Watch Rory McIlroy hit 'one of the best drives in golf history'
Rory McIlroy moved into the knockout stages here of the WGC-Dell Match Play, but although his 3 & 2 win over Keegan Bradley was defined by a peerless performance of driving the buzz here continued to focus on his extraordinary tee shot the night before.
Brad Faxon hailed the strike to three feet on the 375-yard 18th at Austin Country Club as “one of the best drives in the history of the game”. The morning after the might before, featured McIlroy laughing at his putting guru’s “hyperbole”, but there can be no doubting its magnificence.
In one sublime and destructive swing the Northern Irishman surely obliterated concerns about the state of his revered driving game ahead of the Masters in two weeks. His thunderbolt not only verged on the ludicrous but also the ironic and, indeed, the cruel.
After announcing before the start of this championship that he believed the R&A and US Golf Association are correct in their controversial plans to roll back the ball to rein in the big-hitters, McIlroy stood on the final tee-box with a one-up lead on American Denny McCarthy.
The world No 3 only needed a half on the concluding par-four to ensure the point in the pool match, but McIlroy characteristically went for broke. And it was this fragile scenario that made his belittling blow all the more stunning. It hurtled its passage towards that perfect mix of intention and execution.
The wind was hardly howling but it was definitely with him and, in his words he produced “a great shot hit at a great time”.
In truth, it was an absolute golfing monstrosity – straight out of Captain Caveman’s plus-foured dreams – carrying in the air 349 yards to clear the bunker guarding the elevated green, eventually rolling up to rest with kick-in distance.
Faxon’s hyperbole was clearly contagious with the PGA Tour’s social accounts describing the shot as “iconic”.
After accounting for Bradley, McIlroy was rather more circumspect. “Look, honestly for me the two shots into 16 yesterday were better,” he said. “The drive on 18 was great and the length and the accuracy and whatever, it was a good shot, but there were a few more shots out there yesterday that pleased me more.
“That tee shot’s got all the headlines and the attention, but there’s other parts of the game that I was a lot more happy with. My driving was really on point again today.”
To think, this was the character who just two weeks ago was so downhearted about his driving when he missed the cut at The Players. All it took was a new shaft fitted on the club that has always been the best in his bag. “As soon as I took it out of the box, I was like, ‘here we go’,” McIlroy said. “It only took two shots with it and I knew. I said to myself ‘this is it – I’ve got one here’.
“As every day goes by the more and more confidence I’m getting with it. It’s nice to have that freedom knowing the club’s going to do what it’s supposed to do and the feel of the swing is matching the shape of the ball flight.
“My short game is sharp as well; in fact, everything is very solid. It’s probably as good as it’s felt all year, which is obviously great with the Masters coming in a few weeks.”
Augusta’s golfing heaven can wait. On Saturday, McIlroy faces Australian Lucas Herbert with a quarter-final against Xander Schauffele or JJ Spaun as reward.