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Rory McIlroy's familiar assets help craft a new strategy: 'I've neglected my strengths a little'

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rory McIlroy is close to being Rory McIlroy again.

The former world No. 1 and four-time major champion thinks he’s emerging from the fog of the past 11 months, a dreary stretch that prolonged a winless span nearing 550 days and had him making major swing changes that threw him off-kilter that eventually moved him to seek help.

McIlroy, who turned 32 Tuesday, hasn’t been himself since golf returned last June after a 13-week break due to COVID-19. He likened playing in front of vacant galleries to nothing more than playing practice rounds and was challenged to maintain focus and find the proper intensity to play well.

Then he started chasing Bryson DeChambeau, who bulked up and sped up to become of the one game’s longest hitters and the U.S. Open champion. McIlroy’s extra time spent on speed and power drills proved damaging, however.

Since golf’s return, McIlroy, who hasn’t won since the fall of 2019, has just six top-10s in 21 starts, missed the cut in the Masters and Players Championship, and fallen to No. 15 in the official world golf rankings, his lowest rank since 2009.

Thus, in March, the winner of 27 titles worldwide, including 18 on the PGA Tour, brought noted swing coach Pete Cowen on board while staying with longtime coach Michael Bannon to help him sort through issues.

“I feel better about my game than I did flying home from Augusta on Friday night, put it that way,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Quail Hollow, home to the Wells Fargo Championship. “I’ve worked a little bit on it, sort of just tried to understand what I do well. I guess trying to sort of focus on my strengths.

“I think I’ve neglected my strengths a little bit the past couple of months and focusing more on those and focusing on what makes me a good golfer and how I swing the club and how I move the club. It’s just understanding my move a little bit more. So that’s sort of what I’ve been trying to do the last couple weeks.

“It feels good. It’s all familiar feelings.”

McIlroy is in a great spot to end his winless stretch. He won his first PGA Tour title in the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship and became the only two-time winner of the event in 2015, when he shot 61-69 on the weekend to win by seven shots. He also lost in a playoff in 2012 and has seven top-10s overall in nine starts.

“I’ve always liked coming back to Charlotte,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully that gives me a little bit of good mojo going into the week.”

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, McIlroy wasn’t able to spend enough time with Bannon, who is based in Northern Ireland, and when they did meet up, they rushed through practice sessions and worked on too many things.

Cowen is in the U.S. on a regular basis.

“Bringing Pete into the equation is a change, but it’s a familiar one,” McIlroy said. “It’s not as if it’s the first time Pete and I have really worked together. I’ve known Pete for a long, long time. But again, it’s just getting a slight, different opinion. Just getting someone’s opinion from the outside looking in can be a good thing. That’s really what Pete has been.

“I keep using this word ‘understanding,’ but it really is just me trying to understand my swing better and understand what I do well and focusing on that. My body movement and how I turn through the ball is probably one of my biggest attributes and neglected that a little bit by focusing on some other stuff.”

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original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/05/pga-tour-wells-fargo-championship-rory-mcilroy/

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