Paul McGinley is not managing Rory McIlroy but if heard the words he wanted to hear when the world No 4 admitted he needs “to go back to the drawing board” after what he described as a “pathetic” putting performance led to a missed cut in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
While McGinley was among the Sky Sports pundits suggesting that McIlroy’s weak putting was not helped by some wayward ball-striking, he insisted that not only have players like Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson overtaken McIlroy, the time has come for the Holywood native to make a few moves and take some big decisions.
Needing a par at worst to make the cut — the mark could have gone to two over — McIlroy left himself just over 200 yards to the par-five finishing 18th but cut his second into a heavy lie in the right, greenside rough and took three more shots to find the green, chopping his first one halfway up a steep bank and the leaving the next short on the fringe before failing to chip in.
What was more galling for McIlroy, who shot 69 to finish a shot outside the generous cut mark on three over, was that not only did he have to watch Phil Mickelson open with a triple bogey seven and still battle to a 70 to make the cut by one, he also had to see world No 1 Day putt the lights out for a 65.
The Australian slipped back to level for the tournament after a double bogey at the seventh but then birdied seven of the next eight holes with the kind of confident putting that looks beyond McIlroy right now.
“I mean, I’m trying to concentrate on myself,” McIlroy said when asked how it felt to watch Day.
"I knew Jason was having a good round and putting well and hitting good shots. I was trying to focus on myself and focus on hitting good putts and obviously give myself plenty of chances.
"Tee to green was good, but it was just pathetic when I got onto the green.”
Day could even afford to make pars at the last two par fives and still share third with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (67) on seven under, one behind leaders Jimmy Walker (66) and Robert Streb (63).
On what transpired down the 18th and during the day, McGinley said: “We all know Rory McIlroy has all of the talent in the world, but he is at a new level for his game and he's going to have to reassess how he's going to go about it.
"We were initially full of admiration for him at the 18th with Day and Mickelson playing so conservatively, as he took out the driver and ripped it up the middle of the fairway.The hard work was done for McIlroy on that hole and he knew that.
"He got a bad lie after his second, which was unfortunate, but then he really should have chopped it up to 30 feet and two-putted for par.It seemed to be one mistake after another from there and he ended up with a six, which was a huge blow for him and he'll be absolutely heartbroken by that finish.
"There's a time for reflection for Rory now, as he's not the young new kid on the block anymore and is one of the more experienced players here."
On how it feels to watch a rival hole everything, McGinley added: "If you want to be the best player in the world, you've got to deal with situations where players are out-putting you, like we saw Jason Day do today. It’s something you’ve got to deal with. When players are out-putting you, it’s one of the frustrations of the game when you are playing well and not particularly putting well.”
Going back to McIlroy’s apparent lack of fight these days, McGinley had a simple theory.
“A lot of it is confidence,” he said. "It is not like he is weak in any area of his game. Okay, his putting is probably the weakest of all. But it’s not off the scale weak. He’s not yipping putts.
"But there certainly has to be a reassessment of how he is going about it. He has reached a different level in his career.
"He is getting older, he is getting married soon. There is a whole new change going on and the guys coming behind him have really closed the gap on him and maybe even overtaken him.
"And he has got to reassess the next number of years, how he is going to go about it and maybe change a couple of things.”
On a day when Pádraig Harrington had to hole to good putts on the last two greens to nake the cut by one on one over after a 70, Darren Clarke (71) and Shane Lowry (73) missed the cut by three strokes on five over as Graeme McDowell (75) missed by seven.
McIlroy was certainly in no mood for a huge inquisition given how he squandered a great chance to make the cut by missing a five footer for birdie at the 16th and then following a bonus 40 footer for birdie at the 17th with that six at the last.
Asked if he saw any sign of progress in his putting after Thursday evening’s late practice session, he said: ‘Not really.”
How would you sum up this year?
He now has two weeks off to prepare for the FedEx Cup but he sounded like a man who plans to do something about his putting sooner rather than later.
“I’ll still take two weeks off from tournaments, but I’ll have to see what practice schedule looks like,” he said. “I need to go something…. Tee to green is good, I just need to figure out what to do on the greens. I need to have a long hard think about that.”
This marks the first year he has missed the cut in two of the four majors since 2010 and he knows what he has to do.
“Putting let me down at Merion. I think I missed the cut there, too, didn't I? Oakmont, and then putting let me down here again. My tee to green game, there's not much wrong with that. It's pretty solid. Driving the ball well, hitting good iron shots.
"I think if you had to given anyone else in this field my tee shots this week, they would have been up near the top of the leaderboard. It just shows you how bad I was around the greens.”
The stats bear that out. He was first for strokes gained off the tee and close to last for putting.
“I’ve hit the ball really well this week and I’m walking away not playing the weekend,” he said. “It's really disheartening. As I said, I need to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.”
Playing partner Mickelson sounded a word of optimism for the 27-year old.
“Right now he’s just so tentative through impact,” the left hander said. "He's just not confident. You can just tell.”
He added: "It's not that he's not capable. He's just having a period where he's not feeling it. He will get it back.”