Armed with a little bit recommendation from Butch Harmon and many follow, Rory McIlroy fires 64 in Abu Dhabi

Struggling to reignite his sport all through the summer season, Rory McIlroy really felt dissatisfied that his 12 months ended on the Masters.

“I felt like I used to be getting proper again into it,” he stated.

One of many hottest gamers within the sport earlier than the shutdown, McIlroy wanted 9 occasions post-restart to earn his first top-10 end. He discovered one thing on the BMW Championship (T-12), contended all through the U.S. Open (T-8) and performed three sturdy rounds at Augusta Nationwide, tying for fifth.

Following the Masters, he took off solely three or 4 days, wanting to maintain his improved type going. He performed and practiced all through the vacations, and he confirmed up this week on the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as ready as ever.

“I felt possibly as sharp as I’ve ever finished coming into the beginning of the season,” he stated.

That a lot was on show Thursday, as he fired a bogey-free 64 at Abu Dhabi Golf Membership, his best-ever rating there. Traditionally a powerful starter, with 11 profession top-5 finishes in his first begin of the brand new 12 months, McIlroy is staked to an early one-shot lead over Tyrrell Hatton.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

No less than a part of McIlroy’s turnaround could be attributed to some work along with his swing.

Unable to see longtime coach Michael Bannon all through a lot of 2020 due to COVID-19 journey restrictions, McIlroy took benefit of enjoying the CJ Cup in Las Vegas to see Butch Harmon, simply as Jordan Spieth did in a transfer that generated way more chatter on-line. (Mentioned Harmon on SiriusXM of his session with Spieth: “All I did was give him my opinion, which a whole lot of guys come for.”) McIlroy and Harmon have additionally exchanged a couple of texts and movies over the previous few months, Harmon informed Sky Sports activities’ Tim Barter.

“The one factor I like about Butch is that he’s labored with so many gamers,” McIlroy stated Thursday. “When you’re attempting to clarify to him, look, I’m attempting to do that or attempting to create that feeling, the database of gamers that he’s labored with through the years – he can say, Freddie {Couples} felt this, or Tiger [Woods] did this, or [Dustin Johnson] felt that. It’s at all times good to have that reference.”

McIlroy was in a position to work with Bannon in South Florida every week earlier than Christmas, and his coach is in Abu Dhabi once more this week for McIlroy’s 2021 debut.

“We’ve began to see much more of one another, and that’s been nice as nicely,” McIlroy stated. “Michael is aware of my swing higher than anybody is aware of it, inside out. It’s nice to have him right here, and it’s nice that issues are slowly getting again to regular the place I’ll have the ability to see him extra commonly this 12 months. I believe that’ll actually assist.”

Enjoying his first aggressive spherical in 9 weeks, this was the 10th time in McIlroy’s profession that he’s shot 66 or higher in Abu Dhabi.

“Clearly it was a beautiful option to begin the 12 months,” he stated.

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