Not all heroes wear capes.
Just ask Rory McIlroy. His hero wears an Everton shirt.
Okay, so ‘hero’ is a bit strong. Even so, the Northern Irishman has credited an unlikely source for helping him rediscover his form in time to end an 18-month winless drought on the PGA Tour at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It was McIlroy’s 14th win on the tour and his first since the 2016 Tour Championship.
Speaking ahead of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship getting underway, the 28-year-old revealed how Everton striker Wayne Rooney has helped him get his groove back.
Allow us to explain...
McIlroy spent some time on the putting green at Bay Hill last week with former tour winner and renowned putting expert Brad Faxon – a man who once went 327 consecutive holes on the PGA Tour without making a three-putt.
Lo and behold, McIlroy went on to win last week, needing just 100 putts across the four rounds and leading the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.
As details of what the pair discussed have started to filter out, it has become clear that Rooney – who, until last summer, played for McIlroy’s beloved Manchester United – played a small but important part in Rory’s resurgence.
“We were talking about triggers and how you start your putting stroke,” said McIlroy. “Everyone has different ways to start their swings or strokes. I said that Rooney, before he hits a free kick or before he hits a penalty, he taps his toe on the ground before he actually starts his run up. I noticed it when I shot a Nike commercial with him a few years ago.”
That resonated with Rory – although he didn’t divulge what he does before he starts a swing or a stroke.
“I do something, whether it's re-grip or wiggle my toes or I don't know,” he added.
McIlroy could hardly have picked a better time to return to winning ways with the 2018 Masters Tournament getting underway in just a fortnight’s time.
Victory at Augusta National is all that stands between him and becoming just the sixth player to complete the modern golf grand slam and, having rediscovered the art of winning, he’ll go to Georgia in a confident mood.
“Obviously, I'm very happy to have my game in this shape going into the first major of the year,” he said. “Even if I hadn't won last week, just to see the signs that my golf game was in good shape would be good enough to me knowing that going into Augusta I was ready to play well.
“I've had three goes at winning the slam. This will be my fourth. The last three years have gone okay. I've played well. Not well enough. Hopefully I put the last piece of the puzzle in there this year and get it done.”