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Rory McIlroy reveals how Tiger Woods influenced driver switch

Oct 29, 2023

McIlroy saw an uptick in distance after switching to TaylorMade's Stealth 2 driver.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — As the PGA Tour's current leader in driving distance (328.7 yards), Rory McIlroy isn't accustomed to watching his playing partners smoke it by him off the tee. But it still happens on occasion.

And during the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, McIlroy found himself on five separate occasions staring at Tiger Woods’ back for the second shot.

Distance remains just one part of the formula for success on Tour, but having Woods stroll past him to longer tee balls turned out to be the impetus for an impromptu range session after the round. Increasing the loft on his TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver to gain distance — and increase spin — didn't work, so McIlroy opted for another option: a new Stealth 2 Plus.

"I’m so particular about face angle when it comes to drivers that when I went up a click in loft, obviously I can see a little more face, it looks a little further left to me," McIlroy said. "And I didn't hit one drive out of the middle of the face the first day at Riv. So I needed to go and try something else."

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During testing, McIlroy saw an improvement in consistent spin numbers that led him to change drivers after just one round. While the swap didn't produce a victory, it did allow McIlroy to find another gear off the tee. During the second round, Mcllroy routinely hit it past Woods, uncorking a 388-yard missile at one point that wound up being roughly 50 yards longer than his longest drive in Round 1.

"I was sick of Tiger outdriving me," McIlroy said. "Partly to do with that."

In addition to wanting to outdrive Tiger, McIlroy saw another, albeit more subtle, benefit to Stealth 2 Plus that didn't become apparent until he looked down at the club.

"I feel like this Stealth 2 head for me … is more neutral or what I perceive to be a more neutral face angle," he said. "I think if other people saw it they would probably see that it sits slightly open, but to my eye it sits square. To me it was all about face angle."

It's all about face angle — and whatever keeps him ahead of Tiger off the tee.

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Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and's Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.