Rory McIlroy is not Tiger Woods but he’s picking up some of the 14-time major winners most useful weapons - such as the ultra-positive post-round comment.
No-one can talk you into believing he’s playing fantastic golf better than Woods and even when it’s poor, as it was at the Memorial Tournament, he has the uncanny ability to leave his baggage behind.
Woods putted poorly at Murifield Village, firing rounds of 71 74 79 and 72 for the second worst 72 hole total of his professional career.
He struggles on bent grass greens, the surface he will face in next week’s US Open. Yet he quickly shrugged off finishing 20 shots behind Matt Kuchar and attributed his performance to a poor week with the putter and a bad run on the par-three 12th, where a triple bogey on Sunday followed a double on Saturday and a bogey on Thursday did little for his score.
“It happens. It happens to us all,” Woods said before outlining his plans for the final week before the US Open. “Go home next week and practice.”
McIlroy won’t be going home to practice just yet. He must play Oak Hill, venue for his US PGA defence, at today’s media day before he can make his trip to Merion for a practice round.
Following his opening 78, he added rounds of 69 75 and 72 to beat Woods by two strokes.
But while his 57th place finish meant at the he fell even further behind Woods in the world rankings - the gap is now 3.41 points, a big change from 31 December last year when he was world No 1 and 4.597 ahead of Luke Donald and 4.686 points ahead of Woods - he insisted he had discovered the cause of the glitch in his putting that has contributed to his poor start to the season.
“It feels okay, actually,” McIlroy said when asked about the state of his game heading to Merion. “I found a couple of little things this weekend. I hit the ball much better today. I actually putted a little better, too. It feels pretty good. A little bit of work next week. Get to see Merion a couple of days, too, so that will be beneficial. Yeah, it’s not that far away.”
The 24-year old world No 2 explained that his putting improved marginally becase of ” a little bit of adjustment with green reading.”
Sounding almost like Padraig Harrington, he said: “I felt everything I was reading, I was reading it too far right and pulling it. So it’s just a matter of‑‑ I guess it’s like whatever I see on the left‑right putt, sort of double it. Whatever I see on I left‑to‑right putt, it’s not so much.
“It’s just a little bit of an adjustment and something I can work on and something it was good to figure out this week, so I can work on it next week.”
Reflecting on his week, he added; “I played really well on Friday and came back on Saturday morning. Yesterday was a tough day. I think everyone struggled out there.
And today it was out there. Today I felt there was a low score out there. It’s receptive, it’s not as windy. I thought one of the guys from the pack might have shot like a 65 or 66 and put themselves up there. As I said, it doesn’t feel too far away.”
Neither McIlroy, nor Woods nor world No 8 Graeme McDowell will be in Memphis this week for the FexEx St Jude Classic, where Harrington will resume hostilities with the gremlins in his game.
The Dubliner, who has slipped 14 places to 73rd in the world this year, decided to skip the BMW PGA at Wentworth two weeks ago and should be well rested for the meat of the season - a run of six events in eight weeks that will see him contest two majors and the Irish Open.
Shane Lowry secured an invitation for the FedEx St Jude Classic but opted instead to rest for the next fortnight before reappearing in the BMW International Open in Germany.
Lowry may accept up to to seven sponsor’s invitations per year and try to win his PGA Tour card through that route. So far he’s accepted five invitations - Puerto Rico (MC), Shell Houston Open (MC), Valero Texas Open (T15), Zurich Classic of New Orleans (MC) and The Memorial Tournament (MC).
As a result he has racked up just $93,000 in the non-member earnings list as his WGC-Accenture Match Play quarter-final appearance does not count.
Lowry must earn the equivalent of the player finishing 125th in the money list to win his US Tour card.