Rory McIlroy targets a fresh start ahead of the Irish Open

World number four already looked happier with new putter in Travelers Championship

Rory McIlroy: finished tied-17th in the Travelers Championship. Photograph:  Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy: finished tied-17th in the Travelers Championship. Photograph: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

 

From two to three to four in the world in successive weeks, you could be forgiven if a sense of panic were to hit home at the slide. Far from it though in Rory McIlroy’s case, as the Northern Irishman – with greater clarity on his putting woes – has targeted the busy schedule of the coming weeks as effectively a fresh start to the season.

While missing out on this week’s French Open, the second leg of the new Rolex Series on the PGA European Tour, where Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne will have targets of their own including securing one of the exempt places on offer into next month’s British Open, McIlroy – down to fourth in the latest world rankings – has a week off before a sequence that takes in the DDF Irish Open, the Scottish Open and the British Open in a three-week stint.

“I’m excited to just play golf and get on a run of events. It’s nice to be injury-free and I don’t feel like I have niggles or aches and pains. I can play a very full schedule going forward from here till the rest of the year. So I’m excited for that,” said McIlroy, who finished tied-17th, alongside Pádraig Harrington, in the Travelers championship where Jordan Spieth’s hole-out for birdie from bunker enabled him to beat Daniel Berger at the first play-off hole.

Right the wrongs

For McIlroy, though, it was about finally finding a putter that feels comfortable in his hands. In seeking to right the wrongs of his recent putting, McIlroy again adopted the practice of drawing a line on his golf ball and also reverting to a blade-like putter rather than using a mallet.

“I’m using the line on the ball, so you can see the line tracking pretty well there. It’s sort of a familiar head shape to me. I’ve just tried to change it up. The Spider didn’t work too well. I felt like it was really good in practice, and the numbers were good with it when I got to the SAM Putt Lab, but when I got on the course it didn’t feel quite as comfortable as it did in practice,” explained McIlroy of his decision to dump the Spider, a club used so effectively by Jason Day.

McIlroy’s next outing is the defence of his DDF Irish Open, which takes place on the Strand course at Portstewart when he also plays the part of tournament host raising funds for The Rory Foundation. “Obviously my next event, the Irish Open is a big one for me. Obviously defending champion and all that we are involved with the tournament. I’m excited for that. My game feels in good shape, and like I said, if I can hole a few more putts, I should be right there,” he said.

For other Irish players on the European Tour, the French Open – which, like the Irish Open, has a $7 million purse – offers chances of title wins and other fringe benefits. McDowell, Dunne, Shane Lowry and Darren Clarke are the four Irish players in the field in Paris. Two of them, McDowell and Dunne, are not yet exempt for the British Open at Royal Birkdale but can earn a ticket in Paris, Portstewart or Dundonald in the coming weeks where each tournaments offers three places to players not already exempt if finishing in the top-10.

There’s also a strong Irish contingent – no fewer than nine, in fact – competing in the Scottish Hydro Open at Aviemore on the Challenge Tour: Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin, Kevin Phelan, Ruaidhrí McGee, Neil O Briain, Dermot McElroy, Michael Hoey, Gary Hurley and Chris Selfridge are all in the field.

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