Putting resurgence will remedy McIlroy's Top-10 exit

Rory McIlroy has fallen out of the world's Top-10 for the first time in more than three years. No panic. There are other numbers that the former No 1 might be paying more attention ahead of this week's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow — and we don't mean the sweat composition readings from his recent two-day visit to the GSK Human Performance Lab in London.

Following is hugely disappointing performance on the glassy greens of Augusta National — he was near the back of the field with the blade despite outscoring the eventual Master champion Bubba Watson over the weekend — McIlroy's putting statistics are far more significant than his slide from World No 1 on 4 March 2012 to to No 11 on 28 April 2014.

Bar a win, McIlroy's performances are currently well ahead of those he registered in the annus horribilis of 2013, when he switched all his clubs and his ball from Titleist to Nike, fell out with his management company and failed to peform.

It's hard to fault his strokeplay form (on paper at least) — T2, T9, T2, T25, T7, T8. But while five top 10s from six starts might look sensational for most, McIlroy plays only to win these days and will be frustrated that he has not yet managed to convert his chances into a win.

His failure to get over the line may have much to do with his strategy, which is over aggressive at times. But he can hardly be thrilled with his performance on the greens, which is what made Tiger Woods such a prolific winner.

Ranked 141st for Strokes Gained Putting (he was 82nd in 2012), McIlroy must improve on that stat this week if he is to win for the second time at Quail Hollow — on his 25th birthday.

On putts between five and 10 feet he's 171st on the PGA Tour this year compared to 71st in his stellar 2012 campaign when he topped the money list on both sides of the pond and won his second major.

Dave Stockton will, no doubt, get McIlroy back on track but last year's Wells Fargo Championship proved to be a nightmare for the 24-year old on the greens.

He joked that the poor greens that week it would play into his hands and penalise the guys who are not quite as good from tee to green.

"I guess if you start missing putts, then you’ve got to just accept it," he said. "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)”

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.

That he closed with two 73s still finished tied 10th says it all about his talent. And like Pádraig Harrington, down 14 places to 196th in the world this week, he will be keen to have it sorted out before he touches down in London again next month, having eased some doubts over his participation when he confirmed on Monday that he will play in the BMW PGA at Wentworth.

What McIlroy wouldn't give for a performance reminiscent of 2010, he closed out his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow by holing a 43 footer on the final green for a 10 under 62.

Harrington holed several long range bombs himself in New Orleans and suggested on his blog that he just needs to get into the competitive flow to see an improvement in his results.

Perhaps the 50 footer he holed on his final hole on Saturday to make the 54-hole cut is a sign that things may turn around and his new method of aligment will bed in quickly.

"I hit a five iron to 50 feet and a managed to hole it to get in on the mark," he said of his Saturday putt.  "Prior to this, the longest putt I have holed this year was 32 feet! 

"... In the end I finished on one under par for the week which was poor.  However I felt that there were some good signs in all the rounds.  On Sunday I held out nicely, a lot of times for pars but I was happy with it.  I definitely need to play more to get myself into the right frame for scoring."