Monday 18 December 2017

McIlroy can't continue to ignore the 'green monster'

'We don’t know for sure if McIlroy’s Nike contract prohibits the use of a Scotty Cameron putter.' Picture: AP Photo/Mike Groll
'We don’t know for sure if McIlroy’s Nike contract prohibits the use of a Scotty Cameron putter.' Picture: AP Photo/Mike Groll

Joe Molloy

Rory McIlroy blasted the ball around Baltusrol last Thursday and Friday with absolute authority.

He ranked first for driving. As he departed ahead of the weekend, he admitted if anybody else had driven the ball like him, they'd be strongly contending.

It is routinely said he is a streaky putter, but it's hard to think of the last time he was 'on'. He ranks 187th on tour from inside ten feet. Overall, combining all distances, he is close to 70th on tour for putting.

His ongoing issues, and particularly the misses in evidence at Royal Troon and Baltusrol, are unsustainable and he simply cannot win another Major putting this way. Worse still, a prolonged slump like this tends to leave scar tissue. Very few players re-emerge unscathed.

We had Dave Stockton on the show last week, who had lunch with Gerry McIlroy on Wednesday and chatted to Rory at the USPGA Champions dinner on Tuesday.

Clearly the trio are on good terms and yet, for whatever reason, the working relationship, which paid dividends across 2011-12, is no more. Rory spent much of last Thursday evening alone on the practice green trying to find the answer.

Did it make a difference Friday? 'Not really', he said after his round. As ever, his honesty and openness is fantastic, but surely the logical conclusion is that he desperately needs an expert set of eyes on his putting stroke.

He strikes the ball as beautifully as anybody has and yet employs Michael Bannon full-time on tour. He struggles routinely with his putting but ploughs on solo. From here, it makes no sense. And time is ticking along. The chasing pack has closed the gap.

Back to Rich Beem and his story. He joined us last night to reflect on making the cut at Baltusrol and told an anecdote from Wednesday evening. Rory walked into the locker-room with a brand new Scotty Cameron putter that Beem said 'looked exactly like the one he won at Congressional with'.

Beem said to Rory, 'Man that thing is pretty'. And Rory said, 'Yeah isn't it'. Beem recalled, "I could kinda see this glean in his eye, like he really wanted to take it out and hit it on the putting green. And yet I don't think he did because of contractual obligations."

Beem said: "You kinda feel bad for a guy who's locked into a contract and doesn't feel like he can go out and play with a golf club that he really wants to play with. Something has got to give."

Of course we don't know for sure if McIlroy's Nike contract prohibits the use of a Scotty Cameron putter. We don't know for sure if McIlroy is unhappy with his Nike putter. But it was a striking scene on the eve of a major tournament.

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