CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Rory McIlroy’s swing is in such powerful rhythm, it can now put more than angst into the heads of fellow players.
It can put a song there.
Just ask Erik Compton.
You can be the greatest, you can be the best.
You can move a mountain, you can break rocks.
You can be a master, don’t wait for luck.
Dedicate yourself, and you can find yourself ...
Standing in the Hall of Fame.
And the world’s gonna know your name.
Compton found himself walking through the Cherry Hills Country Club locker room late Tuesday afternoon humming the will.i.am song that is the theme to McIlroy’s new Omega watch commercials. Compton was fresh off the course after playing a practice round with McIlroy in preparation for the BMW Championship.
The “Hall of Fame” song fit the whole idea behind the practice round.
Compton played a practice round with Tiger Woods back in 2000 at the Memorial, back when Woods was at his best. Compton, 34, wanted to see McIlroy, 25, at his best, to see what he could learn, just like he did playing with Woods. So, he arranged for them to play together.
“What I saw today was very comparable to what I saw playing with Tiger in 2000, except Rory has more power,” Compton said. “Rory is a lot longer than Tiger ever was. The biggest difference is Rory hits his driver better. I have never seen anybody with that kind of power and control, period.”
The altitude at Cherry Hills makes McIlroy even longer. Playing at 5,380 feet, McIlroy’s tee shots seem to be flying even farther than the 10 percent extra this elevation usually gives players.
Compton said McIlroy blasted 400-yard drives at the second and fifth holes in their practice round.
McIlroy said he hit a 3-wood 370 yards in Wednesday’s pro-am.
“The ball is going forever,” McIlroy said. “It really is. Obviously, the altitude, and then it heated up for us on the back nine, as well. Because of my high ball flight, it's going a good 15 percent farther than it usually does.”
McIlroy tees it up this week looking to move to No. 1 in FedEx Cup points going to the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week. He’s No. 2 behind Chris Kirk and aiming to put himself in the best position possible to win the big prize that eluded him two years ago, when he won back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff events going to the Tour Championship but watched Brandt Snedeker win in Atlanta to take the $10 million jackpot.
“I feel like it's been such a great year on the golf course that if I wasn't to go ahead and win the FedEx Cup, it would definitely be disappointing,” McIlroy said. “I really want to cap off this summer as best as I can. I have two more weeks to push through, and even though I am feeling a little tired, and I'm trying to conserve as much energy as possible ... Not winning a couple of years ago did add a little bit of fuel to the fire and probably makes me a little bit more determined to try to win it this year.”
If McIlroy is going to add the BMW Championship to his British Open, PGA Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles on the PGA Tour this year, he probably won’t be doing it by overpowering Cherry Hills with his driver. As long as he’s hitting it this week, the setup may influence him to keep his favorite club in the bag more than he likes.
“There aren’t many opportunities where you can just hit driver and see how far it goes,” McIlroy said. “You really need to place your ball in the fairway here.”
Cherry Hills will play as a par 70 at 7,352 yards on the scorecard. With a summer of rain, the rough is substantial. With fairways firming up this week, balls are running hard into the rough.
Still, even with the fifth hole playing 526 yards, McIlroy reached the green with a 3-wood and 8-iron in the pro-am.
“You’re going to want to hit approach shots from the short stuff,” McIlroy said.
Though the course may play short, even with 3-woods off tees, McIlroy sees a good test.
“You won't see guys going crazy under par,” he said. “You'll still see some pretty low scores out there, but it's an old, traditional, timeless golf course, in a way. If they want, especially with the green complexes, they can make it as tough as they want. So there's still a bit of bite there.”
If McIlroy wins here, on a famed course that wouldn’t seem to favor his power, he’ll have a lot more folks humming his Hall of Fame song when they see him.