Ahead of the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Rory McIlroy explained why he’s back working exclusively with the man who has guided his career since he was a boy, Michael Bannon.
After a torrid start to 2021, the 32-year-old sought the advice of renowned swing coach Pete Cowen, after developing some technical flaws trying to keep pace with Bryson DeChambeau’s distance gains.
However, despite returning to the winner’s circle for the first time in 553 days under Cowen’s tutelage, the former World No. 1 took the decision to return to his long-time instructor after poor performances at The Open and the Ryder Cup.
“Michael has always been my coach,” McIlroy began. “He's coached me since I was 8 years old. He's also been there, even if he wasn't visible, he's been in the background for the last six months, and I think Michael knows my swing and my game better than I probably know it at this point.”
At the Ryder Cup in particular, McIlroy cut a frustrated and dejected figure. Struggling to produce anything like his best form, the four-time major winner broke down in tears after beating Xander Schauffele in the Sunday singles to pick up his first point of the contest.
But such is golf, and the prodigious ability McIlroy possesses, that he was able to shake off the disappointment and bounce back immediately, lifting the CJ Cup two weeks later for his 20th PGA Tour win.
“It's funny, I talked to him [Michael Bannon] at length after the Ryder Cup, and we had organised for him to come out the week after Vegas to start working again, and obviously I went and won Vegas.
“But those two weeks in between the Ryder Cup and Vegas I feel like I figured a few things out on my own. Which sometimes you need to do. Sometimes you need to go and throw hundreds of balls down on the range and hit some and figure it out on your own.
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“I'm not saying that I don't need any help ever again and I've got it figured out, but I talked about it in Vegas, just about being myself and not trying to do anything that other people do or what I can't do.
“And I guess I went to Vegas with a little more self-belief and I won that tournament, and that gave me even more confidence. And then if anything, Michael is more of a sounding board at this point.
“I say to him, ‘this is what I'm trying to do, tell me if I'm completely not right’. But again, I've played golf a long time. I think I know what I'm doing for the most part. And that was really it.
“I said last week I've always had a relationship with Pete, I've known Pete since I was 13 years old from the Irish set-up, and if I want to ask his opinion on something, I can still do that. If I feel like I need his input, I'll ask for it. As of right now, I'm happy with the set-up that I've basically always had, and I'm excited for the road ahead.”
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