Rory McIlroy has done more than change his putting routine since he started seeing short game expert Dave Stockton - he’s also got a new grip.
The 22-year old Ulsterman has putted with a distinctive grip since his amateur days with the middle, ring and little fingers of the right hand wrapped around the left and facing the target.
He putted with this grip when practicising for the 2007 Walker Cup, in last year’s BMW PGA and Ryder Cup, in the 2010 Irish Open, in the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play and at this year’s Masters. To our knowledge, he’s gripped the putter this way for years.
But his grip on the short stick has undergone a major transformation in recent weeks and at the Volvo World Match Play two weeks ago and this week’s BMW PGA at Wentworth, all the fingers of his right hand are now on the shaft with the left index finger resting on top of the ring and middle fingers of the right hand.
The veteran American told the Irish Independent’s Karl MacGinty this week:
“It was nice to get the call and he’s certainly neat to work with,” Stockton said. “We met for the first time at Quail Hollow and I’m amazed how much he’s picked up in two weeks. Rory says he doesn’t practice much, but he obviously worked on it.
“I’m just trying to make it natural,” added Stockton, who felt empathy for McIlroy as the youngster crashed out of contention at The Masters. “I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. I lost a two-shot lead to Gary Player in the final round at Augusta in 1974.
“I like the idea that Rory missed all his putts to the left, which is much easier to fix than somebody who misses them right,” said Stockton, insisting McIlroy’s technique is fine.
“I think he’s got to learn patience. On longer putts, 12 feet and out, Rory’s relaxed and rolls it. I see a different kind of approach, almost an attack mode, on a five, six or seven-foot putt … he’s just trying too hard to make it instead of simply letting the natural flow go as he would on a 15-footer.
“We’ve mostly worked on routine and how to approach a putt, nothing really technical… It’s just about trying to free up a little bit the putts under 10 feet.”
Perhaps McIlroy has made this change on his initiative as he made no reference to the grip change either when speaking to reporters about his work with Stockton since they first hooked up at Quail Hollow at the start of May:
The player himself said: “I feel I was taking a little too long over them, having three looks at the hole while taking my practice strokes. I used to take three practice strokes but don’t take any now. It’s more instinctive, just one look at the hole and go.”
McIlroy used the new grip in the Volvo World Match Play at Finca Cortesin last week, where he fell to Ryder Cup partner Graeme McDowell in the quater-finals.
His putting was made to look positively ordinary by McDowell’s brilliant display on the greens but he has perservered with his new method at Wentworth and while he had 31 putts on the first day, he has brokenn 30 putts in his last two rounds.
Statistically, he is 36th for putts per green in regulation and 18th in putts per round heading into the final day with a six shot deficit to make up on the leaders.