Anatomy of an Open champion: John McHenry breaks down the mechanics of Rory McIlroy

"Rory McIlroy has the most natural motion in golf today," according to the great Jack Nicklaus and few would argue with that assertion after the phenomenal performance we witnessed at last week’s Open Championship.

But that wasn’t always the case and McIlroy was one of the first to realise his own limitations given that a properly executed golf swing requires co-ordination, balance, strength, power, mobility and muscular endurance.

So a few years ago he set out, under the guidance of Dr Steve McGregor, to use modern science in a bid to transform himself into one of the most impressive players on the planet. These are the key weapons in his arsenal...


McIlroy’s progression has been phenomenal in recent years resulting in far greater power in his legs, hips and core. This has allowed his spine remain more balanced and stable throughout his golf swing.

The end result for McIlroy the golfer has been increased power and consistency. And of course confidence. That said, there are other characteristics of McIlroy that go into making him the great champion he is today.


Generating maximum clubhead speed is an essential component for power in the modern game. McIlroy (with a clubhead speed of 120mph) generates his incredible power by staying tall through impact while synchronising the release of his hinged wrists with his rotating hips. Why else can he so effortlessly hit an iron 276 yards into the last hole at Hoylake last Sunday?


When creating such phenomenal power it is essential you also have a body that can absorb the impact and here McIlroy excels. With a synchronised and shallow release his massive forearms can easily absorb the impact of practice and tournament golf.


All great champions have the ability to think well under pressure. A calm mind allows them to quickly process all the relevant information around them — the conditions, the yardage to the hole, the rush of adrenalin.

Once processed they then focus on their target, their pre-shot routine and execution. Throughout their round they have their game face on, one which always stays in the moment, never reflecting — never looking too far forward.


When in the zone, the players will use their eyes to zone in on their intended target, deciphering any tiny nuggets of extra information that may be around. For example, they might look at a pin position on another hole and watch the bounce of the approach shots. They will use their feet to test the ground and study how compact their chipping landing areas might be or the compactness of the sand in a bunker.

Finally they will use the sensors in their finger tips to help them with delicate chip shots or putts. Feel plays a crucial role in golf and it may well make the difference between a winning or losing performance.

Think of all the great putts McIlroy either held or rolled up dead to the hole last week. That was a perfect example of someone using feel to great effect.

Today, McIlroy competes at a level that very few can touch or even imagine.

His skills set him apart but they have been honed by a combination of raw talent, sports science, an unquenchable desire to be the best and a fertile imagination that may just help him achieve whatever he wants.


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