US Open champion Rory McIlroy has confirmed that his coach Michael Bannon will keep an eye on him at future majors after some niggling swing problems undid his Masters hopes last month.
The world No 2, who turns 23 today, lost confidence in his ability to move the ball from right to left at Augusta National, where he slid from tied third at halfway to 40th after weekend rounds of 77 and 76.
Bannon had spent time with the Northern Ireland star in Florida in the run up to the season’s first major but was back home in Bangor during the Masters where McIlroy struggled to hit his customary draw off the tee.
Speaking at Quail Hollow, McIlroy explained that he is thinking seriously of bringing Bannon to future majors, “just in case” he needs to carry out running repairs to his swing.
Tied for 39th in the Wells Fargo Championship, where he’s five shots off the lead after a three-putt bogey at the 18th gave him a two under 70, McIlroy said: “It’s something we’ve talked about the last few weeks and it’s something we might change. He might come out the weeks of majors, just in case something comes up and I need a little tweak here or there.”
The Ulsterman worked on eliminating the more destructive right to left pull from his game over the winter but found it difficult to hit his customary draw at Augusta and paid the price for some poor drives.
“Michael is the one person who knows my swing better than anyone,” McIlroy said. “Because I am not at home as much any more, where I used to do my work with him, it’s a case of him flying out to see me. So he will definitely be on the road a little more from now on.”
Playing just his second event in the space of eight weeks, McIlroy looked to be cruising comfortably to a sub-70 start at Quail Hollow but had to settle for a 70 in the end as he three-putted the 18th from 25 feet, running his birdie putt more than six feet past, to close with a bogey.
He hit just three of 14 fairways - missing several by just a few yards - yet was never really in major trouble.
After a birdie from 20 feet at the par three second, he bogeyed the fourth off a poor drive but then birdied the par-five seventh and 10th to get to two under.
He had a great chance to eagle the par-five 15th where he boomed a 344-yard drive but while his towering 219-yard approach finished just eight feet away, he missed the eagle putt and settled for a birdie four that got him to three under.
He parred the next two holes and had a chance to birdie the dangerous 18th but got too aggressive with his birdie putt and walked off with a bogey.
Tiger Woods struggled to an opening 71 as Ryan Moore, Stewart Cink and Webb Simpson hit seven under 65’s in perfect conditions to lead by a shot from Rickie Fowler, John Senden, DA Points, Brian Davis and Patrick Reed.
Disappointed not to have gotten more out of his round, McIlroy told the Golf Channel: “I feel like conditions out there were pretty much perfect. It was was a little hot but there wasn’t much wind and the greens were pretty receptive.
“A 70 probably wasn’t enough out there but it’s okay, I will go out tomorrow and see if I can do a little better.”
As for his problems off the tee, he believes it’s only a matter of time before he dials in his recent swing tweaks.
“I think it’s a gradual process,” he said. “It doesn’t take me that long to try and incorporate these new little tweaks or changes. I struggled with the driver out there and didn’t hit that many fairways and if you do that around here it makes it more difficult to score.”
McIlroy won his maiden PGA Tour event with a closing 62 at Quail Hollow two years ago and hopes the event will signal the start of a run off good form before he defends the US Open next month.
He will play The Players at Sawgrass next week followed by the BMW PGA at Wentworth and the Memorial Tournament at Murifield Village before heading to the Olympic Club.
“I feel like this is the start of the season for me,” he said. “I have four really big tournaments before the US Open and it would be nice to maybe get in contention in some of those and maybe get a win before the US Open.”