'YOU ARE THE MAN': Harmon excited about McNealy's play at Players

'YOU ARE THE MAN': Harmon excited about McNealy's play at Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Maverick McNealy had just put the finishing touches on a 4-under 68 at The Players Championship when his phone buzzed with a text message from his swing coach Butch Harmon – “Great playing Mav, YOU ARE THE MAN!” the message read.

The round landed McNealy in a tie for second place and five shots behind front-runner Wyndham Clark. But for McNealy, the collective results from his first two rounds go well beyond the leaderboard.

McNealy had struggled with a shoulder injury last year and took 4 ½ months off following last season to heal and retool his swing to avoid further injury.

“He needed these two days to make him believe in what he’s been working on,” Harmon said. “He’d been swinging well on the range but I had to convince him to put it in play.”

Harmon explained that McNealy’s go-to swing before this year was a draw with a hard move from the inside on the downswing, and it took time for the 28-year-old to feel comfortable with a swing that was more to the left and produced a “baby fade.”

“I was under the plane and hitting a lot of stuck push draws. That was causing my left shoulder to have to work in pretty aggressively, which is what caused the injury in my collarbone,” McNealy explained. “I've moved mountains, going from 4 or 5 [degrees] out to 4, 5, 6 [degrees] left.

“It's really weird to aim that far left and there's still a few times where I feel like I'm really going to miss it left, but getting more and more comfortable every day.”

Harmon said the process of converting McNealy’s swing was similar to how Dustin Johnson’s game evolved when he first started working with the legendary swing coach, and it has allowed McNealy to become more consistent with just one missed cut in eight starts this year and his first top-10 finish (WM Phoenix Open) since last January.

“He’s worked so hard and every week he just seems to get better and better,” Harmon said. “I saw some real confidence in what he was doing today.”