McIlroy admits trying to bash it like Bryson has damaged his swing

Northern Irishman says chasing Bryson DeChambeau's increased speed and distance played a part in his disastrous display and missed cut at THE PLAYERS Championship.

Earlier this week, Dustin Johnson was asked who would win a long-drive contest between the top-10 biggest hitters on the PGA TOUR.

Smashing the ball a million miles is the hottest storyline in golf after Bryson DeChambeau decided to become a human guinea pig, bulk himself up and launch the ball into orbit.

It was a teasing question, playing on the idea of big is better; a not-so-hidden test of Johnson's machismo.

Johnson isn't known for his moments of clarity but the World No.1's answer was smart and to the point. He didn't take the bait at all. As far as he was concerned, getting caught up in a long-driving contest was somewhat stupid.

So come on DJ, we know you hit it miles too, could you match him?

"Not me, he responded. "I mean, I can hit it far, but I can't hit it that far. I want to hit it straight though. So that's my goal is to hit it in the fairway, not to hit it far."

While Johnson looks to make a weekend charge at TPC Sawgrass, Rory McIlroy is heading home.

McIlroy has had a woeful two days, taking 43 blows on his opening nine before handing in a 7-over 79 and then following it with a 75.

He didn't just miss the cut, he missed it by a mile. A total of 155 players took part this week and McIlroy's 10-over total - 10 over the cut line - was the joint-142nd best score.

One thing McIlroy can always be relied upon, though, is to give an honest answer.

So it was fascinating to hear him admit that, unlike DJ, his head HAD been turned by the DeChambeau circus strongman act. McIlroy had been watching Bryson's big-hitting feats closely and decided he needed more of that in his own game.

After all, DeChambeau was winning and winning big. The American romped to victory in the US Open and added another trophy at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But, on this week's evidence, Rory's experiment is failing. With less than a month to go to The Masters, does he need a rethink?

McIlroy is well-fancied at 11/1 with Paddy Power to win his first Green Jacket. DeChambeau is 10/1 while Johnson is 7/1 favourite to repeat his November triumph at Augusta National.

It should interest McIlroy that DJ didn't win the 2020 Masters because he hit it significantly further than anyone else. He was also rated 13th for Driving Accuracy that week, 1st for Greens In Regulation and 5th in Scrambling.

To triumph at Augusta, Rory needs to get all parts of his game in tip-top shape.

This is the full press conference of McIlroy revealing how trying to be like Bryson has had a detrimental effect. Note the agonised pause before he admits he'd been sucked into the length issue.

What are you most frustrated with?

"Probably the swing issues and where it all stems from, probably like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff, swing got flat, long, and too rotational. Obviously I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer, but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn't a good thing, so I'm sort of fighting to get back out of that. That's what I'm frustrated with.

"I felt like I made some good strides. I played well at the TOUR Championship, played well at the US Open. I sort of look back at Winged Foot and I look at my swing there, and I would be pretty happy with that again, and then after Winged Foot I had a few weeks before we went to the West Coast and I started to try to hit the ball a bit harder, hit a lot of drivers, get a bit more speed, and I felt like that was sort of the infancy of where these swing problems have come from. So it's just a matter of trying to get back out of it."

Is it something you feel like you can get out of quickly, or if you didn't fall into it immediately it'll take some time?

"Yeah, it'll take a bit of time. Like with anything, the slightest change in your swing is going to feel uncomfortable for a while. It's not like it's that far away. I go back to last September, October is where it looked and felt pretty good, so it's just a matter of sort of maybe not erasing the stuff, I'd still like to keep the speed and what I've been able to but just not make the swings that are sort of producing that speed."

Not to play amateur psychologist, but you're obviously one of the longest players on the PGA TOUR. Why do you think you went down that route?

"I think a lot of people did. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't anything to do with what Bryson did at the US Open. I think a lot of people saw that and were like, whoa, if this is the way they're going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps. It really helps.

"The one thing that people don't appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough. 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 us, than other guys. And I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing, and I maybe just. to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there, but I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit."

Bryson DeChambeau with the US Open trophy after winning at Winged Foot
Bryson DeChambeau with the US Open trophy after winning at Winged Foot

It was a beautiful day to play golf, you're playing with two guys you know well, it's a nice golf course. Is there any pleasure out of today for you at all?

"Sergio (Garcia) is one of my closest friends out here. His young son and our daughter met each other for the first time yesterday. They came over to the house afterwards and we had a good time, so that was good fun.

"And Pauly (caddie Paul Tesori) and Webb (Simpson), any time I see I'm paired with them, I look forward to it. They're two of the nicest guys out here. If I had to be miserable for a couple of days it was good to do it with them."

Right now do you have any desire to play and practice?

"Yeah, I want to get on the range right away and try to get through this. Yeah, I'm pretty determined to get back to where I know I can be."

Is it going to be good to get home?

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I don't want to say it's been a long four weeks, but definitely, it's funny, I used to think four weeks in a row was nothing, and then I feel like I'm getting old because by the fourth week I'm like, a little achy, a couple things are hurting, so I'm looking forward to getting home. That's not the reason I didn't play very well this week, but yeah, it's felt like a long four weeks."

I know you mentioned it's been four weeks in a row, but it's also been like seven of eight for you. In hindsight do you worry that that may be a little too much to bite off?

"It was certainly ambitious, especially going Abu Dhabi to the West Coast. But I wanted to play. I played sparingly sort of from September onwards last year, so I wanted to play quite a bit.

"I think these next three weeks coming up it'll give me some time to work on some stuff and I can get ready for that place that you have on your facemask (Masters logo)."

html) */?>

You had three excellent rounds to end in November there (Rory closed the 2020 Masters with 66-67-69); is some of that confidence you got from that a little diminished by what has happened in the last couple weeks?

"I think so. I struggled there on the first day (75), just sort of started to trust myself a little bit and found something in between that first and second round on Friday, and then, as you said, I played really well from then on in.

"I mean, I certainly have like an idea in my head of the way I want to play that golf course, and I felt like I really made some good strides in November. But if you're not hitting the shots, then it doesn't make any difference. First and foremost I have to be able to hit the shots and get the ball starting on my line and control the flight and control the spin. At the minute I'm struggling to do that, and if you can't do that going to Augusta, you've got no chance."