Big picture a clearer guide to McIlroy

Like Phil Mickelson and the rest of the top players teeing it up at Quail Hollow, Rory McIlroy approaches the Wells Fargo Championship with one eye on the US Open. But whatever happens in Charlotte, or even at Pinehurst No 2 next month for that matter, the big picture of McIlroy's career remains crystal clear.

As European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley pointed out when McIlroy found himself in the middle of a slump last year, 2013 will look like a tiny blip in the context of what is already a great career. 

Yes, McIlroy's putting cost him the Masters and he admits it's something he has worked hard to remedy over the past few weeks. [He said in his media conference yesterday that he realised too late that he was standing too close to the ball with a stance that was too open. As a result, he was misaligned and pushed so many putts that he counted 15 misses at Augusta National inside eight feet. "And that's not counting the ones I missed from inside 12 feet, 15 feet."]

I’ve worked a lot on my putting the last couple of weeks
— Rory McIlroy

Rather than becoming obsessed with his weaknesses, something that Pádraig Harrington may have been guilty of in recent years, McIlroy has taken the firm decision to concentrate on making his strengths even stronger (ie his driving). If he's striping it off the tee, he knows he just  has to putt reasonably well and he'll leave everyone in his exhaust fumes, as he did in 2012.

"At the back end of last year and coming into this year, I wanted to focus on the strengths of my game and getting those as strong as they could be. You work off your strengths in this game — it's the foundation of your game — and for me that's driving the golf ball. And I drove the golf ball not very well for the better part of six or seven months last year. And then I started driving the ball really well at the end of last year and I've carried that throught into this year. So I am really happy with that. I finished third last in putting at the Masters and finished Top-10, finished eighth (in the tournament). I missed 15 putts inside eight feet at the Masters.... So I've worked a lot on my putting the last couple of weeks and worked on a few things and that's the part of the game that I am trying to improve a little bit more because I think I am 140th or 150th in strokes gained putting this year and the only year that I finished inside the top 100 in putting was 2012." 

Given his record at Quail Hollow — he shot a final round 62 to win his maiden US Tour title there in 2010, made a playoff in 2012 and finished in the top 10 last year despite a horrendous week on horrific greens that have since been relaid — it would be a surprise if he does not contend again.

Whatever happens, this week or even for the rest of this year, McIlroy and everyone else knows that if he's driving well and has a reasonable week with the putter, he's close to unstoppable. 

 Whatever blips Rory McIlroy might suffer, his major record is second only to Phil Mickelson's over the past five years, even counting Bubba Watson's second Masters win last month. Graphic via Alun Evans' must-buy statistical guide  The Golf Majors

Whatever blips Rory McIlroy might suffer, his major record is second only to Phil Mickelson's over the past five years, even counting Bubba Watson's second Masters win last month. Graphic via Alun Evans' must-buy statistical guide The Golf Majors