NAPA, Calif. – Justin Rose is known mostly for his precision, crisp iron play and sound course management.
His newfound power? That took even Rory McIlroy by surprise.
Rose was eight yards longer off the tee last season (up to 303), and he was booming it even farther Thursday during an opening 67 at the Frys.com Open.
Seven of his drives traveled more than 310 yards in the first round at Silverado. McIlroy, meanwhile, had only four drives of 310-plus.
“I haven’t seen him hit the ball this long,” McIlroy said. “Even at the Tour Championship I played with him and he was hitting it past me. That hasn’t really happened that much before.”
McIlroy, lauded for his driving prowess (in 2014, he was ranked third on Tour, at 310 a pop), said he trailed Rose by 20 or 25 yards at East Lake.
“I actually just changed shafts on my driver,” he said with a smile, “so he was only getting by me by about five or 10 (yards) today.”
Rose credits his work with swing coach Sean Foley, a switch to a new driver and a commitment to the gym.
The 35-year-old will need that extra firepower to keep up with bombers like McIlroy and Jason Day.
“Last year was the first year I’ve been inside the top 20 in driving,” Rose said, “and I feel like my game is in the right place. I feel like I have five great years ahead of me.”