Putter not cutting it for McIlroy as long streak of made cuts ends in Los Angeles
Irishman hoping to move up a gear as WGC event heralds the start of the Florida Swing
Rory McIlroy during the second round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Photograph: AP
Rory McIlroy’s early departure from Los Angeles, with the distinction of holding the longest streak of made cuts on the PGA Tour no longer his, at least gave him time for thought and an opportunity to pore over some statistics.
One of those identified his poor putting averages so far this season, ranking 183rd in total putting and 114th in strokes gained putting – before heading onwards to this week’s tour stop, the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession outside Tampa, Florida.
Now down to eighth in the updated world rankings, McIlroy – his missed cut at the Genesis Invitational ended a run of 31, which had been the best current streak on the circuit – at least knows there will be four days play this time, as the WGC event (with its €8.65 million purse and €1.5 million to the winner) features a limited field of just 72 players and no cut in play.
McIlroy’s move to play a hectic early-season schedule has yet to reap the desired dividends but, as he heads into the Florida Swing, with the WGC followed by next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Players at Sawgrass (both happy hunting grounds, winning the API in 2018 and the Players in 2019), there is the opportunity to move up a gear.
The Concession is a new tour stop, only playing host to the WGC due to logistical challenges faced by taking the championship – won last year by Patrick Reed – to its original venue in Mexico.
As a stand-in venue, however, the course – jointly designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin and named to honour the concession of a putt given by the American to the Englishman in a Ryder Cup match – is set to deliver on its reputation as one of the most challenging in Florida.
McIlroy has been working on some technical aspects of his swing in recent weeks but has yet to see them make the transition into competition, with a tied-16th finish in the Farmers Insurance Open, a tied-13th finish in the Phoenix Open and, then, after a week’s break, a missed cut in Los Angeles.
Shane Lowry is the only other Irish player in the limited field at the WGC tournament, as the Offalyman – down to 39th in the latest world rankings – returns to action following his season-opening appearances on the Middle East Swing on the European Tour where he followed up a missed cut in Abu Dhabi with a tied-27th finish in Dubai and a tied-29th finish in Saudi Arabia.
Lowry returned directly to Florida from the Middle East, having based himself and his family there for the next few months up to at least the US Open in June as he focuses on the PGA Tour and aiming to break his way into Europe’s Ryder Cup team selection via the world points list.
Tiger Woods – hanging onto a top-50 place in the world rankings – would have been exempt into the WGC-Workday Championship but remains absent from tournament golf following pre-Christmas microdiscectomy surgery on his back.
Speaking at the Genesis Invitational where he was tournament host, Woods revealed he still have one more MRI scan scheduled before increasing his work load.
“I’m still in the gym, still doing the mundane stuff that you have to do for rehab, the little things before I can start gravitating towards something a little more,” said Woods, who confirmed he had moved to a longer putter to help alleviate pressure on his back.
He said of the lengthened putter.
“I don’t have to bend over as far, I’ve gone to the same length as my sand wedge because I do a lot of putting drills, blading [the ball], hitting the equator with my sand wedge and I figured, ‘well, if I do a lot with that, why not lengthen my putter to the same length?’ So I did and it helped.”
The Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande provides the clashing PGA Tour event with the WGC (with a purse less than one-third of that on offer in Florida) and it has attracted a field that includes Pádraig Harrington and Séamus Power, along with a number of other Europeans including Thomas Pieters.