Rory’s Swing: 60% natural, 40% hard work

Friday is the first day of the Deutsche Bank Championship with its customary Monday finish on Labor Day. It’s the second of the four Playoffs tournaments ending with the Tour Championship and FedExCup in Atlanta. They’re playing it at the TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts, a southern suburb of Boston so far away that it’s actually closer to Providence, Rhode Island.

The winner in 2012, Rory McIlroy, sat to down to talk about The Playoffs, his recent run of good play and, as always, the course conditions (hard fairways and greens and higher than normal rough; a good test).

But the thing that captured my attention was his response to this question:

Q. Everybody talks about your swing and admires it so much. In terms of percentage, how much was innate, genetic, versus what you had to work on, from your youth on up, if you could just put an angle on that?

“I’d probably say 60/40. 60 percent sort of natural and sort of — yeah, I mean whatever you want to call it, talent, ability, whatever. And 40 percent of the rest was hard work. And obviously you have a talent there, hand/eye coordination or whatever, but you have to try and make the most of that and get it into the right positions and try and make it more consistent.”

“I’ve done a lot of hard work on my swing, even though it still looks like a very natural motion, which it is. I’ve still done a lot of hard, technical work on my swing over the years, to get it in the positions that I do.”

I don’t know about you, but his answer that he’s not just some all-natural soaring talent gave me great hope. Not necessarily that we have a chance to play at Rory’s level, but that we are not bound by what we begin with in the game. We have all that wide swath of potential.

Everybody knows that the road to good play begins with an effort to get better, but that even Rory McIlroy had to substantially augment his raw talent for the game comes as a surprise. I would have thought that his estimate would be more like 90/10 or at least 80/20. You know, there are all these clips of him as a precocious child demonstrating his innate talent. We could all see it even then as he chipped balls into his mother’s washing machine.

And still, he had to spend another 15 to 20 years honing the nooks and crannies of his swing. I guess the magic is still that foundation that we could all see even back then. But for the life of me, he looked like all that he had to do was get bigger and stronger, not learn 67% more.

I would love to ask Rickie Fowler the same question, particularly as his demonstrated natural athleticism is being refined by Butch Harmon.

So the secret really seems to be, no matter who you are, find a good coach and practice, practice, practice.

On the other hand, there’s Bubba Watson who eschews any kind of instruction or even practice. Warm up, go play and don’t think about anything but the shot you want to hit. It won him two Masters and four other PGA tournaments: Hartford, La Jolla, New Orleans and Riviera. He may be the exception, but he’s not a fluke.

Go figure.

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