Rory McIlroy finds new swing coach to end old Masters frustrations
Ten years ago, Rory McIlroy slept on a four-stroke lead Saturday evening at The Masters, and when his final putt fell on Sunday, he walked off No. 18 green to a standing ovation.
In many scenarios, a third-round runaway coupled with Sunday applause equates to triumph at Augusta National.
But this was the dreaded other time: An ovation of sympathy, in which the patrons were still attempting to process a historic collapse.
"I can't really put my finger on what went wrong,” McIlroy said after the 2011 Masters. “I hit a poor tee shot on 10 and sort of unraveled from there.”
Ah, the 10th, where the 21-year-old’s drive rattled off a pine just 125 yards from the tee and nestled between the Peek and Berckman cabins. McIlroy needed seven shots to finish the hole, beginning a meltdown that ended in a final-nine 43 and a final-round 80.
McIlroy three-putted the 11th, four-putted the 12th, and sailed his tee shot on No. 13 toward Rae’s Creek. As his drive disappeared left, McIlroy collapsed his head into his arms.
"I'll get over it,” McIlroy said afterward. “I'll have plenty more chances, I know that."
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A decade later, the world’s No. 4 ranked player is still searching for the final piece of his career Grand Slam.
McIlroy’s had chances, earning top-10 finishes in six of his last seven appearances, including a tie for fifth in November. In 2018, McIlroy was in the final pairing and came within a shot of Patrick Reed after a birdie on the second hole. But bogeys on two of the next three holes left McIlroy with another lackluster Sunday, ending with a 74.
“Look, it is, of course it’s frustrating,” McIlroy said after 2018. “It’s hard to take any positives from it right now. At least I put myself in the position. That’s all I wanted to do.”
As McIlroy prepares for his 13th Masters, he’ll arrive at Augusta National with a new swing coach. Rory confirmed at the WGC-Dell Match Play in Austin that he has paired with Pete Cowen, the British advisor who had assisted Europeans Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.
“I need to preface it with Pete and I have known each other since I was 13 years old, so it's not as if this is a new relationship. Pete and I have known each other forever,” McIlroy said. “I felt like it was a natural fit in that Pete knows my goal.”
McIlroy had been coached by Michael Bannon since his childhood days at Holywood Golf Course in County Down, Northern Ireland. When asked about his relationship with Bannon, McIlroy said, “Michael is like a second dad to me.”
“It's just the fact that I haven't been able to see him as much recently,” McIlroy said. “Then the times that I have, because there hasn't been much continuity there, it feels like every time we saw each other it was almost like we were trying to do too much.”
In his opening match in Austin, the 31-year-old McIlroy was drilled 6 and 5 by Ian Poulter. After the lopsided defeat, McIlroy, not known for extended range sessions, hit 11 bags in an attempt to right the ship.
“It's a very difficult game at times, and I feel like it's testing me a little more than it has done in the last few years,” Rory said. “I feel the only way to get through it is to put your head down and work on the right things. To trust the process.”