A continuing quest for golfing perfection has led to Jason Day calling the stricken Tiger Woods for advice and to Rory McIlroy changing his putting grip. It was obvious in Miami on Wednesday that McIlroy is far more interested in curing woes on the greens than worrying about the outcome of the US presidential election.
McIlroy has putted in reverse, with left hand under right, as a training drill for a while but used such a style competitively only in 2008. He will adopt that very approach from the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship from Thursday, after a missed cut prematurely ended the four-time major winner’s Honda Classic last weekend. Jordan Spieth, who has upstaged McIlroy as the No1-ranked player in the world, is among those who also putt cross‑handed.
“I felt like my right hand was becoming a little bit too active in the stroke,” McIlroy said. “So this is a perfect way to sort of deactivate that. I really just feel like I’m controlling the putting stroke with my left hand only.
“It’s one of those things where the drill started to feel a little bit better than the real thing so I’m just going to stick with it. I feel like it’s something I’m going to stick with regardless of what the outcome is tomorrow or this week or next week. I really do feel like it helps me put a stroke on it that I want to. It’s a great feeling. I feel like it gives my putting stroke a bit more of a better rhythm as well, a better flow.
“If it doesn’t work right from the get-go tomorrow, you’re not going to see me on Friday morning putting conventional again. It’s something I’m going to stick with for a while.”
Donald Trump’s shadow – and likely appearance – looms large over the tournament’s host venue, which he owns. It remains an unfortunate, or unfair, position for golfers to be probed on matters beyond their remit, where no serious response could come without its problems. They are still asked the question, of course.
McIlroy thereby became merely the latest professional to be asked his views on the controversial Republican candidate, with the immediate answer a perfectly concise one.
“I’m not American,” said the Northern Irishman, who does at least have a base in Florida. When pressed for a more expansive reply, a laughing McIlroy shook his head with bemusement as to what was unfolding on the political trail.
“I mean, he’s not going to be the leader of my country,” the 26-year-old said. “It really doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve been following it and ... I really thought I knew what politics were until I started to watch some of these presidential debates.
“I’m not saying that the political system in Northern Ireland is too strong at the moment either. Look, I can’t vote and if I were to vote, I’m not sure I would want to vote for any of the candidates.”
The world No3 was wounded by his failure to survive for the closing 36 holes at the Honda Classic but with success and experience comes perspective. “I’ve missed enough cuts in my career to know that it isn’t the end of the world,” he said. “And it’s great, in golf, you have the next week, you have an opportunity to go back out there and rectify it and play well.”
McIlroy will play rounds one and two in the illustrious company of Spieth and Day. The Australian revealed on Wednesday that he spent 50 minutes of last week on the phone to Woods, looking to restore some of the vigour that has eroded slightly since victory at the US PGA Championship in August last year.
“If you’re going to pick a guy’s brain, he’s the guy,” Day said. “And every time, I can’t count how many times he said effort and mind-set and everything, it all had to do a lot with the mind.
“I had all the stuff [Woods said] written down. I’ve always said it; once I improve the mental game for myself – this is the last piece of the puzzle for me, I believe – I think I’ll be able to go out there and just kind of kill it.
“Talking to him, every time that I talk to him, it’s just every time it comes up, it’s mind-set, mental, mental toughness, effort. It didn’t matter how bad it was; if it was a course that he did not like, he was just going to flat-out execute you. It did not matter.
“That’s that killer instinct that I need to get back like I had at the second half of last year, get back and take it into this year and go through with it.”
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