Rory McIlroy is known as one of the greatest drivers in the game, but his short game was the key to his win at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday, when he overcame a seven-shot deficit in the final round.
During his back-nine 32, McIroy chipped in for birdie on the par-3 10th, got up-and-down from the short side to save par on the par-3 14th, got up-and-down from the greenside rough for birdie on 17 and then got up-and-down from a bunker on 18 for another birdie and a two-shot lead. McIlroy made all these shots with a club that wasn't even in his bag at the start of the year: his 59-degree Nike X3X toe-sweep wedge [photo, right].
The unorthodox wedge -- with a wide sole near the toe and a narrow sole width at the heel -- looked a little unusual to the traditional-minded McIlroy when he first saw it, but he tried it out at Quail Hollow and loved how it played out of the rough.
"I'm pretty confident and can play all the shots," McIlroy said, "but [the toe sweep] is easier to play on some shots when you need to work really hard to keep the club open. This club really slides through the thick grass and that really gives me confidence to stay aggressive when I miss the green."
VIDEO: How Nike's Flop-Friendy Toe Sweep Wedge Works
McIlroy credited his new wedge for his up-and-downs from the rough on Sunday and also his bunker shot on 18.
"I’ve always been someone with not a lot of bounce to my wedges but I think it’s helped my bunker play as well," he said.
During the week McIlroy averaged more than 294-yards in driving distance. He said that his ideal driver-ball combination is "something that launches the ball at the right angle with good ball speed and a good spin rate." He doesn't try to lower his spin rate because that spin helps him find the fairway.
"I know some guys want less spin," McIlroy said, "but for me a little extra spin keeps the flight tight for me and with my high swing speed I can get away with it."
Known as a superlative feel player, McIlroy also talked about how his ball -- the Nike RZN Black -- feels at impact.
"It feels solid, and it feels softer than the ball I was playing last year," McIlroy said. "It performs well in the wind and rarely gets touched by the wind. Days with a little wind like yesterday you don’t have to aim too much off-line because the wind won’t move it."
DRIVER: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour (8.5°) with Kuro Kage XTS 70X shaft
FAIRWAY WOODS: Nike VRS Covert (15°, 19°)
IRONS: Nike VR Pro Blade (4-9) with Project X steel shafts
WEDGES: Nike VR Forged (47°, 52°, 56°), Nike VR X3X toe sweep (59°) with Project X steel shafts
PUTTER: Nike Method 006
BALL: Nike RZN Black
APPAREL: Nike Tour Performance Collection
SHOES: Nike Lunar Control
Photo: McIlroy's clubs in December 2013 (Kohjiro Kinno/SI).
Golf.com's Mike Walker contributed to this report.
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