Sunday 4 December 2016

Off The Ball: Worrying times for McIlroy as stats highlight putting woes

Joe Malloy

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

McIlroy is often referred to as a streaky putter, but it’s hard to think of a week where he’s been ‘on’ this year. The Irish Open win was a triumph of ball striking. His wedge play and putting were suspect Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
McIlroy is often referred to as a streaky putter, but it’s hard to think of a week where he’s been ‘on’ this year. The Irish Open win was a triumph of ball striking. His wedge play and putting were suspect Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

So, on we go to Major No 4 of the year. Olympic controversy aside, we're having a stunning golf season and this week in New Jersey should only add to the various narratives at play.

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You'll have seen Rory McIlroy smash his three-wood into the fairway in frustration at Royal Troon last week.

In slow motion, it made for quite impressive viewing; arms high in the air, a weight shift forward and a release of the wrists, all in prefect sync. Talent is talent after all.

McIlroy had just pushed an approach right of target. It wasn't a disastrous shot by any means, but it was one he couldn't afford and he knew it.

In truth, he can't afford any loose shots these days. That majestic three-wood we saw at the K-Club 16th is required at all times, which is a serious burden.

McIlroy is often referred to as a streaky putter, but it's hard to think of a week where he's been 'on' this year. The Irish Open win was a triumph of ball striking. His wedge play and putting were suspect.

The 2016 PGA Tour statistics make for worrying reading. From inside 10 feet, he makes 85.35pc of putts, leaving him ranked 187th on tour. Between 10-15ft, he makes 31pc of putts, leaving him 67th on tour. In better and quite striking news, he makes 33pc of putts from 15-20ft, which is second on the tour stats.

But combine all the stats from all the distances, and Rory stands at an unremarkable 67th on tour for putting.

Jason Day, the defending US PGA champion this week, ranks No 1. Jordan Spieth, having a poor putting season by his standards, is at No 5.

Dustin Johnson is 34th on the greens, but he has made himself the second best player on tour from 50-125 yards, which is where he seems to hit so many second shots courtesy of his driving length.

Johnson's wedge play was once an Achilles heel, now it is a massive strength. Rory take heed.

There is a strong argument that on their best days, Day trumps Rory. Spieth will once again work miracles on the greens and Johnson seems destined for several Major winning years. These are worrying times for Rory.

Four years ago he blitzed the field at Kiawah Island to win his first US PGA. He spent that week working on his putting with Dave Stockton Snr. Why that relationship has ended isn't clear; it was a fruitful one.

McIlroy makes more birdies than anybody else on tour, averaging over 4.5 per round. It is the silly mistakes on the greens which cost him so dearly.

Spieth says he hits 1,000 putts per day. One wonders where Rory would be if he tried the same for 12 months.

Irish Independent

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