Paul McGinley highlights worrying stat for Rory McIlroy ahead of Masters but believes Tiger defeat could be blessing in disguise
Rory McIlroy can use his defeat to Tiger Woods as a wake-up call for the Masters and a successful tilt at the career Grand Slam.
While his recent brilliance mysteriously vanished for last Saturday's heavyweight showdown with Woods in the WGC Dell Technologies Championship, Sky Sports analyst Paul McGinley sees that 2&1 defeat as an opportunity for the Co Down man to reset for Augusta.
"It was a worry no doubt," said McGinley, who is otherwise hugely impressed by McIlroy's form and attitude this year.
"Not so much losing to Tiger Woods, but the fact that his performance dropped so much. His putting performance fell off a cliff. Of the 16 players playing that morning, he was last in putting for that one day.
"But the important thing is that he would have learned from it, and maybe it's a really good thing that he came off the boil a little bit going into Augusta because it will make him go away and analyse what happened in that round."
McGinley believes the Holywood star has matured so much with the help of putting consultant Brad Faxon that he'll have the patience to let his talent shine at the Masters this year.
"It is not just the run of having good results," said McGinley, who saw McIlroy's winning surge for the line at The Players as hugely significant and the changes he's made as "90 percent mental".
"I ran the stats last week and compared them to the best three months of his career in 2014 when he won two Majors and a world golf event, and they were almost identical. It's unbelievable to see that.
"He is dominating everybody in the world off the tee. In strokes gained driving, he is nearly three times better than the next guy, completely dominating golf courses off the tee.
"Everything else is very comparable to 2014, including his putting, which is slightly better now. So it's been a pretty formidable start to the season."
He appears to have flicked a mental switch with Faxon's help and showed it at TPC Sawgrass where he coolly closed out victory.
"We are seeing a more mellow McIlroy; we are seeing a more mature McIlroy and a more consistent McIlroy and all of those are going into a cocktail of very high performances week after week," McGinley said.
"Certainly listening to his interviews and looking at his body language, he is better prepared this year to overcome the mental obstacles of trying to win the Grand Slam than he has ever been."
McGinley wants to see McIlroy's "pointy elbows" again - that determination to barge his way to the front of the bunch and go for the line.
Corales Puntacana winner Graeme McDowell joins Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power at the Valero Texas Open, where they must win if they are to join McIlroy and Shane Lowry at Augusta.
But Belfast amateur Olivia Mehaffey will be there tomorrow for a practice round for the inaugural Augusta National Women's Invitational. Sky Sports will have all the action from the fairways with unrivalled coverage of the four days of The Masters, live from Augusta
- Valero Texas Open, Live, Sky Sports, 9.0pm