Two Rory McIlroy shots illustrate how temperature impacts distance

Ryan Lavner
Golf Channel

LOS ANGELES – It was a sun-splashed opening to the Genesis Invitational, though make no mistake: It was cold to start. Especially at 6:30 a.m.

That’s around the time McIlroy began his warmup on Riviera’s range, wearing a couple of layers and a beanie cap.

“It was cold,” said McIlroy, but he also had some help at his disposal. TrackMan devices are commonplace in the practice area, of course, but they are particularly helpful in cooler weather. They can be configured to certain temperatures – say, 45 degrees – and then spit out actual and standard numbers that illustrate the difference the weather makes.

“You try to figure it out on the range,” McIlroy said, “but sometimes it’s better to just eyeball it and sort of hit little shots and dink it around until you have that feeling and that warmth again.”

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But on his second hole of the day, the par-5 11th, McIlroy belted a drive and had 278 yards to the flag. It was go time. Under normal conditions, his 3-wood typically flies 285 yards in the air. McIlroy pounded this 3-wood, even walking after it as it soared through the air ... and it expired 30 yards short.

So: “It went 40 yards shorter than what it usually does,” he said.

Fast forward six holes. It’s warmer now, probably in the low-60s, and McIlroy had 289 yards left into the par-5 17th. The shot called for an all-out 3-wood ... and he wound up pin high, 35 feet from the hole. He buried the putt for eagle, sending him on his way to a 3-under 68 that put him four shots off the early pace.

“Just shows you what temperature does,” he said.

A cool start won’t be an issue for McIlroy on Friday. He’ll tee off at 11:41 a.m. local time, when temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60s.

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