How Bob MacIntyre Transformed Rory McIlroy's Season

If you were to read anything this week then it should be Paul Kimmage's sit-down interview with Rory McIlroy. Every few years the two get together and we learn more about Rory than we do all year, even given his open nature and willingness to talk about anything.

One of the more striking aspects of their conversation, away from LIV and all that, was quite how much McIlroy's ball change helped turn his year around. We heard at The Masters that McIlroy had changed his ball but we didn't know quite how the move came about courtesy of an early recce ahead of Augusta.

"I went to Augusta at the start of the week and the balls they use on the range there for members are Titleist ProV1s. I started warming up and remember going, ‘Oh! That’s nice.’ And I didn’t really think anything of it but I’d been having a few issues with the ball up until that point.

McIlroy was using the TaylorMade TP5 which he wasn't contracted to use but tried to make work.

"I’d go to the range with a launch monitor and Harry (Diamond) might say, “Okay, 9-iron, hit it 157.” And I’d hit my numbers regularly when conditions were normal. Then I’d be playing somewhere in the wind and I’d hit one approach shot over the green, and the next would be short, and I’d look at Harry: ‘F**k, what is going on?’ San Antonio was the final straw."

Sany Antonio was the Texas Open, the week before Augusta, where McIlroy was trying to get some impetus ahead of the year's opening major.

"I went to the TaylorMade guys after the (first) round and said, ‘Look, I’m done with this golf ball. I have no idea if it’s going long or short.’ And they said, “Bob MacIntryre’s in the field this week. He’s playing an older version of your ball. Why don’t you see how you get on with that?” So I hit a bunch of them, the 2019 TP5x, on the Thursday afternoon and the spin rates were a lot more consistent. Then I played with it on Friday and missed the cut, which was a blessing in disguise.

"It’s a slightly harder ball and I was able to come back and spend two days here with Harry on the range working to bed it in, putting with it, chipping with it, trying to get more comfortable. It was a massive change to make on the eve of Augusta but it ended up being the best thing I did this year. There are some stats on it: before Augusta I was ranked 207th on the PGA Tour from inside 125 yards; and since Augusta I’ve been ranked number one."

Of course Augusta was where McIlroy would close with a 64 to finish in second spot behind Scottie Scheffler. But it was an approach to the par-5 15th that sticks in McIlroy's mind the most.

"I hit a five-wood — a proper golf shot — and remember saying to Harry, ‘I couldn’t have done that with the other ball (laughs).’"