Remember all the way back to January, when Hank Haney and Brandel Chamblee had the golf world all worked up over how Tiger Woods’ overly bulked up biceps were wrecking the swing of the world No. 1?
Skip ahead to Wednesday’s opening rounds of the WGC Match Play, and Nick Faldo had no such complaints about Rory McIlroy’s workout-based makeover. In fact, Golf Channel’s lead analyst for this week’s Accenture Match Play Championship had quite the opposite reaction to the results of the fitness regimen of the formerly top-ranked golfer, who cruised to a 3&2 first-round win over his gym-averse competitor, Boo Weekley.
Just about to hit the gym, sometimes we need a reminder why we go in there and push ourselves... Here's mine... pic.twitter.com/AuC3zf0Gut— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) February 4, 2014
McIlroy was barely out of the gates when Faldo, one of the most vociferous critics of the two-time major champ for switching golf gear last year, could not contain his excitement over the physique Rory unveiled in his 2014 PGA Tour debut.
"Rory looking absolutely chiseled," Faldo cooed after McIlroy hit his approach shot on the par-4 first hole.
Noting that the Ulsterman "loves his football," Sir Nick, barely able to complete a sentence in his enthusiasm, said McIlroy was working with the "Man City" trainer on "all this explosive stuff and he’s looking complete body shape."
We’re not sure what that really means and we’re not exactly European soccer aficionados, but we’re pretty certain Rory’s a Manchester United fan, not a Man City booster, as Wayne Rooney can attest.
McIlroy showed up on tour in 2012 similarly buffed after working with Steve McGregor, a strength coach with ties to Rooney’s club as well as the New York Knicks, so there’s that.
However he got ripped, McIlroy, ranked eighth on tour in 2013 in driving distance, is ripping it off the tee with his new Nike Covert.
"I am driving it further," he told the Belfast Telegraph last month in Abu Dhabi. "It's a combination of the golf ball, the driver, and just getting stronger from all the work I'm doing in the gym."
For sure, McIlroy’s six-pack abs were too much for Boo Weekley, who took an actual six-pack approach to training for Wednesday’s match.
"‘Basically, I use the Dire Straits line -- six hamburgers and scotch all night, nicotine for breakfast just to put me right,’" GC’s play-by-play guy Rich Lerner claimed Weekley told Faldo on the practice range. "Drink some beer, drink some wine, and let it rip -- how he was going to beat Rory."
Weekley needed more Heavy Fuel than he topped off his tank with to take on McIlroy, who confirmed his new-found length had him outdriving his playing partner by 40 to 50 yards on each fairway.
"I feel like I’ve been driving the ball really well for the past three or four months and it’s really helped my game," he told Golf Channel after moving on to face Harris English in Day Two. "It’s what my game -- it’s the foundation of it. My game’s based on my driving and if I can drive it long and for the most part straight, then obviously it gives me a big advantage."
Faldo, who could not yak enough last year about McIlroy’s equipment struggles, gave it a passing mention but he really just wanted to wax poetic again over Rory’s musculature.
"He kept grinding all year. It took him eight months or so to find the right driver and then they had to change the ball for him as well," he said after McIlroy’s post-round interview. "He’s feeling good about everything and he looks amazing!
"He’s chiseled," gushed Faldo.