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Rory McIlroy Swing Sequence
by Jeremy Bennett & Rory McIlroy

In the space of 14 months as a professional golfer, Ireland's Rory McIlroy has elevated himself to an astonishing 14th place in the official world rankings - helped, of course, by his maiden tour victory in the Dubai Desert Classic. Over the following pages Rory shares his thoughts on a swing clearly destined for greatness,while Jeremy Bennett, one of his early coaches during his days within the 'Elite' squad of the Faldo Series, highlights the particular aspects that can help you.

I first saw Rory play in the Faldo Series Finals when he was 12 or 13 years old. He was smaller than average in stature for his age, not particularly long off the tee and played with a steady little draw. However there were several features that set Rory apart from the legions of young 'wannabe' tour pros, and those of us who worked with him believed he was going to be something very special.

For a start, his short game was red hot - not just every now and then but most days he would conjure up shots of pure genius around the greens. It was obvious how much he just loved playing golf; it was totally a game to him - as it still is now he is playing for a living.He also had an unflappable temperament, an attacking style that was fearless but also possessed a natural instinct to see and play the correct shot.

Rory was part of 'Team Faldo' for four years, a truly elite squad of youngsters that included Oliver Fisher, Zane Scotland, Melissa Reid and Carly Booth. In our training sessions he would invariably be the one to get it higher than the others from a down slope in the bunker, or produce more backspin; he would also be the one to chip in or somehow hole a long putt when the odds said he shouldn't. Still pictures cannot possibly portray the natural fluidity, freedom and rhythm that Rory has in spades, and I have no doubt that his ever-improving swing will take him to the very top of the game. Rory has great imagination and loves to shape shots on the course - an art that has largely been lost in the modern game but a skill that speaks volumes for the way Rory likes to play the game.

At first glance his swing has the same natural look to it as it did several years ago, but technically it is much more refined. He used to play with what we would describe as a very 'late wrist set' during the backswing that contributed to a considerable over swing. His hips would then 'spin' out too early in the downswing causing the legs to 'lock up' through impact and way up on the tip of his toes. As a consequence his upper body would almost be going backwards through the ball, while the swing path tended to be too much from in-to-out. In other words, the co-ordination between the lower and upper bodies was out of sequence, and it was only his fast and instinctive hand action that saved him from inconsistency.

Today, however, he has a wonderfully sequenced hand, arm and body action - a framework that allows that wonderful hand action to work freely through the ball. So let's take a closer look and also find out what Rory himself thinks about technique wise.

At address my main focus is my alignment, getting my feet, knees,hips and shoulders parallel to the target. I struggle with that sometimes.

My tendency is to aim left and get a little open.My only other thought is maintaining an 'athletic 'posture. RI

Halfway back is where my biggest problem shows up. I can tend to get the club moving to the inside too quickly.Down the line I like to see the clubhead covering my hands as it passes through the point where the shaft is horizontal with the ground and parallel with the target line, as it's on track to be here. That's a good checkpoint for me. RI

Rory maintains his posture and spine angle right to the top of his beautifully on-plane,neutral and more compact backswing (in the past the right leg used to straighten; here it remains nicely flexed). Note how square the clubface is to his left arm and wrist at the top - a testament to his textbook grip. JB

To the top my only thoughts are cocking my wrists and turning my shoulders. I do have a tendency to over-swing so I use my left shoulder as a guide.When it is under my chin I know I have made a long enough backswing. RI

On the downswing my tendency is to slide my hips towards the target.That gets the club too far behind me - what many players call 'stuck' - and forces me to either flip my hands through impact or block the shot to the right. So, from the top, my downswing thought - when I have one! - is nearly always 'turn'.As you see here,my body unwinds and my arms and hands free-wheel the clubhead through the ball. RI

Like virtually all long hitters the upper body is 'open' at impact with above average left hip clearance even for a tour pro.

Rory looks beautifully balanced and poised to make 100% solid contact with the back of the ball.His weight is channeled into the outside of the left heel with just a nice amount of right heel 'raise'. JB

The first appearance of the shaft just below the left shoulder is a tell-tale sign of an excellent delivery into the ball. In the past Rory's swing path was a little more from into- out, and as a result the shaft would often appear above the tip of the left shoulder. This is the 'exit' all young players should aim to copy. JB

Rory himself says that balance is his No 1 key thought on the downswing to the finish, and here is the result: he is perfectly poised,with the majority of his weight on his left side, supported on the tip of his right toe. The hips have cleared to finish pointing well left of target - a young man's swing! JB

This is a terrific opening sequence of moves as Rory initiates his swing with upper body, arms and the club all working 'together' and in a wonderful flowing tempo. The hands are essentially 'quiet' until the club reaches the horizontal, whereupon the wrists hinge up naturally as the upper body coils against the lower body. JB

Rory looks as if he is set up for a little draw with the ball position slightly further back than normal and hands ahead of the ball.For a high fade the ball would be moved up to just inside the left heel and the hands set level with the back of the ball. JB

From the top my aim is simply to let the club go through impact. I'm not swinging at 100%, but the closer I get to that the better .Which is key. I'm not one of the biggest guys on tour but I'm one of the longest. So I guess I must be hitting a bit harder than most! My average this year is over 300 yards. RI

Just by looking at the stretch lines on his shirt you know Rory is wound up like a spring, ready to recoil into the ball. His right hip rotates nicely while the right side remains firm against that braced right knee,weight supported on the inside of the right leg - a great position to copy. JB

Although Rory employs a light grip pressure to ensure an uninhibited hand release through the ball his hands remain perfectly in position through impact.Note also how he allows his head to rotate with the flow of his swing - he makes no attempt to look at the ball for too long, a common mistake that can restrict your body rotation through the ball. JB

Into the follow-through and it's all about balance for me. I want to be able to hold my finish for several seconds. If I can do that I know I haven't swung too hard.On the whole I don't like to complicate things too much. I've always played my best golf not thinking about very much to be honest! RI

 

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