Here’s Why Rory Is Playing With Fire (Setup Issue)

I saw something earlier in the week about Rory McIlroy trying out the new TaylorMade driver, with speculation that he was perhaps going to play it in his next event, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

For once, I looked at the swing gif. online and bit my tongue, determined not to say anything.  I just didn’t want to be negative, but I’ll tell you what had me shaking my head, now that I’m hearing he had some back issues during today’s opening round.

First, the news from GolfDigest and Brian Wacker, and the title says it all:

Rory McIlroy ‘rusty,’ with back issues in first start since Masters

Playing for the first time since the Masters a month ago, getting married and switching equipment, Rory McIlroy said he felt “rusty” in his opening-round one-over 73 Thursday at the Players Championship.

More worrisome is that he aggravated the same joint in his back that bothered him earlier this year when he missed two months following extensive equipment testing.

“My back has got a little bit stiff again, I guess just from obviously building it up and playing through and then not doing anything for three weeks and then coming back last weekend and hitting balls for four or five hours a day,” said McIlroy…

And that’s about all I need to know, that he’s hitting balls for four to five hours a day with this setup, link to the actual swing here:

Seeing what I’m seeing?

I’m seeing another Tiger Woods special coming up here, with a power swinger set up completely vertical with the spine, center-biased at best, if not left, and who is going to swing at 120+ mph hour like this:

What do you all think is going to happen to an athlete’s back if he’s swinging at high speed with his head dropping hard to the right (along with the upper back) while his hips are driving the lower back hard to the left, or at the target?

I bet you can hazard a guess?

So, it’s not exactly hard to predict ongoing problems at best, and a possible career-threatening injury to the back for Rory, with a swing like this.

Now, repeat a few hundred times, and…

I have praised Rory’s embracing of the heel lift on the leading foot with his back swing pivot, and it isn’t the back swing that’s hurting Rory.

It’s what he’s doing in his setup, as I’ve mentioned in passing. In fact, I pointed out this exact extreme head drop in his action the last time he injured himself heaving that way at the ball.

It’s leading to the down swing and especially the impact and post-impact area that are the problem, and it all goes back to the setup.

We all know (or should know, if you’re a high-level golf instructor or player) that the proper impact position has the head over the right knee and side:

So please, someone tell me what is accomplished by setting up with the head that far away from where it’s going to be at impact, because Rory certainly knows where the head needs to be, he’s moving it there coming down.

What I’d love to know is who is telling him that setting up in the manner in which he’s doing so isn’t a complete and utter recipe for disaster.

That’s all I have to say about this.


14 thoughts on “Here’s Why Rory Is Playing With Fire (Setup Issue)

  1. doubou2014

    If anyone is telling Rory anything about his swing it is Michael Bannon his one and only instructor. However, could his honeymoon be the cause of his back problem?

    1. D Watts Post author

      Not unless he was carrying his new bride around on his back while hitting balls, dou-bou! 😉

  2. Harleyweedwhacks

    I remember watching some coverage of Rory playing Adam Scott and Rory tweaked his left knee during play. I’m not sure it was a gym injury, as the commentators said. I’m more certain it was the fact that his left knee was snapping hard through impact.

    I think it’s easy to sort out mechanically correct and mechanically unsound. It’s simply, what hurts and what doesnt. If you can swing without injury for a long period of time then your swing is fine. If you’re compensating for an injurous movement, then your swing is unsound. I never really incurred injury in my swing unless i was working on technique. Instead of letting my natural swing flow, with the full hip turn and the releasing left knee, id try different things and it would screw me up.

    I think mechanical correctness is also about being smart. It’s not smart to hurt yourself swinging a light stick. Its not smart to twist the spine when it’s not built to twist. Its intelligent to release the left knee and not bend it sideways. I could give a million examples, but in essence, mechanically correct is smart, and Jason Day and Rory Mcilroy, Ricky Fowler just arent smart, I’m sorry to say.

    1. D Watts Post author

      I think it’s easy to sort out mechanically correct and mechanically unsound. It’s simply, what hurts and what doesnt.

