At 32-years-old, Rory McIlroy captured his 20th career PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the 2021 CJ Cup in Las Vegas. Twenty is a lot of wins, but for those who have been following his professional career, that number comes as no surprise.
McIlroy has always been an elite ball striker who overpowers courses with his long game prowess. It was only a matter of time until he stacked up 20 PGA Tour wins to go along with his four major championship victories.
While he’s struggled at times, especially over the last few years, McIlroy has regained internal confidence and is officially back to his winning ways.
Ahead of the 2021 CJ Cup, I was lucky enough to be able to go through McIlroy’s golf bag to take in-hand photos of all his golf clubs. It’s always fun to analyze the tools of the best players in the world, and see what they do differently with their equipment setups compared to the rest of us.
Below, I highlight the 7 interesting things I noticed about McIlroy’s gear, and what make his setup unique.
1) An insane wear mark on his hybrid
Throughout his career, McIlroy always gravitated to traditional long irons, driving irons or a 5-wood to fill the gaps at the top end of his set. Actually, he had never tested or tried a hybrid prior to 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, however, McIlroy became a hybrid guy by throwing a SIM Max Rescue 19-degree hybrid in his bag.
From the looks of it, he hasn’t missed the center of the face since he started using it. A wear mark like that doesn’t come from just a few shots; it comes from years of practice, and hitting the ball perfectly flush on the center of the face time and time again.
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TaylorMade SIM2 Max Rescue Hybrid
OUR TAKE: TaylorMade’s original SIM Max Rescues of 2020 took the professional game by storm, finding their way into the bags of top golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson – players who hadn’t used hybrids throughout most of their prior careers. Like those previous rescues, the new SIM2 Rescues continue to prove their value to better players by eliminating the left miss that deters some golfers from using hybrids. “I love the flight because I don’t have to worry about missing it left,” one of our testers said. “The small profile is a great look, too.”
THE DETAILS: McIlroy and Johnson, both newfound hybrid users in 2020, helped provide insights for the new compact SIM2 Rescue designs of 2021. With their help, TaylorMade engineered a new leading edge and sole geometry, and used weight to implement more forgiveness without sacrificing iron-like workability. Given the success of SIM Max Rescue’s success of last year, TaylorMade has also expanded the SIM2 hybrid lineup, which now includes a SIM2 Rescue and a SIM2 Max Rescue. Check out 150+ reviews from our gear experts in the ClubTest 2021 collection.
I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that one of the world’s best ball strikers has a wear mark like that, but for average amateur golfers, it’s still ridiculously impressive. On the sole of McIlroy’s hybrid, he also uses three strips of lead tape to help keeping the ball from hooking too much. For a refresher course on where to place lead tape to fix your equipment issues, check out our recent Lead Tape 101 article.
2) Slightly different shafts for different clubs
The shafts that you use throughout your 14-club setup are an underrated aspect of club fitting. Head models are important, but shafts can help control distance, dispersion, launch angle, spin rate, feel, and how the club head gets delivered to the golf ball. Choosing the right shaft for each club to match your needs and preferences is crucial.
For McIlroy, he makes a few notable shaft decisions. As a high-speed golfer, McIlroy uses Fujikura’s Ventus Black model in both his SIM2 driver and SIM fairway wood. The Ventus black is the lowest launching and spinning of the Ventus series. Interestingly, while he uses a 65-gram 6X version in his driver, he uses an 86-gram 8X model in his fairway wood. The more stout shaft build in his fairway should provide him more control and tighten dispersion.
In his iron setup, McIlroy uses ultra-stiff Project X 7.0 shafts. When he gets into his Milled Grind wedges, though, he goes with a slightly softer Project X 6.5 shaft. A number of pros end up going lighter and softer on their wedge shafts compared to their irons to pick up spin and add a bit of feel for the head.
The lesson to learn here is to pay attention to what shafts you’re putting in each club in the bag. It could make a world of difference.
TaylorMade SIM2 Driver
OUR TAKE: Asked to describe the look of the new SIM2 drivers, our testers labeled them as “futuristic,” “modern” and “fast.” And who can argue when there’s all of that new-age carbon on the sole? While TaylorMade’s SIM2 drivers carry on the original name of the SIM (Shape in Motion) drivers that excelled in 2020, the company has made a few big changes. One initially skeptical GOLF tester took notice of the improvements: “I tried to hit the original SIM last year, but this new one feels a million times more solid. This is going to be tough to beat.”
