Rory McIlroy insists his much-criticised putting is good enough to secure a first Masters title and complete a career Grand Slam.
McIlroy ranked a lowly 140th in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour last year and suffered an embarrassing five-putt during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this month.
However, the former world number one is confident he has what it takes to triumph at Augusta National and become just the sixth player to have won all four major titles.
“At Augusta you don’t need to putt great, you need to not waste any shots, no three putts, hole everything inside five feet,” McIlroy told BBC Sport NI. “I feel good about Augusta, I know the golf course so well.
“You don’t need to hole every 15 footer that you look at, you need to be efficient, just not to be wasteful. Speed is important and lag putting, they are big keys and I feel like I’ve started to get lot better at that, especially there because there is a lot of break and a lot of different slopes but I think I have it figured out.”
McIlroy took a four-shot lead into the final round of the 2011 Masters before collapsing to a closing round of 80, but believes he will eventually get his hands on a famous green jacket.
“This will be my fourth go at it (achieving the Grand Slam), I have had three top-10s in the last three years and I played well, but just not played well enough,” the four-time major winner added.
McIlroy is one of just five of the world’s top 50 who will not be in action in this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.
The Holywood golfer chose to skip the event. The 65-man field competing for a prize fund of €8.1m and a winner’s cheque of €1.36m, with McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, and Brooks Koepka the players from the top 50 to miss out.
European number one Tommy Fleetwood has vowed not to rest on his laurels after making a superb start to the 2018 season. Fleetwood comes to Mexico at a career-high of 11th in the world rankings after successfully defending his title in Abu Dhabi, finishing sixth in Dubai and fourth in last week’s Honda Classic.
The 27-year-old was a 200/1 outsider when he finished second at Chapultepec GC behind world number one Dustin Johnson 12 months ago, but is rated just a 16/1 chance to go one better this year.
“The year’s been great so far,” Fleetwood said. “It was important, after having such a good year, to keep going, just like (Honda Classic winner) Justin Thomas has done this year.
“He just keeps progressing and that’s what you hope to do and what you’ve kind of got to do. So far so good, but you can never take your foot off the gas, you have to keep going.
“My game is getting better all the time. I’m consistently working hard and I feel like I’m always doing the right things. My confidence is up. You’ve still got to play well, but I think when you play well you have that belief in yourself that you can do the whole week and you can be there at the end and you can win.
“That’s the big thing. I’m just very, very comfortable with where I’m at and sort of my practice off the course, everything. Your performance is a result of your practice so everything I’m doing I just feel very confident that I’m doing the right things.”
Fleetwood will partner Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Sweden’s Alex Noren for the first two rounds in Mexico City, where 11 of last year’s top 20 were European.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved