By Matthew Rudy
If you're looking for the ideal statistical profile for the No. 1 player in the world, it's hard to beat Rory McIlroy's line. He led the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in driving distance (334.8 yards) and greens hit (79.2 percent), and he was 12th in driving accuracy.
And there's the $3.2 million he has earned for back-to-back victories at the British Open and Firestone.
When McIlroy is so dominant off the tee, he's the odds-on favorite every time he plays. The betting line is 5-to-1 for this week's PGA.
"Driving the ball long and straight is a huge advantage, and nobody is doing that better than Rory McIlroy right now," says Garrett Chaussard, a Golf Digest top teacher in Illinois and instructor at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "He has the ability to create a ton of speed with a relatively small frame all while returning the center of the club to the ball consistently -- which is the key to hitting it straight and being able to swing the driver with confidence on even the tightest hole."
Here's a video from this year's Honda Classic that helps illustrate just how Rory does this.
McIlroy punctuated his driving clinic at Firestone with his tee shot on the final hole, a narrow 464-yard par 4 with trees protecting the left side of the green. McIlroy hit his driver 324 yards into the center of an eight-yard window where he had a clear approach to the green. He hit a 140-yard sand wedge into the center of the green and finished with a routine two-putt to close out his 66 and beat Sergio Garcia by two strokes.
"Rory's speed comes from the ability to torque his upper and lower body against each other -- or, in other words, to turn his body really fast," Chaussard says. "At Cog Hill, we use Swing Catalyst's balance and force-plate software to measure a player's ability to shift and turn during the swing. Players who can shift their weight to their right foot early in the takeaway can then shift their weight back to the lead foot sooner. If you can make this move before the club has finished the backswing and the hips start to unwind, you can use the club like a whip through the ball, like Rory does."