McIlroy Explains Cowen Split: "I Know What I'm Doing"

The four-time major champion discussed the reasons behind his decision to switch coaches

McIlroy explains Cowen split
(Image credit: GETTY)

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. 

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 Michael Bannon 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. Such was the weight of expectation on his shoulders that 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. 

McIlroy explains Cowen split

McIlroy began working with Pete Cowen ahead of this year's Masters

(Image credit: GETTY)

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 [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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Andrew Wright
Staff Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as,, and

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x