Instruction

U.S. Open 2024: Is the 'Rory bounce' real? I ran a Pinehurst experiment to find out

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Gregory Shamus

PINEHURST, N.C. — We've all seen that walk Rory McIlroy does when he's feeling good about his game. His legs move fast, his head hops up. The Rory bounce. It's both cocky and also kind of endearing.

And after an opening-round 65 at Pinehurst to grab the co-lead, is the Rory bounce here at the U.S. Open? I suspect so, but with the help of a little armchair science, that's what I attempted to uncover for sure during the World No. 3's second round.

The Method

My theory is that if the Rory bounce is present here at Pinehurst, he's probably walking faster than usual. So, to test this, I devised an experiment ...

  • Using the stopwatch on my phone, I'd start the timer when Rory took his first steps toward the fairway from his tee box.
  • I stopped the timer whenever Rory came to a standstill to where his drive had finished.
  • Once I clocked the time it took for Rory to walk to his ball, I'd divide it by the distance of the shot he just hit to give us a feet-traveled-per-second metric.
  • If Rory was blocked from reaching his ball by another player, I'd use the distance where he came to that standstill (thankfully, this didn't happen).
  • I did this for every drive on Rory's front nine during his second round.

To establish a benchmark, I clocked two of Rory's drives on the par-5 fifth hole at the Memorial last week, one from his first round and the other from his final round. That feet-per-second benchmark pace was 5.137, meaning Rory covered 5.137 feet per second during his uneventful T-15 Memorial finish

The findings!

Rory is known as a fast golfer, and after striping his drive 319 yards down the fairway on Pinehurst's par-5 10th hole, his first of the day, Rory established a brisk pace ahead of his playing partners Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele.

1st hole pace: 5.01 Feet Traveled Per Second (0.12 slower than benchmark)

Rory was greenside in two on the 10th, and seemed slightly disappointed to chip to 15 feet and miss the putt. After another drive down the middle, he had a quick chat with Scheffler as he walked down the fairway.

2nd hole pace: 4.83 FTPS (0.3 slower than benchmark)

McIlroy sent a slippery nine-foot par putt three feet past the hole. He made that one, but lingered on the green afterwards trying to figure out how he misread it. He shook his head, then sent his drive down the middle of the 12th.

3rd hole pace: 4.88 FTPS (0.26 slower than benchmark)

Whatever early round nerves Rory had seemed to be gone at this point. Rory sent a long iron down the left side of the 13th, and marched off at a noticeably faster pace, than his previous tee shot.

4th hole pace: 5.205 FTPS (0.06 faster than benchmark)

A tap-in par followed by some existential drama on the next hole: After another drive down the middle—Rory's been doing that a lot this week—Rory paused to grab some spray sunscreen from his bag, then resumed walking while applying it on his arms and face.

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Initially, I was worried I'd need to throw out this reading, but the slight delay landed Rory at a pace that was just 0.002 away from his benchmark pace.

5th hole pace: 5.139 FTPS (0.02 faster than benchmark)

After a 13-foot birdie putt for the co-lead sniffed the hole, Rory seemed unhappy with his shot into the par-3 15th and marched after his ball while it was still in mid-air. He clocked his fastest pace of the day here, as his ball rolled off to the front of the green.

6th hole pace: 5.379 FTPS (0.24 faster than benchmark)

McIlroy eventually bogeyed that hole, and again began walking after his ball again while it was in mid-air, leaving his tee in the dust. Whatever frustration had emerged over the past two holes manifested itself in the fastest and second fastest walking pace of the day.

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7th hole pace: 5.211 FTPS (0.07 slower than benchmark)

Humans, generally speaking, tend to get frantic under pressure.

"It's a survival instinct," Hans Larsson, Ludvig Aberg's longtime coach, explains.

"When we feel in danger, we look for ways to escape danger as quickly as possible."
One of the reasons golfers start playing slower under pressure is because they've trained themselves to overcorrect, and take actions. To take as much time as you need, as Max Homa's caddie reminded him under-the-gun at Augusta.

"I monitor my walking pace...I remind myself to walk a little slower or faster based on the situation," Collin Morikawa says.

"I do think there's something to be said for that," says Matt Cuccaro, a tour sports psychologist, adds.

"Taking time to notice throughout our round where we're carrying tension, and the pacing of things. Am I moving too fast? It might be time to slow and settle. Am I moving too slow? I may need to actually bump up and gear up."

Whether Rory was nervous at the start of his round, when the putts were slipping by and the bogeys were creeping onto his scorecard is unclear. But a par on the previous hole, followed by an iron shot to the back of the 16th green, marked some consistency around his benchmark.

8th hole pace: 5.153 FTPS (0.01 slower than benchmark)

Rory's 2024 U.S. Open could've derailed after he sent his back-to-front of the green putt off the front edge. But a subsequent chip-in meant it was a par on the scorecard, and another time within a tenth of his benchmark.

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9th hole pace: 5.055 FTPS (0.08 slower than benchmark)

Could this all have been ridiculous exercise? Yes, of course. Though whatever conclusion we can draw alongside our grains of salt seems slightly counterintuitive:

Nervy Rory seems to move a hair slower.

Annoyed Rory seems to trot faster.

The famed Rory Bounce isn't one we could spot using a stopwatch. It's a style. A vibe. And one which may still be lurking somewhere here at Pinehurst this weekend.