Swing Analysis: Rory McIlroy Uses Revamped Swing to Beat Scott in Australia

By Wayne | Videos: Swing Analysis

Rory McIlroy signaled that he is ready to make a run at returning to #1 by outplaying Adam Scott in the final round of the Australian Open. He used a revamped swing that you will see in the video is what I would consider to be a major improvement to the one that won him 2 majors. I compare those wins to Tiger winning the Masters in 1997 with a swing that would be completely different by the time he won the PGA in 1999. There is a much better understanding now about how a swing needs to function for a player to achieve ball striking mastery because of the technology available not only to measure what happens when a ball is struck, but also to study actual footage of the greatest players ever to play to see how they accomplished what they did. In the “should golf be approached as an art or a science?” debate it is clear that no matter what your fantasies are about “just feeling it” the best players are using any and every means possible to help them strike the ball better. All these guys are using video and launch monitors. Once they get it what they feel is good enough they will curtail the use of technology, but as soon as they want to change something they will go right back to it, because it would be silly not to. Why go without seeing what you are really doing?
It is obvious that McIlroy has been working with video because he has made significant changes to both his set up and his swing. His takeaway is still away from him but now the left arm moves across the chest quicker and the hands get deeper early in the backswing. His leg movement has improved drastically as he is showing much better balance in his knee and hip movement with the right leg getting deeper and the left knee jutting out in front of him much less. From the top McIlroy has made a huge change, moving his hands almost out toward the ball, the opposite of the backward, hand dropping loop that he had in 2010 and 2011. Tiger Woods tends to make a huge deal out of his own swing changes: I think McIlroy has been up to changing his swing as much as Tiger ever did; only he doesn’t advertise it. With this new, improved motion (and I hope he’s not finished making it better) I would expect him to be contending for #1 by the end of 2014.

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(7) comments

Mark December 4, 2013

I don’t get Rory or Tigers’ new set-up position (more on the heals, hands closer). You would think it encourages the very thing they’re trying to stop – hands moving away on takeaway, dropping straight down from the top – but clearly not.

I think Tiger might have something in reserve if (when) Rory starts clawing his way back. At least, I’d like to think so. Last season turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, but it was nice to see Stenson and Scott fulfil their potential.

Ron July 19, 2014

Am I really seeing Rory finishes a touch right of the box?

Also, am I seeing Rory gets the club slightly above the shaft plane at impact?

Ron October 10, 2014

Yes, you are right as always, epiphanies may not apply to others, the only thing a scientist should look at is the video.

That said, I believe there is something to add to this discussion.

McIlroy says in a golf.com video Sept 15 2014 he has been changing/going back to a few things which looks like they have made the changes you saw.


he says (1) his setup is more hands hanging straight down (looks like this is the hands closer to the ball you noticed)

(2) his takeaway is to get the hands to go straight back over the toes and left shoulder straight back (this is different than taking it away that you noticed, also gets the left arm more across the chest, like Na – but by still taking it straight he doesnt go too inside)

[which was my problem, I was screwed from the start of the swing by going inside, I didnt know you could still get the left arm deep across body by going straight back. The swing is really hard when you take it inside, your right elbow doesnt stay above the left.]

(3) he then says he thinks right hip goes back and around

[pretty cool how this is kinda like Hogan, weight stays kinda middle or so, right leg angle has been kept]

(4) coming down he thinks ‘get left knee straight to target, planting weight on the left foot so hard it leaves a footprint’ (this must be how he gets his hands to come down straight at the ball like Hogan Sergio Na etc and get deep. Also because his weight is already sorta middle from (3), he doesnt have to actually push off with right leg. Na’s and Angela Park’s original childhood coach told me the left knee is what controls the start of the downswing, shifting left hip shoulder and knee all move forward toward the ball.

This left knee straight forward, (plus weight is already middle), plus Mcilroy’s thought of also planting weight on the left foot so that it leaves an imprint sounds like the winning formula for the transition before you stand up in the downswing?

If there is one question I would love to have answered is does that sound like the winning formula to you? THANKS

Anyway, I’m about to shut it down for the winter! I’m injured and need to let all my nagging injuries heel anyway (right hip, left shoulder LOL Im old), so I’ll probably resub in spring! Got to get ready then for tourneys!

John Neeson October 17, 2014

The Rory article only reconfirms to me that the great players have relatively simple thoughts about what they are doing during the swing and they can afford this since their mechanics (part training, part God-given ability), are so good they don’t have to think about ‘corrections’, like the rest of us invariably do. Once they start over-complicating it many of them end up like Baker-Finch, Harrington and co – just a step away from the big house.

The part that interested me is where he said he felt like he ‘leaned into’ his iron shots. Most people ‘lean’ with their upper body or maybe by shifting their hips to one side. I never heard anyone initiating ‘lean’ though their feet or legs. I always thought of Woosnam as a ‘leaner’ and he was a tremendous hitter for a little (albeit strong),guy. (Just won last week).

One of the great puzzles of Hogan theory is where he described starting his downswing by rapidly rotating his hips to the left and it is now widely agreed that this was just his particular ‘feel’ and not what he actually did. Any still-camera, face-on view of Hogan shows that he moved his entire body markedly to toward the target and then around.

There may be an instant of pushing off the right instep but it sure doesn’t feel like it for everyone. Simply stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart and shift your pelvis to the left. It feels like the weight or movement of the upper body ‘pulls’ the right foot toward the target, if anything. Whenever I actively try to push off the right foot, I find it increases my tendency to have the right knee shoot out toward the ball, instead of left toward the target. This is where the stick drill is helpful. When I use that, I still feel the right leg is getting pulled in the ’45 left’ direction and is not pushing in that direction. I feel that the so-called ‘hip-bump’ pulls my right leg toward the target and not vice-versa.

At impact it seems to me that the right leg is being pulled to the left and the body weight is ‘leaning’ into the ground through the left leg, as Rory describes. So if the right leg/foot ever does any ‘pushing’, it surely must be for a split second only. Just shows that swing ‘feels’ are very individual things and even the greats contradict each other, if taken too literally.

John Neeson October 23, 2014

You are probably right but this sort of discussion does my head in at the best of times and would probably screw up a good golfer who don’t think about it at all.
I think shifting of ‘weight’ is a chicken and egg argument most of the time I don’t believe that athletic motion or changes in foot pressures are activated from the ground up. A sprinter pushing off the blokcs surely is but if you stood, feet apart with a dumbell in each hand and raised your right arm out horizontally to the side, I believe your foot pressures would change, yet they have done nothing. A darts player will finish the action with more ‘weight’ on his front foot, partially because he started in that position and partially because the throwing arm is launched towards the target with no initiation from the ground. (That depends on whether you think darts players are athletes!)

Anyway my point was the good players all have different feels and for every player who feels like he pushes off the right foot, there is another one who feels that the change of direction is initiated by re-planting or leaning into the left heel of foot. e.g. Rory.

John January 14, 2015

Could Lexi Thompson learn from rorys swing improvements. She has many of his previous habits , the right elbow getting stuck behind the body ,both legs straightening
at impact , the hips recoiling and the arms shooting out to the right. It seems she has a lot of wasted effort and could gain another 20 yards through better mechanics.

John February 11, 2015

I’ve noticed that Rory has incredible flexibility in his upper left arm and shoulder. He actually gets the entire shoulder turned beyond the chin. Jack Nicklaus even at his best couldn’t get any of his shoulder turned past the chin. Also I’m curious why Jack lost some distance in the early 70s around the time of his weight loss. The leg action has more bend and slide than say the ’63 swing. Any ideas?

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