McIlroy Splits With Pete Cowen, Returns To Former Coach

The Northern Irishman has reunited with his long-time instructor in a bid to recapture his form of old

McIlroy splits with Pete Cowen
(Image credit: GETTY)

Out with the new and in with the old, sort of. 

Rory McIlroy has split with swing coach Pete Cowen and is back working exclusively with long-time instructor Michael Bannon, as per a report in Golfweek.

“Yes, Michael and I are back working together,” McIlroy said. “I’ve always had a relationship with Pete and I’ll ask for his input if I feel I need it. But now it’s Michael and me.”

The Northern Irishman hooked up with Cowen - one of the most decorated coaches in the game - eight months ago, after developing some swing flaws as he attempted to keep pace with Bryson DeChambeau in the distance stakes. 

It proved a shrewd move initially as he picked up his third win at the Wells Fargo Championship after missing the cut at the Players Championship and then the Masters.

But that appeared to merely paper over the cracks in his game as he failed to reach anything like the form that vaulted him to World No. 1 before the Covid-19 shutdown.

Poor finishes at this year's PGA Championship and The Open further evidenced a golfer in decline, before the 32-year-old found himself outside the top 15 in the rankings for the first time since 2009.

An emotionally charged McIlroy then took his struggles to the Ryder Cup, where he was dropped for a session for the first time since his debut in the biennial contest back in 2010.

McIlroy splits with Pete Cowen

Two for two: McIlroy and Ian Poulter were well beaten twice at this year's Ryder Cup

(Image credit: GETTY)

When all was said and done at Whistling Straits, McIlroy's record read 1-3-0 as Team USA inflicted a record-breaking defeat on their European counterparts.

That experience left its mark on the 32-year-old, who felt he had let his team down with his un-McIlroy-esque contribution, and subsequently broke down in tears after beating Xander Schauffele in his Sunday singles match.

That is the last time he and Cowen worked together and in his next appearance, McIlroy lifted silverware. It wasn't absolutely vintage Rory, but he was able to see off a strong field and capture his 20th PGA Tour title at the CJ Cup @ Summit. Golf, eh?

"I think for the last few months I was trying to be someone else to try to get better but realised that being me is enough and being me, I can do things like this," the man from Hollywood said in the immediate aftermath.

A few days later, McIlroy was back working with Michael Bannon, the instructor who has guided his progress since he was just a boy.

Where next from here?

McIlroy will play twice more in 2021: at next week's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and the Hero World Challenge, which takes place in the Bahamas from December 2-5.

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 goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.


What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

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

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

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1