Given everything that awaits Rory McIlroy at Augusta National next month -- the four-time major champion will be going for the career grand slam -- we knew we wanted him to be the face of our Masters Preview issue. But we also knew we wanted it to be something out of the ordinary.
"We were sitting around brainstorming and wondered if there was a famous person in history who we could emulate to turn Rory into something," Ken DeLago, Golf Digest's Creative Director, said of a conversation with Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde. "That's when Jerry was like, Yeah, what about David?'" Michelangelo's David is one of history's iconic statues. Made of marble and located in Florence, it weighs more than two tons and stands nearly 17 feet high. Sure, McIlroy weighs just 160 pounds and isn't even six feet tall, but like David, he's chiseled. His transformation from chubby teen to ripped athlete these past few years has been remarkable, and McIlroy is still going. He often tweets and Instagrams images of his range and gym sessions with captions like, "Better never stops," and, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work." In fact, the shirtless photo he shared from the Ryder Cup was one of the two main inspirations behind this April cover. The other inspiration was New York Times Magazine's recent "Culture Issue" cover, which features Lena Dunam as a sculpture. "We had this back and forth with the Eddie Guy [the illustrator who created the cover] for a solid two weeks," says DeLago. "He did a few versions—one that looked more like the Culture Issue in that it was just a bust, and then he did this more full-bodied one." Once the full-bodied version was chosen, Guy rented a kilt and sporran specific to McIlroy's clan -- the tartan on the cover is the "Irish National" -- shot it on a model and added it to the statue. He also added replicas of McIlroy's clubs, belt and watch.
The unique cover offers a preview to a strong feature about McIlroy. Senior Writer Jaime Diaz traveled around the world to interact with Rory and those in his inner circle, uncovering McIlroy's goals and the things (and people) that drive him to succeed. Among the great quotes Diaz uncovered comes from Andy O'Brien, a longtime Florida golf executive: "If you asked the cart guys at the Bear's Club who their favorite is among all the sports-celebrity members, it would be Rory, unanimously. He's the real deal when nobody's watching."