Rory McIlroy’s confidence might be key to his extraordinary success but he may think twice before suggesting again that he isn’t “a guy who relies on his putting.”
The world No 2’s pre-tourament press conference for the Wells Fargo Championship was a gold mine of information, especially if you were IGF chairman Peter Dawson and wondering how keen McIlroy was to have his Olympic Games decision taken out of his hands.
But it was the subject of his putting that became more immediately relevant at Quail Hollow, where the poor greens completely disarmed McIlroy and cost him his chance of a second victory at the North Caroline track and the first of a season that has been highly eventful so far..
In a demonstration of hubris, McIlroy shrugeed off the state of the greens was something that would affect the less talented ball-strikers.
When asked if putting on bad greens required an attitude adjustment, McIlroy said: “I guess if you start missing putts, then you’ve got to just accept it. I don’t mind because I’m not a guy that relies on my putting, per se. So it will eliminate quite a lot of the field. I don’t mind that at all (laughing)”
noun [ mass noun ]
excessive pride or self-confidence.
• (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride towards or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.
It was a phrase certain to come back to haunt him.
The greens were his nemesis in Saturday’s third round, where he missed eight putts inside seven feet, seven inside five feet and two inside three feet.
“I just couldn’t hole anything today. I think when you miss a few putts on these greens, you sort of lose confidence in your stroke and then it’s just sort of hard to commit fully to what you want to do. If I want to hole some putts tomorrow, I need to do a better job of that.”
Had it not been for late collapses by Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney, he would have gone into the final round more than three shots behind. That he still have a chance of winning the tournament with nine holes to go on Sunday is a testament to his talent.
But like so many other big names, he dissolved in the rain on the back nine. A double bogey six at the 12th ended his tournament and he came home in 39 for a second successive weekend 73.
As Mickelson also collapsed, we were treated to that fairytale finish for rookie Derek Ernst, who birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff with David Lynn and then beat the Englishman with a par at the first extra hole.
As the fourth alternate celebrated adding more than $1m to his previously modest PGA Tour earnings of $28,255, McIlroy was preparing to head to Jacksonville for this week’s Players Championship.
Playing well at TPC Sawgrass, where he’s yet to make the cut, is now his goal. It’s a strategic test of ball-striking, course management and good putting - the perfect test for a true all-rounder but also a course that gives everyone a chance.