Learning from Rory McIlroy at The Open

Learning from Rory McIlroy at The Open

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been watching The Open like many other golf lovers in total awe of the skill of Rory McIlroy and his pro buddies. So far I think it’s been a fantastic Open, despite Rory’s dominance. There’s still one round to go and as I’ve backed him from the beginning, I’m standing by Rickie Fowler… and his 6 shot deficit.

The one thing that really got me thinking whilst watching The Open and Rory McIlroy this year, was the limited use of their driver’s off the tee. We all know in the first round Justin Rose didn’t really have any choice as his caddy sent it to Bedford (seriously…), but the rest seemed to follow suit. Now, these guys are the very best in the world of golf, yet even they favour accuracy over distance on a tricky course like Hoylake.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really struggled off the tee. I think part of it may be my driver that is completely wrong for my swing these days, combined with a huge lack of confidence when I have it in my hand. Subsequently, I’ve put myself in trouble off the tee… a lot! So, after watching Rose, McIlroy, Fowler & chums all score well at The Open without heavy driver use, I thought I might give that a go.

I turned up at The Manor this morning and the weather was awful. It wasn’t cold, but the rain was torrential. It looked like I’d be spending most of the morning under here….

The Open - brolly

We almost didn’t go out, but decided that at worst we’d be a little wet. Sod it! I guess that was the moment I made the decision to go easy with the driver as per Rory at The Open. As the weather was so bad, I had no real expectation of scoring well, so in my head thought of it as a bit of an experiment. See if I could resist the temptation of hitting the driver on every par 4 and 5 and see if it had an impact on my score.

On the first, it didn’t start too well. Struck my 3 wood beautifully with a decent draw…but as I aimed dead straight it went too far left and ended up in the trees. Had to just knock it back out into play. Struck a great 8 iron, but unfortunately my alignment was rubbish. Ended up that just off the right of the green. Chipped and two putted for a 6, poor start.

After the first, I played really well and was unlucky not to score better. Struck the ball beautifully with my irons, and with my 3 wood off the tee. On the 2nd I had a par, and followed it with bogey, double, bogey. Took the driver out again on the 6th, par 4, 435 yards uphill.  Struck it reasonably well, but it took a horrible kick left and dropped behind a tree! That was where I made the final decision to put the driver back in the bag!! Almost snuck a par, but the putt lipped out. Balls!

On the par 5, 7th, I played a pretty horrible tee shot…just short and topped. But, I played the rest of the hole really well and somehow managed to salvage a par.

I had another bogey on the 8th and a par on the 9th to finish -1 with a 44 on the front 9. I was pretty chuffed with that given how wet it was. I think what really saved me was my irons and my putting. I was striking the irons so well. Yes, it helped not hitting the driver. I wasn’t hitting every fairway, but if I missed I was literally just off, I wasn’t 40 yards off as I would be with the driver. My putter was on working well too. Had 12 putts on the front 9, my best in a while. I think Rory would have been proud!

The back 9 was much the same… for the most part. I was striking my irons really well, and my game was just very calm and together. I wasn’t thinking about my swing and I was taking each shot at a time, picking a target and hitting the ball. Simple!

The 10th, 11th and 12th can be card wreckers at The Manor, so much so, they are often referred to as ‘amen corner’ by the members. Fortunately, today it wasn’t too bad. After a bogey at the 10th, I had this chip to the green on the 11th

The Open - the 11th

Only made bogey, but managed another at the hardest hole on the course, the 12th (S.I 1). It meant that I went through the three holes aka ‘Amen Corner‘ +3 gross…of which one should easily have been a par but for another lipped out putt.

Still, it was raining…I was soaking wet (as were my clubs!) but I was still playing pretty well. I managed to par the next two holes, which left me -3 with four holes to play.

On the 15th (par 5), I missed an easy putt for par, which was really annoying. Not as annoying as the 16th (par 3 over water). Hit the green, but was about 20’ away. Left my first putt really short, then missed the second. Ended up three putting for a really stupid bogey 4. Missed another easy par putt on 17 for another bogey, but I was still -3.

The 18th as you know if you’re a regular reader is a pretty horrible hole. Stupidly long (not that long really, but feels longer than it is!) par 5, uphill! Still, with my driver resting in my bag, hit a lovely 3 wood to the middle of the fairway. Followed it with another belter of a 3 wood off the deck. I had about 110 yards to the front of the green, so hit my 54 wedge. I knew this was probably the wrong club, but my next club was my pitching wedge, which would have been too much. As expected, I was short. I chipped up to the pin, but just hit it a little too hard and it caught the bank and ran down to the back of the green. I had a long uphill putt to make my par. This is where the wheels fell off. That one moment during your round when your brain just fails to engage…god knows why.

I four putted for an 8! What a complete idiot! This is not what Rory would have done at The Open! I finished with an 89, -1 for my handicap. Sorry Rory!

Still, I felt pretty good, and it gave me and the challenge some much needed confidence. Yes, the 18th was really annoying. A four putt is not acceptable! The 3 putt on 16 was pretty irritating too come to think of it. But, for the most part I played really well…and I played consistently. My game felt good for the first time since before my holiday.

I have part two of the Club Championship to go tomorrow, by which point I hope my clubs & bag have dried out. Currently, they are sitting here in the front room on their own little blanket!

The Open - wet clubs

So, I have to thank The Open, as well as Rory, JR and of course my tip, Rickie Fowler. Not only have they provided me with some rather excellent viewing over the past 3 days, they have shown me that a driver is not always necessary. You can still score well without it.