Get used to hearing the name “Rory McIlroy.” Just 22, McIlroy officially arrived on the world golf stage last June when he shattered the tourney record at the U.S. Open to capture his first major. This past weekend, he held off Tiger Woods to win the Honda Classic and become the world’s No. 1-ranked player. He’ll celebrate with Danish tennis hottie girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, of course. But first, the surprisingly buff Northern Irishman told Made Man about long drives, million-dollar putts and staying calm under pressure. Oh, and Happy Gilmore.
MADE MAN: For a guy just getting into golf, what’s your best advice?
RORY McILROY: Just try to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can, and then rein it back in from there. And obviously you’ll want to get some basic technique before getting into more advanced stuff. But the main thing is enjoying it. And once you practice a bit, you’ll improve pretty quickly and start shooting better scores.
MM: What would you tell an average, weekend warrior golfer?
RM: I would say know your limitations. Even when I play a pro-am, a guy will be 170 yards away and take out a seven-iron. I’m like, “Don’t think you can quite get there with a seven-iron.” Now, OK, you might be able to hit a seven-iron 170 yards twice out of 10 or whatever, but take the extra club and don’t try to be a hero. You’re gonna get it closer 80 percent of the time if you take one more club and swing within yourself.
“The more you get yourself in a position to feel those nerves, the more you just get used to them. And then all of a sudden you start to welcome them. It’s a good feeling. If you didn’t feel anything, that’s when you have to worry.”
MM: You get paid to perform really well under pressure. Any tricks for handling nerves?
RM: The more you get yourself in a position to feel those nerves, the more you just get used to them. And then all of a sudden you start to welcome them. It’s a good feeling—that rush, that adrenaline. That’s why you hit so many balls in a week—to get into final groups and have a chance to win the biggest tournaments. You’re nervous because it means so much to you. But it shouldn’t be a bad thing. I mean, if you didn’t feel anything, that’s when you have to worry.
MM: OK. Someone’s got a 12-foot putt to win a million dollars. What would you tell him just before he takes it?
RM: Forget about the million dollars. Just try and hit it like you’d be hitting a putt on the practice green. If I’m under pressure to play a shot, I’ll imagine that I’m just playing golf with my friends back home and just try to hit the same shot that I’d hit when I play with them.
MM: You’re known for having a really long drive. What’s the key?
RM: Speed. Speed’s the biggest thing. You need a smooth change of direction—it doesn’t need to be vicious. In 3-D analysis, they call it sequencing. From the top of the swing, your hips move, and then it’s your torso, and then it’s your shoulders, and then it’s your arms, and then ultimately your hands. So you need a very good sequence. And timing. Some of the guys that hit the ball so far make it look effortless. That’s timing and turning on the power at the right time.