Rory McIlroy 'completely out of sorts' as Masters nears, experts say

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Rory McIlroy 'completely out of sorts' as Masters nears, experts say

PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy 'completely out of sorts' as Masters nears, experts say

While watching last week’s coverage of the Honda Classic, David Duval posed this question to fellow Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee: Who do you think is closer to playing great, Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods?

“And to me it’s an obvious answer,” Duval said.

Woods, 42, has impressed in his return to competition after a spinal fusion last April, posting a T-9 finish in the Bahamas last December, a T-23 showing at Torrey Pines in January and most recently a solo-12th performance at PGA National. His swing speed is up, his short game looks great and it’s only a matter of time, many agree, before he wins again.

The 28-year-old McIlroy, meanwhile, has been much less impressive since he notched a pair of top-3 finishes in the Middle East to begin the year. He missed the cut at Pebble Beach before tying for 20th at the Genesis Open and sharing 59th at Honda. His putting isn’t much improved, his iron play slipped mightily and he hasn’t looked close to winning on Tour in his recent starts.

“I think he’s probably as far as he’s ever been to being back to where he was,” Chamblee said.

McIlroy hasn’t won since capturing the 2016 Tour Championship. He battled a nagging rib injury last year, let go of longtime caddie JP Fitzgerald last summer and continued to struggle on the greens, finishing the season ranked 140th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting.

This season McIlroy ranks 60th in that category with 11 counting rounds, though Duval remains concerned.

“I think Rory’s putting continues to put pressure on his iron game, and until he figures that out, he comes out a little bit better and more consistent on the greens, it could potentially be doing what he’s doing right now, (which is), what I believe, is ruining other parts of his game,” Duval said. “And I feel like he’s struggling, and you have to keep forcing it closer and closer to the hole. You are going to miss golf shots. You’re going to be in bad spots. And I think that’s part of what’s happening right now.”

McIlroy finished last season ranked eighth in strokes gained: tee-to-green. So far this season he is No. 92 and is losing 0.359 shots a round with his approach play.

Even McIlroy has voiced his frustration with the way he’s hitting the ball with his irons.

“I’m just looking for my game to be in good shape, being able to hit the shots that I see and different flights and being comfortable with everything, and that’s basically it,” McIlroy said. “I’ve always said, you can do as much preparation as you want in tournaments, but if you can’t step up and execute the shots, then preparation means nothing.”

Since he hoisted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool in 2014, Rory McIlroy has been one leg away from achieving the career Grand Slam, needing only a Masters victory to complete the four-part puzzle. In three tries at Augusta National since, McIlroy hasn’t finished outside the top 10 – fourth, T-10 and T-7 last year – but he’s still searching for that elusive green jacket.

Unless McIlroy fixes his iron game, he isn’t likely to buck that trend this April.

“His iron play has never been worse,” Chamblee said. “Obviously that’s probably the most important factor in winning at Augusta National, is putting yourself in the right place to putt. He’s completely out of sorts. He’s missed a lot of short irons, a lot of scoring clubs. He’s missing long, left, coming out, missing them to the right. He’s leaving himself in a bad spot. It’s not the Rory McIlroy that won four major championships.

“… He’s 10th in the world. He’s still a formidable player, no question about it, and there’s still a threat there, but he’s gone into Augusta every year of his career in better shape than he’s in right now, I would argue.”


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