THE DETAILS: To craft its new SIM2 heads, TaylorMade combined proven technologies from recent years (TwistFace, Inertia Generator, Speed-Injected faces, thru-slots, carbon crowns) with all-new designs to make the drivers more forgiving. Most notably, a new sole plate is made up entirely of carbon composite to save weight, and there’s a new blue aluminum back ring, which connects the rear sole to the crown. The new pieces work together to drive weight back for better performance on mishits. Not a fan of the blue colorway? TaylorMade is now allowing for personalized color changes on five different areas in the heads through its MySIM2 custom platform. Check out 150+ reviews from our gear experts in the ClubTest 2021 collection
3) Just a touch of offset
Back in 2019, a photo of Rickie Fowler’s custom Cobra irons went viral for how little offset the irons had and how thin their toplines were. McIlroy commented on social media that the look at address “gives him the shakes.”
Although McIlroy’s custom TaylorMade “Rors Proto” P730 blade irons are far from a game-improvement iron, they do have a semblance of offset. For a deeper understanding of offset and why it helps add forgiveness, check out this recent GOLF.com story.
Another point of note with his irons is just how worn down they are from years of practice and play. If you really want to get comfortable with the performance of your irons and how far each iron flies, remember not to change out your iron setup too much. New technology can always be helpful, but once you find something you like, stick with it.
4) The power of the sole
A look at McIlroy’s wedges shows he has three different wedges for three different purposes. He has a standard-bounce TaylorMade MG3 46-degree wedge, a 56-degree MG2 wedge with the same grind that Tiger Woods uses, and a 58-degree wedge with low bounce and leading edge relief.
While most golfers don’t have the arsenal of shots and the precision that McIlroy has with his wedges, it’s important for golfers to understand that the sole grind of their wedges matters. Bounce and grind can influence how the wedge sits at address in varying setup positions, how the wedge goes through the turf at impact, and even how the shot performs in flight.
TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 Chrome Wedge
Fitting by sole grind, the TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 Wedges ensure precision where it matters most. Advanced milling techniques create exacting sole and leading edge geometries for unparalleled performance and consistency. ZTP groove technology contains steeper side walls and sharper edge radii to maximize spin and control on the course. Two sole grind options afford golfers the ability to select ideal specifications for their swing and course conditions.
If you’re struggling with your wedges, or want to add shots to your arsenal, I suggest getting with a trusted fitter for a full wedge fitting. Since bounce and grind are so personal to an individual’s delivery pattern, you’ll need to try a number of different options to find what’s truly right for you.
5) European Ryder Cup pride
McIlroy and the Europeans didn’t end up on the winning side in the recent 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry around his European team pride.
On his TaylorMade Spider X Tour putter, McIlroy has a custom SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour grip. Also, the hickory Bubbawhips alignment sticks he uses to work on his setup are a blue-and-yellow striped European custom special.
6) The St. Bernard cover is still going strong
To protect his SIM2 driver, McIlroy the dog lover uses a St. Bernard driver cover. Much like Tiger with his famous “Frank” headcover, McIlroy has used a St. Bernard cover since childhood, and it’s a staple of his equipment setup.
In a bizarre situation at the 2021 Scottish Open, a wayward spectator briefly stole the headcover from McIlroy’s golf bag. Luckily, the dog was returned to its owner and is now safely back onto his driver.
7) Back to a mallet for the win
McIlroy has been in an off-again on-again relationship for years with his Scotty Cameron Newport GSS putter that has four major wins to its name. But when he captured the win at the recent 2021 CJ Cup, it was McIlroy’s TaylorMade Spider X Tour mallet that got the job done.
Back in September, McIlroy admitted that he needed more forgiveness from his putter than the blade could offer.
“I think the thing with the blade is the good days are really good but the bad days are pretty bad, as well,” McIlroy said. “There’s quite a lot of inconsistency in it for me. It’s almost like I need to practice with the blade at home because you have to get your stroke spot-on to hit good putts with that style of putter.
“But then when I come out here, I started hitting putts with the Spider again, and it felt so easy. Felt like I couldn’t not start it on line. It was sort of there’s a lesson in there somewhere about maybe just keeping the blade at home and practicing with it and then coming out here and putting with something that’s got a little more technology in it.”
It turns out the switch back into a Spider X Tour mallet putter worked. If you’re struggling with hitting putts on line, or with hitting the center of the face in general, it may be time to look at a mallet putter with more forgiveness.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below!