Tiger Woods may have bumped Rory McIlroy from golf’s top ranking but No. 2 should give his childhood hero something to think about during next month’s Masters.
McIlroy’s long-time swing coach, Michael Bannon, as well as his short-game guru, Dave Stockton, were pleased with what they saw of the play of the two-time major champ during Wednesday’s pro-am prologue to this week’s Houston Open.
“Rory’s game is all good,” Bannon, who had not observed McIlroy since the two-time major champ finished with a 65 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month, told Bernie McGuire.
“The main problem was the back swing and that’s fixed so it’s all good stuff for this week and for the Masters,” Bannon said. “His  on the final day of Doral clearly showed that Rory’s game was coming together as he played very well.
With Augusta just two weeks away, Bannon pronounced himself satisfied with his young pupil’s progress following a miserable start to the 2013 season that included a missed cut in Abu Dhabi after his well-documented gear change, a first-round loss in match play, and a controversial withdrawal from the Honda Classic.
Stockton, who also accompanied McIlroy during a Tuesday practice round, agreed.
“All parts of Rory’s game are good, and the irons and the woods are good while his putting is fine, too,” Stockton told McGuire. “It’s now all a matter of hopefully building on how well he played at Doral as his last round was a great, positive final day’s play.”
In fact, the whole issue involving McIlroy ditching Titleist equipment for Nike, baffled Stockton.
“I saw Rory this new season at the [Accenture Match Play Championship] and the first thing that struck me was how good he was hitting all his new clubs,” he said. “Everyone was blaming Nike and stuff after he was beaten by Shane [Lowry] but I never believed that.
“I’ve seen him hitting the clubs a lot now and the clubs look really good,” Stockton added, “so I was surprised he had the trouble he had.”
McIlroy, who can reclaim the top spot from Woods with a win this week, drew a couple of other big-hitting 20-somethings for the first two rounds in Houston. He was slated to tee off on No. 1 at 12:50 local time with 2011 PGA champ Keegan Bradley and 2013 Tournament of Champions titleholder Dustin Johnson. Bradley was coming off a T3 finish at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.