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Learn our Player of the Year's top moves and raise your skills to a whole new level

Rory McIlroy's swing is one of the most impressive the PGA Tour has ever seen, and to emulate his motion perfectly you'd need an incredible amount of flexibility, athleticism, and balance.

However, as unlikely as it seems, there are a number of things Rory does that you can use to improve your own technique. If you crave more power and distance, copy the way he stores energy and "cracks the whip" as he delivers the clubhead through the impact zone. If you're in need of better balance, then swinging in the proper sequence like he does will make a positive difference almost immediately. And if you're a slicer, mimicking Rory's closed shoulders/open hips position in the downswing, as well as his full release, will work wonders.

Take a close look at McIlroy's various positions and techniques with an eye toward improving your weaknesses, and be sure to try the drills I've provided. With just a little bit of work, you can get your game an inch closer to that of the best player in the world.

Rory McIlroy
Left: Mark Newcombe/Visions in Golf; Right: Carlos M. Saavedra/SI
Left: McIlroy's setup; Right: Cupped wrist

1. GET RELAXED AT ADDRESS AND STRENGTHEN GRIP
Rory's setup position has several noteworthy characteristics, but the number-one thing to copy is his relaxed and tension-free stance. Tightening your arms, shoulders and hands at address makes it very difficult to swing in sequence and generate maximum clubhead speed. Feel relaxed -- not tight -- before and during your swing. The second thing to take from Rory's address is his relatively strong left-hand grip position. Check the photo below -- the logo on his glove is clearly visible, meaning his left hand is rotated clockwise on the handle. This is critical for players like Rory who prefer to draw the ball from right to left with the driver. It's also a good technique for those who struggle with slicing. If this is you, I suggest erring on the side of too strong with your left hand, rather than too weak.

2. DON'T FEAR THE CUP
Although modern teaching standards call for a flat left wrist at the top, Rory actually cups his wrist a bit, which allows him to maintain a square clubface despite his strong left-hand grip. He also exhibits a full wrist hinge, evidenced by the fact that the shaft is near parallel to the ground (photo, above). This is impossible to do if you tense up at address. The secret is to make as full an upper body turn as possible while keeping your arms, wrists and hands loose and free to hinge the club up. Moreover, allowing your left wrist to cup instead of forcing it perfectly flat makes it easier to keep your left arm relaxed and to hinge your wrists to their maximum capacity. A flat left wrist sounds nice, but it can potentially lead to undue tension in your lead arm.

Rory McIlroy, PGA Championship 2012
Darren Carroll/SI
Whether he's hitting driver (left) or an iron (right), Rory "cracks the whip" with a perfect downswing sequence that saves all his energy for impact.

3. CRACK THE WHIP
Did you know that the first man-made object to break the sound barrier was a bullwhip? Yes, that sound you hear when a whip is cracked is caused by the incredible speed of the whip's end as it unleashes all of its built-up energy. This phenomenon is very similar to the way an extremely powerful player like McIlroy unleashes the power of his swing into the ball. If you've noticed, Rory isn't a huge guy, but he winds up his body on the way back and then swings in sequence on the way down with his hips rotating at full blast, and then -- just like the handle of a bullwhip -- stopping for a split second just before impact. This move unloads all of the power he has built up in his arms and hands to the clubhead and, ultimately, the ball.

Crack the Whip
Steve Sanford
 

HOW TO CRACK IT: Throw the Ball Drill
To ingrain the feeling of cracking the whip like Rory, put your club down and hold a ball in the fingers of your right hand. Set up just as you would to hit a shot (with a ball on the ground in front of you), take your right hand to the top as you would in your normal swing, but instead of hitting the ball with a club, simply try to throw the ball in your hand directly at the ball on the ground. After a few tries, you'll notice that you have to hold the ball loosely in order to hit the ball on the ground without releasing it too soon. Repeat this move until you can do it consistently, then pick up a club and feel like you're throwing the clubhead at the ball with the same feel as in the drill.

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