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The Telegraph

This was Rory McIlroy’s most worrying first-round meltdown – and it’s because of Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau was as surprised as most golf observers when Rory McIlroy revealed he had tinkered with his technique to keep up with the big-hitting US Open Champion. “I knew there would be people there to be influenced, I didn’t think it would be Rory,” said DeChambeau. Well, quite. By his own admission, the search for additional distance has thrown McIlroy’s swing out of sequence and left him fighting a two-way miss, manifested in a four-over opening round of 76 at the Masters on Thursday. Expectations were low for McIlroy, given he is trying to compete just a few weeks after officially partnering with coach Pete Cowen and all the new swing thoughts and mental baggage that entails. Cowen’s counsel is highly-regarded and the relationship should prove a fruitful one. McIlroy certainly looks in need of guidance, because someone in his corner should have questioned the wisdom of searching for even more clubhead speed. In the last five seasons, McIlroy’s PGA Tour ranking for driving distance has been: fourth, second, first, first and ninth. If anyone should suffer from a case of distance envy, it is not McIlroy. The competitive advantage on offer for gaining an extra few yards is surely minuscule. McIlroy’s swing is the most envied in golf. There is a poise and flourish to his long game that is worth the price of admission alone. When the putter is working and McIlroy’s mind is in the right place, he is incredibly difficult to beat and every player on Tour knows it. The quality of his ball-striking has, until the last few months, been taken as read. “I added some speed and I am hitting the ball longer, but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn’t a good thing, so I’m sort of fighting to get back out of that,” McIlroy said in March. By jeopardising his biggest asset, the first half of McIlroy’s season could become a write off.