Rory McIlroy: ‘This Version of the Tour Championship is The Best Yet’

Rory McIlroy, 2023 BMW Championship,Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Rory McIlroy, 2023 BMW Championship,Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

“Of all the iterations of the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup playoffs, I think this is the best one yet,” Rory McIlroy said in his pre-tournament interview. “I can’t sit here and say that I’ve thought of something better at this point.”

McIlroy has played in the FedEx Playoffs since 2010, but he has not made it to the Tour Championship every time. He was missing from the final event in 2010, 2013, and 2017, but he won it in 2016, 2019, and 2022.

This year, he starts in third place at 7-under par. Scottie Scheffler starts at 10-under par. Viktor Hovland, who won the BMW, is at 8-under.

While Rory McIlroy likes this version, there are plenty of people who would like to tweak it, including many golf fans who have burned up PGA Tour Radio and Twitter (now X) with their ideas in recent days. However, the current approach seems to reward those who have had the best seasons and who have garnered the most FedEx points.

Many find fault with the staggered point start. Not Rory McIlroy.

"“I fell 11 shots behind Scottie after two holes of the tournament,” McIlroy said about 2022. “So, if I can come back from 11 shots, I feel like everyone in this field should feel like they have a chance to win.”"

It’s hard to argue with a guy who has won the event twice and wants to be the only person to win it three times. He also knows that just because someone is currently in the No.1 spot, it doesn’t guarantee they will win.

“I came in to the TOUR Championship No. 1 twice in 2012 and 2014 and wasn’t able to win,” McIlroy recalled.

He said, after that happened, he figured out a way to play the golf course that works for him, a way that will get him into contention.

"“I just sensed myself aiming further and further right as I got over the ball.” “I just couldn’t trust that I could hit the shot that I wanted to hit.” – – Rory McIlroy"

It won’t guarantee him a victory, but it at least puts him in a good mental position.

Earlier this season he was having difficulties with technique in his irons, and naturally he hopes that is fixed. It happened at the PGA Championship.

“I just sensed myself aiming further and further right as I got over the ball,” he explained “I just couldn’t trust that I could hit the shot that I wanted to hit.”

If you’re a professional golfer, that’s not where you want to be.

“After that, I was like, I need to do something here because I’m not able to hit — if I can’t hit a shot under basically zero pressure to a left pin how am I expected to do it when …”  he paused, not saying when it really matters. “That wasn’t a good feeling and knowing that, okay, I need to get my — I need to work on my technique a little bit so that I can trust what I’m doing a bit more.”

One part of his game that doesn’t suffer is his skill off the tee, which he says he has trained to improve.

“You have to train moving the club,” he said. “The faster that you can move the club into the ball, the faster the ball’s going to come off the face and the further it’s going to go.”

The combination of speed work that he did in the past, and improvements to the ball and club technologies have given him an extra 20 yards.

Before his speed training, he said he had a ball speed of 178 to 180 MPH, not trying to hit flat out. Now his baseline is 184 to 185, and if he goes all out, he can get close to 190.

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Currently, Rory McIlroy is first in driving distance, second in strokes gained total and strokes gained off the tee, and third in strokes gained approach. He is fourth in scoring average.

With his history around East Lake Golf Club, he certainly has a good chance for the fourth victory.