Rory McIlroy opened with an impressive, six under par 65 in the Omega European Masters at Crans.
But while he hit 15 greens in regulation, the really impressive aspect of his first round since his US PGA disappointment was how confortable he now looks on the greens.
The instinctive putting routine he picked up from short game guru Dave Stockton paid off handsomely in the US Open and McIlroy has not been tempted to change.
He no longer takes much time over the ball and foregoes any practice strokes in an effort to produce a free-flowing stroke.
One of the first things Stockton asked McIlroy to do was to write his signature. Then he asked the Ulsterman to try and duplicate it exactly. Of course, he couldn’t. Try it yourself.
Copying your signature exactly is impossible because you lose your natural instincts. It’s the same with putting.
Stockton told Golf Digest: “The reason is, you’re thinking about it and not tapping into your subconscious, the way you did when you signed the first time. Putting is no different. The best putters see their target line and then roll the ball on that line, just like you saw the paper and then signed it. The lesson is, keep it natural, and don’t let yourself get bogged down by anything.”
McIlroy had just 28 putts in his 65 and goes into this afternoon’s second round just two strokes behind clubhouse leaders Gary Boyd (69) and Simon Dyson (68) on six under.
Overnight leader Nick Dougherty ended a run of 21 missed cuts when he added a one over 72 to his opening 63 to share third place with Danny Willett (64) on seven under.
Darren Clarke added a level par 71 to his opening 67 to finish on four under but Shane Lowry (70-74) missed the cut on two over after a bad day on the greens, taking 34 putts.
The Clara man opened with a couple of birdies to get to three under for the tournament but bogeyed the third, double bogeyed the fourth and then dropped further shots at the eighth and 12th before following a birdie four at the 15th with a bogey at the next.