Rude: Rory McIlroy loses confidence in his putter

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the first hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.

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4:25:35 PM ET. 09/02/2014




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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rory McIlroy surely has had better birthdays. It’s not just that he made a double bogey and three bogeys in a sloppy 73 in the Wells Fargo Championship third round. His overcast day was darkened by the instrument known as the flat stick.

Lucky for him the menacing weapon didn’t have a sharp edge. He missed so many short putts, no one would have been surprised had he walked off the 18th green and asked that someone give him a new putter for a birthday present.

The world No. 2, remarkably, missed seven putts of 5 feet and less on Quail Hollow’s patchy greens. That’s enough to make one wonder whether he should have chipped from 5 feet as Sergio Garcia did once on Friday.

“I couldn’t hole anything,” McIlroy said accurately. “I had so many chances. When you miss a couple of putts, you lose confidence.”

Putting like that, lucky he didn’t lose his mind on his 24th birthday.

But the day wasn’t all bad. He did get some gifts. Friends gave him a battery pack for his cellular telephone. His girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, gave him a bracelet, shoes, a bag and a cake, he said.

Bracelet, shoes, bag? Does she think he is a girl?

But perhaps his best gift came from co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney.

Fortunately for McIlroy and other lurkers, Mickelson (at the par-5 15th) and Watney (at the par-3 17th) hit squirrelly shots and made double bogeys and fell back to 8 under par. That meant McIlroy ended the third round only three shots off the lead instead of the six he was before Mickelson slipped.

“I think they gave me a little birthday present,” McIlroy said, managing a smile.

He didn’t have much reason to smile on the course, even though he ended the day where he started, three back. McIlroy was two strokes off Mickelson’s lead when he eagled the 511-yard 7th from 5 feet, but then he doubled No. 9 and bogeyed Nos. 11-12.

“Tee to green I was actually OK,” he said. “The problems came when I got on the greens.”

He’s not kidding. Here’s the sad tale of the tape: He missed putts of 2 1/2 feet at the third, 5 feet at the sixth, 3 feet (for bogey) in three-putting the ninth after a wild drive, 5 feet for pars at 11 and 12 and 5 feet for birdies at 14 and 15.

So what’s the solution heading into a Sunday final round that figures to be plagued by rain? The forecast is so bad that some wonder whether the round will be finished, but McIlroy seemed more concerned with his stroke.

“I guess you’ve got to care less,” he said, talking putting fix. “When you start missing a few putts, you start guiding the ball.”

McIlroy had birthday party plans Saturday night at a nearby upscale steakhouse, where he was to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero championship fight. But with tee times moved up to early morning because of forecast rain – McIlroy’s is at 8:02 a.m. – he was considering an adjustment.

“It was supposed to be dinner and the fight,” he said, smiling. “Now it might be dinner and bed.”

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