Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
RORY MCILROY’S BACK ROOM TEAM needs to wake up and face the fact that he needs help with his putting. The Holywood star’s manager Chubby Chandler confessed after the Masters disaster that McIlroy had a problem, but then said he didn’t know what it was. Odd.
Perhaps he’s nervous about adding fuel to an already raging bonfire after watching the 21-year old rack up a three-putt and a four-putt under severe pressure and miss more than half a dozen putts inside seven feet in the final round alone. Augusta National brutally exposes even the tiniest weakness and McIlroy’s putting, which is brilliant when he is in brimming with confidence, is hit and miss when the squeeze is on.
Instead of addressing that, Chandler spoke about McIlroy’s need to find a way of playing enough golf to learn how to win without burning himself out, which is ironic considering the moves made to reduce the youngster’s schedule this year.
Asked how McIlroy could recover from such a massive meltdown, Chandler said: “He is a smart lad, isn’t he? He knows there is a problem. But it is not an insolvable problem.”
So what’s the problem then?
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Chandler said as he dashed off to keep up with newly crowned Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, the latest client in his ISM stable to win a major. “I don’t know.”
What Chandler does know is that McIlroy is still a young man with lots to learn. But how much has been done to improve his short putting? The youngster has built several greens at his home practice facility near Belfast and worked with biomechanics expert Dr Paul Hurrion. But how diligently he has applied himself to the grueling monotony of practice putting drills is another story. Word is he found the grind a little boring when he was working intensively with Hurrion a couple of years ago.
The good news is that he has time on his side, as Chandler pointed out on Sunday night.
“It is just part of growing up,” he said. “He is just 21, don’t forget that. If he was in America he would still be at college. We are all thinking that he should have won the Masters. And he is No 9 in the world and we are all thinking he is underachieving. It is scary but that is how good he is.”
Having given up his PGA Tour card, ostensibly because the 15-event minimum forces McIlroy to play too often, Chandler instead believes that his golden goose will learn to win by playing and contending more often. But that doesn’t add up when it was decided last year to urge McIlroy not to retain PGA Tour membership and play just 23 events this year instead of the usual 30.
Playing less will take the pressure of the Holywood star’s body (he suffered back problems at the start of last year). But what he really needs is help with his pressure putting after a series of final day reverses when leading after 54 holes in his first three and a half years as a pro.
Chandler said: “The problem with Rory is that he doesn’t play a lot so you don’t get that much practice at winning. And that’s the balance now.
“How many times you should play to do that and yet stay fresh and focused? Because he came in here great, didn’t he. He was fresh every day. But you have got to learn to do certain things on the golf course.”
Putting apart, McIlroy made several strategic mistakes in the final round and paid the price for a pull-hook under pressure, taking seven at the 10th to kiss the green jacket goodbye. He is green as a professional but it was his form on the greens that really let him down on Sunday afternoon.
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.