Rory McIlroy's decision to chase Bryson DeChambeau's distance has left Bernhard Langer scratching his head. If he wants to win the Masters, the German tells Alex Perry, he should be copying another major champion
In the hot mess that is Rory McIlroy’s game at the moment, there is always a glimmer of hope that something might click.
Of all the stats that get bandied about at majors, here is one that stands out. Since his fourth and last victory – at the 2014 PGA Championship – McIlroy is a combined 32-over-par for the first round in majors. He is a combined 64-under-par for rounds two to four.
It’s a record that, to this day, has prevented him getting over the line for a fifth major and, more importantly, completing the Grand Slam. He’ll have to wait at least 12 more months after first Masters missed cut since 2010.
Bernhard Langer, who played in his 38th Masters this week, can’t understand it.
Speaking to NCG from the Champions Locker Room after his opening round – and wearing his Green Jacket, of course – the two-time Masters winner said: “Augusta is definitely suited to him. I played with him in November on the Saturday and he shot 67 and made it look pretty easy.
“He hits the ball very high and very far with a lot of spin – and that’s always good around here. That’s why Nicklaus won so many times.”
McIlroy has tried everything in recent years in a bid to slip into the one item of clothing he craves more than any, from over-practising at Augusta to under-practising at Augusta, self-help books and, most recently, hiring Pete Cowen.
But there was one particular tactic that raised a few eyebrows – and Langer is no different.
“What I don’t understand about Rory is that he was chasing distance, similar to Bryson DeChambeau,” the German explained. “For me that’s hard to understand because Rory is plenty long.
“He may not be quite as long as DeChambeau but he was always quite straight, so I think he’s realised that maybe that was the wrong thing to do and he’s given up on that thought and is just trying to find his game. But he obviously wasn’t very happy with his results in the last few tournaments.
“Now I don’t know exactly what’s going on in his head, or what’s going on with his game at this given moment, but I’m convinced that Rory will be back playing his best.
“It’s often hard to find that confidence you need and the trust factor to pull off the shots and make the putts when you need to.
“Golf is a lot like life. It has its ups and downs. There’s always some good and then some bad and you go through highs and lows, and you just have to work away at it and hopefully you have a good team around you that guides you in the right direction, helps you with your golf swing, and with the mental aspect. A good caddie and a good coach can help with any of that.
“On top of that he’s got extra pressure because if he wins this one he will complete the Grand Slam, which not many people have accomplished.”
Instead of trying to replicate DeChambeau’s length, Langer suggests McIlroy instead look to another major champion who lost his way.
“I talked to Jordan Spieth and I asked him, ‘What clicked with you? You’ve been gone for two or three years and now you’re on the leaderboard week after week after week.’ He’s played phenomenally the last four or five weeks.
“He says, ‘I just went back to what I did in the past – even bowing my wrist a little bit on the backswing.’ It’s not necessarily what many teachers like, but it worked for him.
“Just playing more by feel and less by technique and thinking too much about it, you gain a little confidence, you gain a little feel, and a lot of golf is about confidence.
“Once you feel a little better and you hit some good shots you think, ‘I can do that again.’ It’s still there, it’s not gone. But it’s the same way when it goes bad. You hit some bad shots and it gets worse and worse and then you put more pressure on your short game and on the putter, and you wonder if it’s ever going to stop.
“It’s a very fine line from a mental aspect as well as from a technical one where, again, good and bad is very close together. You have to fight through uncertain times.”
McIlroy will have to wait until the Wells Fargo Championship to begin that fight.
- NOW READ: ‘We were in awe of the Americans – until we played them every week’ – When Langer and Seve ruffled a few feathers at Augusta
Bernhard Langer was talking to NCG as an ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, a global partner of the Masters. Visit the Mercedes-Benz website for more.