De­struc­tive putting a headache for Mcll­roy

Post - - SPORT - DEREK LAWRENSON

PLENTY might have tried, but Rory McIl­roy can hardly be blamed for at­tempt­ing some­thing new and play­ing solely in Amer­ica in the build-up to his next tilt at a ca­reer Grand Slam at the Masters in April.

What is more con­cern­ing is the fact that the start of his new ad­ven­ture in Hawaii on Sun­day was marked by the resur­fac­ing of some fa­mil­iar fail­ings that leave him with no chance of at­tain­ing his goal un­less they are erad­i­cated.

Peer­less off the tee, and per­fectly placed in the fi­nal group af­ter three rounds, McIl­roy could not buy a putt this past Sun­day, to fall to joint fourth be­hind Amer­i­can Xan­der Schauf­fele. Now, where have we heard that be­fore?

A new des­ti­na­tion for the North­ern Ir­ish­man it may have been, but it is a de­struc­tive pat­tern we saw in plenty of other places last year.

Given how good he used to be in that po­si­tion, it is scarcely be­liev­able the 29-year-old has now not won any of the last seven tour­na­ments in which he has been in the fi­nal group.

With a con­ver­sion rate like that, no won­der he has won only once in two years.

McIl­roy has drawn plenty of heat for opt­ing to give the Mid­dle East a miss this month and stay in Amer­ica un­til the three US ma­jors are done in June, but it makes per­fect sense. He might have a great record in the events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but he has of­ten played poorly when he has re­turned to the US there­after, so why ven­ture back and forth when all the fo­cus is on be­ing ready for Ge­or­gia in the spring?

Sure, he could have used more tem­per­ate lan­guage last week than de­scrib­ing the Euro­pean Tour as a “step­ping stone”, but the day we start ex­pect­ing our lead­ing play­ers to place loy­alty over am­bi­tion is when they stop win­ning ma­jors and Ry­der Cups.

If Rory wins the Masters, you can guar­an­tee he will play plenty in Europe from July on­wards. Do not crit­i­cise him, be­cause he has got his pri­or­i­ties the right way around. Right now, all his en­er­gies are cor­rectly chan­nelled on un­lock­ing that elu­sive 2%or 3% of im­prove­ment that will turn him into a win­ner again.

We can see al­ready that so much is right about his game that he will be a contender, as usual, at Au­gusta – but can he find the miss­ing piece? Amer­ica, for sure, is the place to be look­ing

Ig­nore the fact his wrist was in a splint when Padraig Har­ring­ton was an­nounced Europe’s Ry­der Cup cap­tain at Wentworth. The cov­eted post is in safe hands.

The 47-year-old slipped on the stairs dur­ing the Christ­mas break and will not be play­ing again un­til Fe­bru­ary, but you can be sure there will be no mishaps when it comes to pre­par­ing his Europe team for the task of win­ning at Whistling Straits next year.

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