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How Rory McIlroy became golf’s sultan of swing

By Peter Hutcheon

His fellow pros have been falling over themselves to praise the swing which has powered Rory McIlroy to two Major championships.

Nick Faldo marvelled at Rory’s ability to move his hips at 720 degrees per second which allows him to hit the ball as far, if not further, than anyone else out there.

The man who understands the science behind McIlroy’s amazing power is Professor Eric Wallace from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown.

He’s the Director of the Sport & Exercise Sciences Research Institute and has had the good fortune to be able to study McIlroy’s swing in all its glory since he was 14 years old.

“He was part of a group of young players who were brought to us for biomechanical support work around nine years ago,” he explains.

“And fundamentally his swing and his swing mechanics haven’t changed a great deal since then.

“What he displays is close to optimal, if not optimal, principles of the golf swing.”

What that means in layman’s terms is that McIlroy squeezes every ounce of power from his frame so while he is considerably shorter than the average professional and may not be as muscular as many, he can match them in the distance he hits the ball.

Professor Wallace and his team are able to measure in incredible detail all aspects of the swing — similar to how a golf pro uses a video camera to give lessons — but in 3D and in much, much greater detail.

And what that has revealed, in McIlroy’s case, is not just the tremendous power unleashed by the Holywood man with a rapid transfer of weight, but also that every part of his body is working in complete harmony throughout the swing.

“An average golfer who can hit the ball say 200 yards has a hip speed of around 300 to 350 degrees per second, which is how we measure it,” he says.

“The average professional has a speed of 500 to 550 degrees per second, or about twice as fast,” he explains.

“Now I haven’t measured Rory on this, but he has been demonstrated to have a speed of up to 720 degrees per second.

“That tension and elasticity in the muscles that Rory builds up is one of the major reasons for him being able to create the power that he does in his swing.

“There is a thing known as the X Factor, which was first coined by Jim McLean out at Doral about 10 years ago.

“That refers to the separation of the hips from the rest of the torso. If you take your average player, there can be no separation at all, which is one of the reasons why they don’t generate enough power.

“With Rory he will turn his shoulders 90 degrees from the target line, but his hips turn only 25 to 35 degrees which stretches the muscles and that difference is what is known as the X Factor.”

There are many different factors, not just power off the tee, which goes into making a Major champion and McIlroy’s all round game was tested to the full during Sunday’s final round at Kiawah Island as he wrapped up the US PGA title. But it certainly helps to be able to smack it a country mile right down the middle of the fairway time after time.

“We were lucky enough to have Rory come to the opening of our labs at Jordanstown and hit a few balls for us and the first ball he hit was right out of the bullseye,” adds Professor Wallace, a 14-handicapper and member of Malone.

“One of the things we can measure to within millimetres is where the clubface strikes the ball.

“Then he hit one after the other, getting faster and faster and striking them perfectly every time. It’s just amazing to watch him.

“And having seen his progress since he was 14, I can’t say that I am the slightest bit surprised to see him become a double Major champion.”

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