Rory’s got the most com­plete game I’ve ever seen — Faxon

Pretoria News - - RACING -

AS RORY MCIL­ROY tries to put all pieces of the puz­zle to­gether and claim a fifth ma­jor ti­tle at this week’s US Open, he has re­ceived a vote of con­fi­dence from his putting men­tor.

Brad Faxon, prob­a­bly the best put­ter in the world dur­ing the 1990s, rates McIl­roy as “one of the best play­ers of all time” and be­lieves his next ma­jor win is a mat­ter of when, not if.

It is now 13 ma­jors and counting since McIl­roy, last lifted a tro­phy at the 2014 PGA Cham­pi­onship at Val­halla, how­ever, and the score­card does not lie.

Even win­ning reg­u­lar tour­na­ments has been tough over the past 18 months for the North­ern Ir­ish­man, who has tasted vic­tory only once since the 2016 Tour Cham­pi­onship.

Nonethe­less, he will start among the favourites at Shin­neock Hills, where he has al­ready been em­bed­ded for more than week.

“Rory’s got more po­ten­tial than any­body,” Faxon told Reuters in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“He’s got the most com­plete game I’ve ever seen. (He can hit the ball) long, high, low, right, left, and he’s good around the greens.”

Maybe so, but medi­ocre putting has pre­vented McIl­roy from clos­ing the deal more of­ten.

He was given a les­son of sorts from Faxon be­fore the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional in March and pro­ceeded to putt like a mas­ter. Af­ter shoot­ing a clos­ing 64 at Bay Hill in Florida to storm to vic­tory, he was quick to credit Faxon.

“(He) freed up my head more than my stroke,” said McIl­roy, who felt he had be­come bogged down in tech­ni­cal thoughts. Faxon, for his part, is mod­est about his in­volve­ment, say­ing McIl­roy had al­ready set in mo­tion the wheels of suc­cess. “He had al­ready made two changes,” Faxon said. “He went to a longer put­ter, and felt bet­ter with an open stance. He told me that’s some­thing he wanted to do, how he putted when he won his four ma­jors. How am I go­ing to say ‘no, that’s not a good idea’?” It has not been smooth sail­ing on the greens since for McIl­roy, who fin­ished a dis­ap­point­ing equal fifth at the Mas­ters af­ter start­ing the fi­nal round sec­ond be­hind even­tual win­ner Pa­trick Reed.

He was also un­able to seal the deal at the Euro­pean Tour’s BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship two weeks ago, fin­ish­ing sec­ond.

He flew back across the At­lantic and barely made the cut at the Me­mo­rial tour­na­ment be­fore ral­ly­ing to tie for eighth.

“I’m happy enough with that and feel like I’ve seen a lot of good stuff over the last cou­ple of days to give me en­cour­age­ment heading into the US Open,” McIl­roy said af­ter the fi­nal round.

“So my game feels pretty good. As long as I can keep the ball in play at Shin­necock, I feel like I’ll have a good chance.”

If the putts fail to drop early, McIl­roy’s chances might de­pend on what Faxon says is an of­ten over­looked men­tal as­pect: “How you ac­cept misses and makes.”

“That’s a very un-talked about part of the game,” Faxon said.

“The best put­ters were very good at be­ing able to for­get their misses.” – Reuters

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