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What Rory McIlroy said about his golf swing in 2014—and what it reveals about 2024

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Rory McIlroy has occupied the top ranks of professional golf for the better part of the past decade. But in 2014, Rory McIlroy rose to a level we hadn't seen from him before. Or, perhaps, since.

With the PGA Championship returning to Valhalla Golf Club, the site of McIlroy's victory 10 years ago, let's do a quick lookback on some of those golf swing changes, and how they came to be ...

Bad habits, bad season

If you remember, McIlroy's 2013 season was not a good one. After back-to-back seasons with major wins, he came crashing down to earth. A winless season, combined with T-25, T-41, MC and T-8 finishes in his four seasons, had many speculating that his recent switch to Nike equipment was the cause of his slump.

Despite the continuation of the slump narrative, there were some signs in early 2014 that McIlroy had returned to form, and that wins were just around the corner.

Including from the man himself, as he said in March of that year...

"The clubs made no difference at all. I just got into some bad habits with my golf swing."



The interesting thing about McIlroy's golf swing at this time is that he knew what the bad habits were (we'll get to those), but he wasn't exactly sure how to bed-in those changes to the golf course.

That began to change at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic during the early part of 2014, as McIlroy explained.

"A coach can tell you the perfect way to swing a golf club, but once that little light bulb in your head comes on where you start to get it as well, you start to own your own swing. Because someone can stand here and tell me what way, where to get the club, but once you understand it yourself and understand your feelings and understand what you need to do, then it's not until that point where you can become really comfortable with it. When I did all the work in Dubai, I started to feel like I really understood what I needed to do."

Technically speaking, the "bad habit" he said his golf swing fell into during 2013 was getting his arms "stuck" too far behind his body on the downswing.

It's a tendency for a lot of players who like to hit draws. For McIlroy, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dropping his arms to the inside and swinging out to the right made it hard for him to hit fades. So, he hit more and more draws, which caused him to swing more and more from in-to-out. Until, eventually, his draw grew severe, and his overall consistency off the tee struggled.

"I dropped it too much on the inside and I attack it from the inside and I would always hit the draw shot ... I didn't have the confidence to hit different shots off the tee, or move the ball from left-to-right."

Back on track

In many ways, the issue McIlroy faced in 2013 is similar to what he says he's battling this season, and you can spot why in his 2013 and 2024 backswings.


Andrew Redington

He has spoken about a tendency he has to push his arms wide and out on his backswing. He calls this being too "right-sided" during his backswing. When that happens, he starts moving out and around his body, which causes the stuck issue he talked about.

"I feel like the work that I've put into my golf swing from the age of 15 to 20 is going to see me sort of throughout my career. I have a golf swing that can go off from time to time, but I know the parameters of it and I know how to get it back on track."

The camera angle isn't perfect, but you can get a general idea of the key differences below. McIlroy's club tracks more level to the ground in his 2013 (left) and 2024 (middle) swings, but notice how at this point of his swing in 2014 ...

  • Arms appear closer to his body
  • Wrists hinge quicker and diagonally to his body
  • Club is more vertical to the ground

By the summer of 2014 McIlroy says he was seeing the results that lead to his two-major year.

"I have confidence in what I'm doing, that confidence and working on my swing and making swings that I feel comfortable with and seeing the shots that I want to see ... I hit a lot of tee shots last week left‑to‑right and that's when I know I'm swinging it well, when I can get it back down on the plane and I'm comfortable hitting that left‑to‑right shot. That's when I say, when I talked about driving the ball better, I just feel like it's on a tighter line and I hit both shots."

Again, it's very similar to some of the advice Rory got recently from the legendary Butch Harmon. As for whether it'll lead the same stretch of brilliant golf, like before? I guess we'll find out when the PGA Championship goes back to Valhalla next week.