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.
MM: You could have signed with any apparel company in the world, but about a year ago you signed with Oakley, a relative golf upstart. Why?
RM: It’s different. It’s cool. It fits well with me. The first time I went to the headquarters in California, I had a really good feeling. You see the same people all the time, and it feels like one nice little family.
MM: Do you have a favorite item of Oakley’s?
RM: I really like the pants that I wear, the Take pants. They’re stretchy, so you don’t have to adjust them when you bend down to read putts. With golf, you see a lot of guys wearing very traditional-type clothes that aren’t very functional. That’s one of the great things about Oakley—they make clothes that are very functional and form around your body, rather than the other way around.
MM: What’s your favorite golf movie?
RM: Happy Gilmore. Or maybe Tin Cup, because Roy McAvoy and Rory McIlroy are pretty similar. But no, Happy Gilmore is totally my favorite.
MM: Who’s the Shooter McGavin of the PGA Tour?
RM: …I probably shouldn’t answer that. I could probably tell you who the Happy Gilmore is, too, but I don’t know if I want to answer that either.
(Editor’s note: everyone knows the Shooter McGavin of the PGA Tour is Phil Mickelson, right? And John Daly is Happy Gilmore.)
MM: You had a famous collapse on Sunday at the Masters last year. Then you bounced back two months later to win the U.S. Open. How?
RM: Everyone’s going to make mistakes. So it’s all about learning from them, putting whatever happened aside and moving on. There’s no point in dwelling on it. It’s in the past; you can’t do anything about it. You can definitely do something about the future. So you’ve just got to go forward.