“You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.
That’s… that’s part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.”
– Al Pacino, ‘Any Given Sunday’
Any Given Sunday came out in 1999, eight years before Rory McIlroy turned professional. However, those words above from Al Pacino almost seemed directed at Rory based on his 2013 season.
After a big-money equipment switch in the off-season, Rory McIlroy headed for the 2013 schedule with a bag full of Nike clubs.
Among the changes, Rory switched from the Titleist 712 MB irons to Nike’s VR Pro Blade irons. A quick glance at his stats would suggest that they have not affected his game much: he hit 66.36% of greens in 2012, and thus far in 2013 he is finding the putting surface 66.52%.
However, dive a little deeper and you will see just how important each inch is when you are playing on the PGA Tour.
Proximity to the hole is a described by the PGA Tour as:
“The average distance the ball comes to rest from the hole (in feet) after the player’s approach shot.”
Essentially, how close do you hit it in average. In 2012, Rory’s proximity to the hole was 33 feet. In 2013, his average is 35 feet 9 inches.
2.75ft. Rory McIlroy is hitting his ball 33 inches further from the hole on average with his Nike irons than he did with his Titleist irons. So what? No big deal right?
2012: Rory’s 33ft average ranked 5th on Tour.
2013: Rory’s 35.75ft average ranks him 133rd on Tour.
This season, on average, he is 4 feet 9 inches further away from the hole, on each hole, than the PGA Tour leader: Russell Knox, 31 feet.
33 inches, the length of an average putter, can be the difference between catching the ridge that funnels to the hole, it can keep you atop the top-tier of a green, it can stop you from rolling into a bunker or water.
So Rory, if you’re reading, stick in a copy of Any Given Sunday on this week (he wasn’t old enough to watch it when it was originally released). Listen to Mr. Pacino and understand the importance of inches:
“The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game, every minute, every second.”
“We claw, with our finger nails, for that inch.
Cause we know, when we add up all those inches
that’s going to make the f****** difference between winning and losing!”