As the once and future kings of modern pro golf, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy invite constant comparison. Side-by-side assessments of their techniques are irresistible, especially with the driver. The big stick is at the core of their games, strategically, psychologically and emotionally. For McIlroy and Woods—quintessential power players—the driver is an offensive, birdie-inducing weapon that works to their advantage (usually) and serves as a springboard for their genius in other departments of the game.
The two players have taken divergent routes to the driver swings they possess, and they are in radically different places developmentally. McIlroy, 23, has essentially owned one swing since taking up with coach Michael Bannon at age 8. Woods, 36, has retooled his swing at least three times, most recently with Sean Foley. Instructor Jim McLean says their philosophical approach to the swing is, in some ways, miles apart.
"Rory's swing is what Jackie Burke calls 'untouched,' " he says. "It's free-flowing, natural, and doesn't have a technical look to it, especially when seen in motion. It's predicated on rhythm, length, speed and feel. There's a lot of 'let go' in his swing. He's reminiscent of Tiger at the same age."
Woods, meanwhile, has evolved from the unstructured, let-it-fly youth who came to Butch Harmon at age 17 in 1993. "Hints of a more mechanical approach are evident in many parts of Tiger's swing," McLean says. "His right arm kept so close to his side at the top of his backswing is an example. This is not better or worse, but it's a distinction he has from Rory."
Their technical departures produce varying results. McIlroy averages 310 yards off the tee; Woods is almost 13 yards shorter. Tiger is more accurate, ranking 53rd on tour in driving accuracy to Rory's 151st. Their clubhead speeds, however, are identical at 120 miles per hour. "They're very alike in how violently they go after it," McLean says. "In terms of strength, flexibility and range of motion, they're similar, too. Their swings are a bit different, but their commonalities are their strong points." —Guy Yocom