      Well, it can’t be that easy with what I’m seeing from the best players in the world, HWW! Rather, I’m seeing very unsound techniques, with the innocent and unsuspecting viewer being told that it is excellent…

  3. Laser

    “hips are driving the lower back hard to the left, or at the target”

    –That’s a recipe for disaster…and it won’t work. It might appear that way in a video, but I’d be interested in seeing somebody try to literally make that work…that is, if they had unlimited medical coverage and promised to only try it once. Nobody could come within 100 yards of McIlroy’s drives by consciously trying to do that. Where’s the power coming from? Hips (by themselves) are not powerful, and neither is the lower back–that’s why they always tell people to lift with their legs.

    (Hogan & Nicklaus…if I put a ruler over the photos, the heads are both behind the right kneecaps, not over. Same with the photo of McIlroy.)

    With Rory, his photo is pretty far into the follow-through. At that point, I don’t see why head position would be a factor. So, what’s the source of his injury? I dunno. But that straight left leg at follow-through doesn’t look very appealing. The body has a built-in provision for deceleration, and that bypasses it. It’s kinda like a knee-snap. But, there’s a trade-off…

    1. D Watts Post author

      It’s not that his head is where it is at that post-impact time Laser but where it started along with the hips driving hard. Look at that pic again and see how far the hips have moved. That’s the problem. I warned about the same thing with TW before his 1st back surgery.

      At high speed you are playing with fire contorting the spine in such fashion and Rory won’t be swinging this way at 35, so it’ll either be due to a swing change or that he’s on the shelf…take your pick…

      1. Laser

        “hips driving hard”

        -Here’s the thing about hips: they’re not strong and they’re not fast. It might be that when we look at hips, we’re looking at a result, not a cause.

        1. D Watts Post author

          Well, now we’re just getting into semantics – let me rephrase it to “driving the hips hard,” because the head doesn’t have any strength either.

          Both hips and head are being moved by the leg and back muscles, but the result is what I’m pointing out. Another result: A lower body crunch and stress on the whole back and anterior rib cage.

          The cause can’t be seen, as he’s wearing clothes.

          1. Laser

            Well…George Knudson did say, “The head has no purpose in the golf swing.” I think he meant the same thing that Moe Norman meant when he said, “I’m not turning my hips.”

            Neither man meant that either head or hips would not appear in a certain way when the swing was done correctly. They meant that they were not thinking about these things or trying to control them.

            “The less you think about individual parts, the more connected your swing will be.” ~ DJW

            I wouldn’t claim to have the final solution to Rory’s back problem, but I suspect that abandoning the body’s deceleration mechanism (with knee snap or straight left leg in the follow through) will throw a lot of momentum upon body parts that aren’t designed to receive that force. That’s why Joe Miller used to jump. Probably not too good for accuracy.


            1. D Watts Post author

              I wouldn’t claim to have the final solution to Rory’s back problem

              Well, I would – swing properly, which means a proper mechanically-sound swing model. The way he’s doing it now… isn’t it.

              And I might add, substituting one swing flaw for another isn’t the way, either.

              Meanwhile, he has an MRI scheduled on Monday but, with typical common sense, he’s going to continue playing 2 more rounds, because continued play with a hurting back just has to be the way to go about it.

              Hey, I am not doing this for Rory’s benefit, as he certainly wouldn’t listen to anything I have to say. This is for the benefit of my readers or anyone else who happens to stumble across this blog wondering why their golf swing is hurting their back or other body parts.

              So, I won’t lose any sleep over this. Just pointing out what not to do.

  4. humbray

    DJ, I think nick could have hit balls for 6 hours yesterday in the cloudy 45 degree weather with wind chill and have no back issues. Ditto for me at 51 years of age. Sad to see what these pros are doing. How bout VJ !!

    1. D Watts Post author

      I can’t tell you how good it was to see you both again after a year, humbray!

      And correct – Nick will looked like he could have gone all day and that’s MCS in action.

      I am actually going to post something on this tonight…stay tuned!


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