Rory McIlroy will be hard at work in practice during his week off after disappointing Phoenix debut
Rory McIlroy will spend his week off working hard on various aspects of his game following a “disappointing” debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
McIlroy did manage to close with his best round of the tournament, a seven-under 64 that had him knocking on the door of another top 10 finish, but he was left to rue another week of too many costly mistakes that also proved his undoing in Abu Dhabi and at Torrey Pines last week.
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The 31-year-old appeared likely to endure a lacklustre finish when he yanked his second drive of the day into water at the 11th, although he rescued a bogey from eight feet and then made four birdies in five holes as he suddenly got to grips with the TPC Scottsdale greens.
It was his powerful and precise long game that set up three consecutive birdies from the second, and a 25-foot putt for his ninth birdie of the day at the eighth got him to 13 under par.
McIlroy felt it was his poor touch on the greens that cost him the chance to contend for his first win since the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2019, but a return to using a line on his ball to aide alignment sparked a vast improvement on the final day.
“It’s been disappointing,” he said when asked to summarise his first start in Phoenix, with two frustrating 70s on Thursday and Saturday effectively ruling him out of the running. “I had two very pedestrian runs, but I played a little better on Friday and then I played better today.
“I putted better, and I really struggled on these greens to read them more than anything else. With greens that I haven’t seen before, I used the green book a bit and I did that for three days and didn’t really work, so I just sort of went with my eyes and my gut today and it helped.
“I maybe trusted it a little better and holed some putts, which was nice. I hit some putts on the practice green with the mirror, and then I actually used the line on the ball for the first time in a while, and then I used the line on the ball out there today.
“So it was just more of a trust thing. Once you put the line down on the ball you’re committed to, Okay, this is where I’m going to start it. Just that a little bit of extra trust helped.”
Using a line on the ball was a practice he last used during his golden 2014 season, the most successful year of his career, and he could even remember the exact moments when he started and stopped that technique.
He added: “The last time I used it regularly was from the sixth hole on the final day at Augusta 2014 until the last day of the Scottish Open 2014. So sort of April to July.
“I won a tournament with it, I won Wentworth during that stretch. I had my best-ever strokes gained putting round at Memorial using the line. It’s something I’ve sort of went back and forth with over the years. Sometimes I feel comfortable with it; sometimes not. I always seem to go back to it when I’m struggling to start it on my line or trust it.
“So I’ll practice with it a bit next week and see if it travels back to Riviera.”
PGA Tour Golf
February 8, 2021, 7:00pm
McIlroy will return to action at the Genesis Invitational, the first of four straight tournament starts, and he is clear with himself as to what he needs to work on before he travels to California.
“I’m getting way too steep in my downswing, and hitting a lot of pulls and a lot of sort of weak cuts,” McIlroy said. “So I’ll work on that, try to get the club more out in front of me on the way back and try to shallow it a little bit on the way down. And then just a bunch of putting.
“Yeah, I’ll work hard next week. Got a week off and four in a row coming up, so it was nice to end, go into a week off playing like I did today, but I still got a lot of work to do.”
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