McIlroy rivals bid to match his power
Rory McIlroy's renowned length off the tee is under threat from the challengers who want to close the gap on a key advantage of the four-time Major champion.
Jordan Spieth has already said he is working on hitting the ball longer, and when he sets his mind to something, he finds a way to make it a success.
With two Major titles and the FedEx Cup in his possession, Spieth didn't do too badly in 2015, did he?
But these elite players are always seeking that extra ingredient, aware that the small margins can make a big difference at the top end of the World rankings.
Spieth made no secret of the 'wow' factor when he saw Jason Day up close and personal in the US PGA Championship crunching drives 330 yards and more.
If it's possible, he will not let the big hitters such as Day, McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson maintain a significant advantage over him in 2016 and in the years to come.
Another big name player who has extended his limits in driving distance is England's Justin Rose, and McIlroy got a close look at Rose's new-found length as they played together in the first two rounds of the Frys.Com Open at Silverado CC, in Napa, California.
In his post-round interview after round one, McIlroy was asked how big a threat would Rose pose to him, and the Northern Irishman admitted he had been impressed by his Ryder Cup team-mate's progress.
"You've just got to see the way he hits it out there. At the Tour Championship, I played with him and he was hitting it past me. That hasn't really happened that much before," said the Ulsterman.
"He was getting me by a good 20, 25 yards at the Tour Championship."
On Thursday that did not quite happen, because McIlroy took action, saying: "I changed shafts on my driver, so he was only getting by me by about five or ten (yards) today."
Rose credits work on his technique with coach Sean Foley and fitness as big factors.
"A lot of it is technique, working hard with Sean," he said. "The driver is a very different golf swing from the rest of the clubs. I don't subscribe to one swing for every club. The driver is a different animal, and I'm doing a few different things there.
"Obviously equipment. . . I picked up even more yardage this year with the (TaylorMade) M1, and training hard, working out and staying fit.
"This is a golf course where you have to drive it well. If you do drive it well around here, you set up a lot of birdie chances."
McIlroy rarely worries about his driving, but his putting needs to be sharp to make the most of his long game.
This week he had Dave Stockton check up on his putting and got reassurance that all is as well as can be expected.
"We just had a bit of a chat. He came out and just basically give me the thumbs up and the okay. Everything looked good," said McIlroy.
Sports fan McIlroy will make a special effort to watch the Irish rugby team play Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final tomorrow, and may benefit from the dreaded jet-lag caused by his trans-Atlantic journey to California.
"I think it's on at, like, 5.00am on Sunday, so I'll probably be a little jet-lagged, and probably won't mind getting up and watching it," he said.
In Europe, today's Portugal Masters third round has an 8.0am shotgun start because of the threat of bad weather.
The first round was disrupted by fog, and 14 players, including Peter Lawrie, had to complete round one yesterday before embarking on their second round.
Lawrie got no joy from the event, as he missed the cut on three over par.
Also making an early exit were Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey on +4, leaving Paul Dunne, Damien McGrane, Padraig Harrington, and Kevin Phelan as the Irish players left in the tournament.
Dunne continued his impressive form in only his third professional tournament, carding a level-par 71 for three under overall.
McGrane shot 72 for his three-under total, and Harrington had a second successive 70 for two under. Phelan's 71 was enough to make the cut on the mark of one under par.
England's Andy Sullivan led the field at 14 under par, three ahead of nearest challenger Thomas Pieters of Germany.
Portuguese Masters, Live, Sky Sports 5, 9.00am
Frys.Com Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.00pm.
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