McIlroy on bulked-up DeChambeau, Major-like fields and return to Harbour Town after 11 years

| Updated on June 18, 2020

The traditional date of the RBC Heritage, just after the Masters in April, has usually meant that many a top star has given the event a miss. Not this time. The RBC Heritage was first cancelled and then when it was re-worked it came back on the schedule. But instead of its usual April date, it is being played in June.

With every player having had to wait out for more than three months without competition on account of Covid-19, they are all itching to get into as many of the events on re-start.

Rory McIlroy is one of those players. He comes to Harbour Town for the first time since 2009. He admitted, “It feels good to be back. Yeah, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was here last, week after my first Masters in 2009.

“Yeah, I’ve watched it a lot on TV over the years, and you know all the signature holes, I guess, but there was a few holes — I played a few holes yesterday, and there was a couple on the front nine that I didn’t really recall, and then I’m going to go right after here and play the back nine. There’s a couple on that side that I sort of need to get familiar with again. But, yeah, it’s good to be back.

“Look, it’s a different schedule. I played Colonial for the first time last week, playing here for the first time in 11 years. But, yeah, excited to just be able to play golf tournaments again and get back at it. Excited for a great week.”

For starters, McIlroy seems to be happy with the safety arrangements that PGA Tour has made for the return.

McIlroy said, “I think the first couple days last week in Colonial felt somewhat normal. It felt a little different over the weekend, like when we were in contention, in materials of it was very quiet and obviously not much atmosphere out there. But in terms of like dealing with it and dealing with the daily routine of temperature checks and all that sort of stuff, it’s totally fine.

“I think the plans that are in place are good. I’m sure everyone’s doing their best. I certainly don’t want to expose myself and test positive and put anyone else in danger, but also, selfishly, I don’t want to test positive because I want to keep playing golf, I want to keep playing in these tournaments. So I’m trying to do everything I can to limit my exposure and obviously not catch or spread the virus.”

Like every top player these last two weeks, McIlroy was asked about the bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau and whether he expected what he saw.

He said, “Yeah, I mean, obviously, at the start of the year, he came out, and he was a bit bigger. You could see he was getting a bit of speed and stuff, and he was hitting it a long way. But he hit a couple drives on Sunday that Harry and I just looked at each other, and we’re like, holy shit, that was unbelievable.

“He hit one into the wind on 11. I hit a really good one and probably hit it like 315, 320. He must have flew my ball by 40 yards. He hit it like 370, 375 into the wind. It was crazy. It was nuts. It’s unbelievable.”

Yet, he is not sure that bombing drives alone could help on all course. He added. “I mean, it’s impressive what he’s doing. There’s going to be courses where it works, and there’s going to be courses where it won’t. I can’t see him hitting that many drivers this week, for example.”

He said that at the Colonial a player could miss on one side, but Hilton Head, there is trouble on both sides. “So there’s not really a bailout anywhere, where it felt like last week you even though Colonial is a traditional golf course, there is always one side you could miss it if you wanted to hit driver,” said McIlroy.

He went on, “Look, it’s impressive. He’s big. He’s sort of gone down a path, and he’s obviously got a conviction, and he’s following it. That’s what he’s done. He’s always thought outside the box and thought a little differently to most people. He’s really put his mind at wanting to get longer, and he’s definitely done that.”

However, McIlroy said DeChambeau may still not be the longest hitter on the Tour. “I’d still say Cameron Champ. It seems with Cameron, it’s a lot more — it’s smoother speed. It’s not quite as much of an effort as Bryson’s putting into it. But he’s getting there.”

Another significant observation that McIlroy made was when there was a ‘Major Championship feels’ about the first four events. He admitted, “It feels great to look down the range and see all of the top players in the world here, or most of the top players in the world here. That is, it’s a good feeling. That’s what we all want. We all want to play against the best fields week in, week out. I guess it’s silver lining to all this is that it seems like all the top guys are going to play a little more often going forward, and that’s a good thing for the TOUR and for us and for the people at home that are watching.”

Published on June 18, 2020

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