'Rory McIlroy's making too many mistakes' - Paul McGinley
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes Rory McIlroy needs to eliminate mental errors to get back to winning ways, likening the four-time major winner to a football team conceding too many goals.
McIlroy had finished third, sixth and 20th in his first three events of 2016 before a missed cut in the Honda Classic last week prompted him to switch to a "crosshanded" putting method he last used in 2008.
The early signs were promising as McIlroy carded five birdies in the first 10 holes of his opening round in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, only for the 26-year-old to three-putt the eighth - his penultimate hole - for par and find water with his tee shot on the last.
"There were some mental unforced errors at the end of his round, which is disappointing," McGinley said. "We've seen quite a bit of this from Rory this year.
"He's averaged over five birdies a round; he's like a soccer team who's scoring lots of goals, but he's letting a lot of goals in. He's making too many mistakes and that's why he's not winning tournaments. We're seeing great glimpses of fantastic rounds, but not following through with a win. He needs to cut out those errors if he's going to win."
McIlroy looked to have eradicated such errors with eight victories in the last two seasons, but McGinley added on Sky Sports 4: "It's crept back in again.
"His game is to such a high level, he hits so many greens, so many fairways, drives the ball so far... when you play that well you are going to have a lot of putts from 20 and 30 feet and patience is a big word for Rory. He needs to remain patient and now and again that frustration creeps in and manifests itself in bad putting.That's what we are seeing.
"He's not weak mentally, he's won big tournaments, four major championships. But the reason why he hasn't won this year is that he's like a football team conceding too many goals. He needs to minimise that, then we're going to see Rory winning again."
McGinley, who captained McIlroy as Europe won their third straight Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014, believes the three-putt on the eighth led directly to the double bogey on the ninth in the world number three's opening 71.
"What he did was he carried this through to the next hole," McGinley added. "It's a very difficult hole, 190 yards, the pin was on the right hanging over the water; you never take on this pin. And this was an unforced error and we've seen quite a bit of this from Rory so far this year and there it was evidenced again."
Starting the second day five shots off the lead, McIlroy made the ideal start by pitching to three feet for birdie on the par-five first, but bogeyed the next after hitting his approach over the green and lipping out from four feet for par.
That was still only five behind the leaders however, with Danny Willett, Phil Mickelson and Charley Hoffman all on six under as overnight leaders Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser dropped back to five and four under respectively.
McIlroy saved par from a greenside bunker on the fourth before surging up the leaderboard with four consecutive birdies, the longest coming from just 15 feet on the sixth.
However, that was only enough to reduce his deficit by a single shot as Mickelson had also birdied the same stretch of holes to improve to nine under, two shots clear of Honda Classic winner Adam Scott.
Hoffman, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey were a shot further back, Casey having picked up five birdies in his first 10 holes, with McIlroy alongside Willett on five under.
More to follow