Rory McIlroy insists he’s not going to let his Masters meltdown get him down.
In fact, according to Karl MacGinty in the Irish Independent, he’s taken steps to make sure that the putting problems that cost him his first major title do not come back to haunt him again.
As suggested by RTE’s Greg Allen in the aftermath of the Masters (a suggestion hailed as being “spot on” by McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chander) the Ulsterman will seek help from short game coach Dave Stockton over the coming months.
It’s a watershed moment for the youngster who will celebrate his 22nd birthday in Charlotte tomorrow and a welcome case of “Happy Birthday to me.”
The Holywood star is back in the US for the first time since blew a four-stroke lead in the final round at Augusta believing that the best way to start picking up the pieces is to make a strong defence of his Wells Fargo title at Quail Hollow after moving past Tiger Woods to a career high of world No 6.
When he speaks to the media in South Carolina today, McIlroy will have something positive to tell them about the 900lb putting gorilla that he and his management company appear to have been ignoring for the past few years.
The large putting primate has been throwing his weight around since Mcllroy turned pro. It’s refreshing to see that his existence is being acknowledged and yet it’s also slightly unnerving to think of one so young having to admit to a frailty on the short ones.
If you give McIlroy a sound putting style from short range, he’ll blow everyone out of the water providing his long game is on song. Sadly, it’s a rare occurence.
Of course, he holed everything at Qual Hollow in last year’s final round 62 and he’s confident he can challenge there for his just third win as a pro this week
“I can’t wait to get back to Quail Hollow,” he said before his trip. “It’s one of my favourite courses in the world. I’ll have great feelings from last year and if I can play half as well as I did on the weekend I’ll have a great chance.”
McIlroy closed with a course record 62 last season to beat a world class field by four shots and while he suffered one of the greatest Masters collapses in history just three weeks ago, he believes he’s going to have plenty more chances to win a major.
Reflecting on Augusta, McIlroy said: “Regardless of the result there, it was still a great week and I’ve taken plenty of positives from it. A couple of things on the back nine just didn’t go my way but I’m not letting that get me down.
“At the end of the day it was a great chance to win my first major and I’m sure that I’ll have many more chances.”
As forecast last week, McIlroy moved ahead of former world No 1 Woods in the world rankings for the first time yesterday.
The pair swapped places with McIlroy sixth and Woods seventh behind the top five of Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell.
McIlroy finished third in the Malaysian Open the week after the Masters for his fourth top-10 of the year. But he’s hungry for another US victory, insisting: “It’d be great to get my first win of this year at Quail Hollow and I’m really looking forward to it. I definitely feel that my game is in better shape going into the event that it was last year.”
The Ulster ace spent most of his two-week break recharging his batteries. But he also found time to get a new gym regime from fitness coach Steve McGregor and see his coach Michael Bannon.
Winning in South Carolina would be a huge boost and McIlroy hopes he will be relaxed after the players took on the caddies in a soccer kick-about last night.
The Ulsterman was scheduled to team up with the likes of Real Madrid fan Sergio Garcia and American Ricky Barnes, who played soccer in college.
McIlroy revealed that he packed his shin guards, joking: “It should be a fun-packed evening. I’ll be careful though as I don’t want to be carrying any injuries on to the course with me on Thursday!”
Turns out that no-one did themselves any serious damage.
“Great to be back in Charlotte!” McIlroy said on Twitter on Monday night. “Played 9 holes today, great memories and vibes for this week. Played 80 mins of football this evening with some other players and caddies, we’ll be hurting in the morning!!! Good night tweeps!”
McIlroy can handle pain on Tuesdays. Now he’s taken steps to relieve the agony of Sunday nights.