Rory McIlroy won the WGC-HSBC Champions by birdieing the first extra hole of a playoff with Xander Schauffele. The victory was McIlroy’s fourth in his last 15 starts.
As is often the case with McIlroy, he used his driver as an effective weapon. Not only was he able to find more than 60 percent of his fairways for the week, but knew when the draw dictated he hit first in the playoff that it presented an opportunity. “I knew I could hit a drive down the fairway and put the pressure on him,” said McIlroy, who smashed his tee shot down the fairway on the par-5, putting some pressure on Schauffele. McIlroy then hit the green with his iron shot, the ensuing two-putt birdie proving the difference when Schauffele could make no better than par.
McIlroy’s driver is a 9-degree TaylorMade’s M5 with Mitsubishi’s Kuro Kage S TINI 70x shaft. The M5 employs a pair of the company’s hallmark driver technologies. The face is designed to be faster than allowed under USGA rules, but a material is injected inside the clubhead to bring it below the legal limit. The face also is twisted in a manner where it is more open on the high toe area and slightly closed on the low heel to help mitigate the effect of mis-hits in those spots. McIlroy also has made a modest change to the positioning of the weights in the rear track. During the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the weights were set with one in the rear neutral position and one in the heel area; now the two weights are more split in the rear track with one more out toward the toe, presumably to add a touch more stability and launch while continuing to have a modest draw bias.
Since joining TaylorMade in May of 2017, McIlroy has employed a split set of irons, including a P750 model in his long iron to go along with his muscleback blade P730 irons. He told Golf Digest at the time that he did so because “the launch angle is high and still getting plenty of spin—4,000 rpms with the 4-iron—so it’s staying up there, but it’s going a long way and coming down to where it holds the green. It’s exciting to have that for par 5s.”
McIlroy used his irons, which have Golf Pride’s Tour Velvet grips, to rank T-8 in greens in regulation for the week.
McIlroy also changed golf balls earlier this year, switching from TaylorMade’s TP5x to the TP5 model to increase his short-game spin. The ball features the number 22 on it, signifying his marriage to Erica Stoll on April 22, as well as something else. “We looked up the meaning of numbers and the number 22 means powerful and high risk, high reward, and that’s sort of everything I am on the golf course so I thought that was appropriate,” McIlroy said.
Kind of like bashing a driver down the middle of the first hole of a playoff to set up the tournament-winning birdie.
What Rory McIlroy had in the bag at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
Driver: TaylorMade M5 (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage S TINI 70x), 9 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M6, 15 degrees
5-wood: TaylorMade M5, 19 degrees
Irons (4): TaylorMade P750; (5-PW): TaylorMade P730
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper