Rory McIlroy will never putt like Jordan Spieth - Paul McGinley

Rory McIlroy putting at the 2015 Masters Tournament

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry head of the bunch as Ireland’s Olympic golf hopefuls hit the bell in the race to Rio de Janeiro.

But while Team Leader Paul McGinley is energised by Ireland’s chances of winning medals, he also fears the men could easily get boxed in and distracted in 2016.

While women’s golf stars Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire have their own challenges, McGinley will be closely watching how former world No 1 McIlroy and new world No 18 Lowry take on the challenges ahead

McIlroy has won three times this year but his ankle injury robbed him of the chance to defend The Open and he lost his world No 1 crown as Jordan Spieth and Jason Day streaked past him, capturing three of the four majors.

The Holywood star has spoken in recent days about his erratic putting and how he has neglected those weaknesses this year.

And while he has always vowed to concentrate on his strengths, McGinley fears the four-time major winner could take his eye off the ball by trying to match Masters and US Open winner Spieth, or US PGA champion Day.

“The important thing for Rory is not to over-react to what they are doing,” McGinley said at the announcement this week that Electric Ireland will sponsor Team Ireland in Rio. 

“The important thing for him is not to try to be something, just because they are. It is important that he goes back to what got him there in the first place and stay true to what has proven to be a successful template so far rather than trying to be something that he might not necessarily be. 

“Rory is a streaky putter. He is never going to putt like Jordan Spieth and he is absolutely right. He is not going to mechanise his stroke to be the best putter in the world because that is not his strength. 

“He will never be that. He is a streaky putter and he putts well enough. It is important he stays true to what got him here in the first place and not react to what the other guys have done.” 

McGinley was delighted to see Lowry win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and soar to 18th in the world.

But he sees 2016 as a make or break year for the Co Offaly man, who will be expected by fans to challenge for majors and World Golf Championships when he should be quietly establishing himself in the world’s Top 20. 

McGinley said: “It is just a word of caution for everybody jumping on the Shane expectation bandwagon, thinking he is just going to keep going this way. He has a lot of hurdles to jump next year. 

“If this time next year we are in a place where Shane has made the Ryder Cup team, made the Olympics, comfortably kept his card in America and has maybe won another tournament somewhere and stayed in the Top 20 in the world ranking, that will be massive for Shane. 

“That’s his goal. That to me is a realistic opportunity rather than try to shoot for the stars. Then he can look at conquering the world.

“He’s at a platform now and he's at a level where he next 12 months are difficult because he is moving towards being away from all the stuff he gets energy from in Ireland. 

“Yes, he’s got confidence but he’s got big hurdles to get over next year and I’m not going to say what’s right. It’s up to him to do what he thinks is best.

"But what I am saying is he has a lot of new things going on for the next 12 months. He is going to get married next year. He has got to get his membership on the PGA Tour and embed himself there and maintain the level of performance he has attained in the last few weeks.

“He has to make those decisions and he has his team around him to help him do that.”