GOLF

The glaring differences between Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth’s warm-ups

ADVERTISEMENT

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth couldn’t have looked more different as they warmed up on the court at the 2022 US Open.

Getty Images

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Forty minutes before their tee times, I posted to watch Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth on the driving range. Two US Open champions on a quest to break their major crises at the Country Club. And there was a noticeable contrast in how McIlroy and Spieth warmed up.

1-10 minutes

McIlroy and Spieth both caught what would amount to a standard bucket of balls at your local driving range. McIlroy got straight into his routine of hitting the ball no further than 20 yards on his first few swings and gradually increased his swing speed with each ball. He couldn’t have looked more calm, cool and collected. McIlroy is clearly a golfer in control of his swing.

Spieth was a bit slower to start hitting. First, his caddy Michael Greller set up his launch monitor and threw an alignment stick into the ground with a towel on top. He was ready to grind. Before he even hit a ball, he was already practicing his backswing routine and finding feel. It’s very obvious that Spieth would like to have eyeballs on the back and both sides of his head. He always tries to get an overview of his swing from all angles.

About five minutes later, Spieth began working with his corner on a similar deal to McIlroy.

10-20 minutes

It took Rory 10-15 swings before he set up his launch monitor. McIlroy goes about his business as if his launch monitor isn’t even there. Maybe the occasional peek, but that’s about it. There is no mechanical work or “feel” situation there. Rory takes nice, smooth iron swings and watches carefully until every swing lands. There is a significant pause before each swing. He walks away and uses a rag after a few shots. It seems he does this to force himself to be patient, as opposed to rapid-fire bullets. As he transitions to long irons, he begins aiming for different flag sticks with each club. Every swing has a desired end goal.

While McIlroy aims for straight targets and plays his draw high on every swing, Spieth takes a different approach. He takes lower ball flights and hits targets across the range. And after each swing, Spieth waits intently for the launch monitor numbers to show up. Even before the bullets land, he sometimes flies over her. Spieth worked longer than McIlroy with wedges and short irons before finally switching gears. It doesn’t reset as often after each swing. Many times he slides the next ball before the last one even stabilizes and is much more focused on feeling his way.

There’s a lot more creative practice going on with Spieth. He tries to hit a variety of ball flights and shot shapes with irons. Spieth prepares for any situation he might encounter.

I don’t remember McIlroy saying a single word during that sequence. Spieth said a lot of words. Especially to himself. Sometimes he makes rhetorical comments or asks Greller questions that don’t get many answers. It is simply a sounding board.

20-30 minutes

Finally, the woods and drivers came out. Rory is methodical with his wood and driver routine. Each swing has a full setup process before going full swing. It’s the prettiest thing I’ve seen on the beach all week. Even with 3 wood and driver, McIlroy rarely checks the launch monitor. At least for today, it merely serves as an accessory and occasional comfort. McIlroy might have had 10 shots in that span. He was really focused on the importance of each of these swings.

It’s not fair to see someone hit a driver next to McIlroy on the range. While McIlroy’s swing seemed smooth as ever, Spieth continued to follow his forehand routine even more than with irons. The time on the ball before each swing is significantly longer, and Spieth lives and dies with every swing. It carefully focuses on ball flights and pitch monitor stats. If there’s a misfire, Spieth has a face of disappointment you don’t see on most others in the entire lineup. Every swing and every feeling means so much to him. The club twirls and smiles from time to time when satisfied.

30-40 mins

McIlroy smokes a few last records before heading to the green. Brad Faxon spent time with McIlroy to revamp his putt. Upon arrival, McIlroy pulls a ball out of his bag and begins practicing putts from 20 to 40 feet. No matter where the ball ends up, McIlroy is sure to put on the desired cut. He’s gone into game mode and doesn’t give himself the luxury of giving himself away. McIlroy bounces around the green to find different breaks and lies up and down to get the full experience before the first tee. After seven practice putts (all of which ended in two putts), McIlroy strutted to the first tee.

Spieth looks mentally exhausted by the time his shooting session is over. I know I was trying to keep up with his level of concentration. There’s a muted facial expression on Spieth’s face before a final red drive. I have to imagine that Spieth spent a lot of time on the green in advance, as his place on the range was only a few steps from No. 10, where he was starting to start. Spieth looked set for another battle with himself and the course.

While it’s fun to watch Rory in all his glory, I leaned into Spieth’s drama – which even plays out on the driving range. It was a reminder that there’s more than one way to prepare for — and win — a major championship.

Photo by Tim Reilly

Golf.com Editor

As Director of Social Media and Commerce, Reilly manages two departments at GOLF. He spends his days with one eye browsing social feeds and the other on Shopify. Charles Barkley’s old golf swing is prettier than Reilly’s weekly screen time. When the Long Island native checks in for a few hours, he can be found walking around at dusk with his stroller. Contact: Tim.Reilly@golf.com

ADVERTISEMENT