Saturday 24 March 2018

Rory McIlroy roars into contention at Doral as new putting technique pays off

Rory McIlroy follows his drive off the 5th tee box during the second round at TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral
Rory McIlroy follows his drive off the 5th tee box during the second round at TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral

Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy surged into contention for a third World Golf Championship title on Friday, with the four-time major winner's new putting technique paying dividends in the Cadillac Championship.

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 26-year-old needed 33 putts in his opening 71 at Doral, but it was a different story on day two as he single-putted nine of the first 12 greens.

After a birdie on the first was cancelled out by a bogey on the second, McIlroy birdied four holes in a row from the fifth to reach the turn in 32, before saving par from seven and nine feet on the 10th and 11th.

The world number three then holed from 10 feet to birdie the par-five 12th and improve to six under par, just two behind joint leaders Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, who won the Honda Classic on Sunday.

Mickelson, who has not won since claiming his fifth major title in the 2013 Open at Muirfield, had birdied the same four-hole stretch as McIlroy before three-putting the 13th, while Scott had gone to the turn in 33 before picking up a shot on the 12th.

Speaking before the second round, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said McIlroy needed to cut out the mental errors in order to turn good performances into victories.

"There were some mental unforced errors at the end of his (first) round, which is disappointing," McGinley said on Sky Sports. "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."

American Charley Hoffman had set the clubhouse target on six under par, with McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey and Danny Willett all on the same score approaching the end of their rounds.

Press Association

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