Rory McIlroy might have changed his putter three times in as many days but he headed for the Irish Open with hope in his heart after closing with a six-under 64 in the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
Out in the fifth group in perfect conditions on a course featuring two short par-fives and three driveable par-fours, the world No 3 made just two significant putts all day — a nine footer at the third and a 15 footer at the 11th — in a 30-putt round.
“I couldn’t have done any worse than what I’ve done in the first three days,” McIlroy said of his putting and the switch from Saturday’s TaylorMade Mullen to the blade style TaylorMade Juno prototype for the final round having ditched the Red Spider Tour model he put in play for the US Open after Friday’s second round.
His other five birdies came from between two and four feet but the positive news is that even a modest putting improvement makes him a dangerous prospect with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, the Scottish Open and The Open to come over the next three weeks.
“I’m driving the ball as good as I ever have,” McIlroy said after jumping from 60th into the top 10 before a closing bogey left him heading for a top 20 finish alongside Pádraig Harrington (68) on six-under par.
“If I can strike the ball like this and putt average, this is what I can do.
“There is room for improvement all across the board and I’ve got a little bit of work to do coming up if I want to contend over the next few weeks.”
“Excited” about the Irish Open and the build up to the Open, McIlroy added: “My game feels in good shape, and as I said, if I can hole a few more putts, I should be right there.”
Deciding on which putter to use is key for McIlroy but there are no such problems for Harrington, who will be looking forward to this week’s HNA Open de France and the links swing into The Open.
Meanwhile, on the European Tour, Andres Romero held off the challenge of Masters champion Sergio Garcia and England’s Richard Bland to win his first title in nine years at the BMW International Open.
The Argentinian was playing on a sponsor’s invite in Munich and had slipped to 837th in the world since his last victory at the 2008 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
He showed no signs of that alarming drop in form yesterday, however, carding a closing bogey-free 65 to get to 17 under and beat Bland, Garcia and Belgium’s Thomas Detry by a single shot.
Romero began his round with seven pars but birdied the eighth, ninth and 11th before a hat-trick of gains from the 13th moved him into a share of the lead.
Detry posted a closing 66 to set the target at 16 under but when Garcia three-putted the 16th and Bland missed the green on the next, the door was open for Romero. He left his eagle putt on the last a long way short but held his nerve to make a birdie, leaving the final pairing of Bland and Garcia both needing finishing eagles to force a play-off.
The duo could only make birdies, however, and Romero was handed his second European Tour win.
Afterwards Romero said: “I’m very happy that I’m going to be here on the European Tour again. I enjoy it here and I want to say thanks to the people at BMW because if it wasn’t for them — they gave me an invite for this event — I wouldn’t have any category now, and this is going to be life-changing.”
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