LOS ANGELES – As Tiger Woods slashed his way around Riviera, playing partners Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy exhibited similar flashes of brilliance and inconsistency. But on the greens, the two young stars appear to be worlds apart.
Statistically, the total putts hit were almost identical: 28 for McIlroy and 27 for Thomas, with both hitting 11 of 18 greens. But the strokes gained stat helps explain Thomas’ 69 to McIlroy’s 71. Thomas was 26th in strokes gained after the morning wave and McIlroy 105th.
Thomas’ steadiness on the greens helped make up for wayward drives, while McIlroy’s ball striking was typically excellent. Visually, Thomas looks confident at a course he’s been playing since the 2012 NCAA Championship, while McIlroy continues to struggle with speed and a consistent pre-shot routine.
“Happy with where my game is tee to green, and just need to get a few putts to drop,” Thomas said. “Actually I felt like I hit some good putts that just didn’t go in. But yeah, a little bit of work on the green this afternoon and I’ll try to do a little bit better tomorrow.”
McIlroy, who is using a new TaylorMade putter after early week testing at the Carlsbad headquarters, added more loft to deal with the poa annual greens. While he still exhibits the beautiful stroke that won him four majors, his issues appear related to a disjointed process.
Several times during Round 1 of the Genesis Open, McIlroy hit putts quickly and usually unsuccessfully. At other moments, he took longer over the ball. McIlroy’s pre-putt routine appears to vary wildly, another contrast to the repetitive processes of Woods and Thomas.
Whether this is a product of too much on his mind or simply not believing in a tight routine, McIlroy insists he’s comfortable on Riviera’s greens.
“I’ve hit good putts out there that just sort of slid by,” he said. “It’s not as if I’m hitting wide, I’m not missing the hole by a few inches. It’s sort of just sliding by the edges. So it’s not too far off. A little bit of speed work, a little bit of technical work and hopefully a few will drop for me tomorrow.”