Following the 2015 US Open 2015 and Jordan Spieth’s victory, a stage of epic proportions has been set for a showdown at “The Home of Golf” St Andrews. Jordan’s win at the US Open now means that all four majors are now held by him and world number 1 Rory McIlroy, who is set to defend his British open crown this July. Despite their dominance in the 12 months, they take two very different approaches to how the game is played. When Rory is at his best he wins with power, athleticism and an all out aggressiveness with a lack of fear that reminds us of Tiger circa 2000. Meanwhile when you watch Jordan play he appears to be the card counter at the blackjack table, he is an amazingly well rounded and consistent performer with a beautiful touch around the greens.
When we look at the numbers in terms of strokes gained Rory and Jordan Rank number one and two with very little between them, however when we look into those numbers its clear to see Rory’s long game is the stronger of the two. Rory is Ranked number 1 in strokes gained tee to green averaging two strokes per round. Rory is ranked 9th in terms of driving distance and 25th in driving accuracy, where as Jordan is more than 10 yards behind him with driving distance (T72) and less accurate (t80). Around the greens however Jordan gets his own back Jordan ranks 86 places above Rory in scrambling (5th) and 40 places above him in putting (T21). As we begin to look at their swings we can see some of these obvious differences:
Looking at the players in the address position it is pretty clear from the outset that there will be dramatic differences in how they strike the ball. When we look at Rory on the left we can see a very wide and powerful stance with a significant amount or right side bend. Rory uses this address position to help him hit up on the ball and maximise efficiency and power at impact. Rory’s attack angle to the ball is generally somewhere between 2 degrees and 5 degrees up helping him carry the ball consistently over 300 yards. As you look to Jordan on the right hand side we see a much more neutral and “stacked” position. Shoulders and hips are more level and he is not as wide as Rory in terms of stance width. This kind of set up with the driver will generally produce a slightly steeper attack angle than his counterpart, and also probably not as much distance.
The first move
As both players begin to take the club away and hinge the club, you will notice that Rory “sets” the club a little higher than Jordon. From that position he can really coil into his right hip and create a huge stretch between his upper and lower body which is where his power comes from. Jordan on the other hand looks a little more relaxed and free but still keeps his arms at full stretch while turning his shoulders.
Top of the backswing
As we reach the top of the backswing the difference in styles becomes far more apparent. Looking at Rory we can see he creates a huge amount of torque between his lower and upper body. He maintains exceptional width with his lead arm and is ready to unleash all his energy onto the ball. Jordan’s positioning at the top has a very different look to it, you will notice the left arm is in an unusual position where he has almost no tension in it and the elbow has a significant bend. There is a much smaller stretch between lower and upper body which is often a sign of an accurate and consistent striker of the golf ball.
As we begin the downswing you will see almost the opposite movement with both swings, you will notice Rory’s lower body rapidly unwinds like a tightly wound spring. This allows Rory to generate maximum speed between each segment of his body. His head remains at or slightly behind where it was at the top of the backswing, this helps Rory achieve the upward attack angle that we mentioned earlier. Jordan’s downswing sequence begins in a completely different way, take a close look at how his head drifts towards the ball and his spine is in much more vertical position versus Rory’s rightward tilting torso.
Impact is one of the most interesting positions to compare with these two players as much for their similarities as their differences. You’ll notice their head position is now very similar, both slightly behind where they were at the top of the backswing. Rory has remained consistent with his head position as it has never moved towards the target in any way, meanwhile Jordan has had to “back up” slightly from his half way down position. To me this would be an unusual trait for such a consistent and straight ball striker however Jordan clearly does not have a problem reproducing this with relative consistency.
One of the big positives of Rory’s impact is his shaft angle, he has lined everything up at impact from his left shoulder joint to the club head, with the shaft leaning slightly backwards. With Jordan on the right you will notice the slightly more forward leaning shaft position, almost as if he is trying to hold the club face open and stop it going left. To me this is where Jordan looses out to Rory in terms of accuracy off the tee. Rory’s release is much more free flowing compared to Jordan and to me the more natural it is the easier it will be to repeat.
Release & finish
One of my favourite things about Rory’s follow through is how he allows the club to naturally release through the shot, his arms turn over and he almost chases the golf ball to get every extra yard out of the shot. Jordan on the other hand looks like he is trying to “hold it off” and not hit the ball left. As you can see his glove hand stays above his right hand and doesn’t allow the hands and arms to naturally rotate through the shot. He also produces a slightly unusual position with his left foot where it looks very unstable through the shot. There are many things that could cause this including physical limitations, however the most likely cause is how he releases the club through the ball.
Rory’s finishing position is a thing of beauty, one thing I always notice with Rory is despite the power his body creates he always finishes in a balanced and poised position. Jordan despite his unusual left foot position also produces a very balanced and composed finishing position, Partially thanks to his fantastic rhythm through the ball