Golf On Tour: How Rory McIlroy Improved His Putting to Become a Prolific Winner on the PGA Tour
Rory McIlroy before the Masters 2011 was already a winner on the PGA Tour winning the Wells Fargo tournament in 2010. Now since then he has won another five times including two Majors!
So what has changed in his game to allow this to happen? His ball striking has not changed much but his putting stats have. Looking at his stroke gained –putting stats from 2009 compared to the field average you will see a steady improvement each year and a big improvement in 2012.
2009 Minus .335...............150th in ranking
2010 Minus .225...............145th in ranking
2011 Minus .129...............130th in ranking
2012 Plus .098.................76th in ranking
In his own words describing the Stroke Gained – Putting stat; “finally a putting stat that has relevance to how well you putt.”
Also Shot Link stats show what averages and ranking Rory achieves at varying distance. I’m sure these stats will surprise a lot of you golfers out there!
Putting from 5 feet.....................96.68% Rank 59th
Putting from 5ft – 10ft.................59.03% Rank 41st
Putting from 10ft – 15ft...............33.33% Rank 39th
Putting from 15ft – 20ft...............21.92% Rank 26th
Putting from 20ft – 25ft...............11.63% Rank 89th
As you can see from the above numbers every five feet the average reduces by nearly half. That’s the reason all targets at PTGC from short game to approach wedges the targets are set 6 feet or smaller.
So we now know that his putting keeps improving but what has contributed to allow this to happen especially when we observed his game and in particular his putting during the 2011 Masters go into meltdown (he shot 80) after leading going into the last round.
Step in Dave Stockton to work with Rory soon after the 2011 Masters. Stockton a two time Major winner PGA Championship himself (1970/76) and winning Ryder Cup captain in 1991 had a reputation of being consistently one of the best putters when he competed on the PGA Tour in the 60’s and 70’s and the Champions tour in the 90’s.
After his first session with Rory, Stockton analysis was that Rory’s putting mechanics were flawless but assessed that his focus was on technique. Rory’s comment after that first session was “Everything Dave said was the opposite of what I’ve been told before.” “People often said to me that I was too quick on the greens”.
Stockton on the other hand wanted Rory to get more flow into his routine. To achieve this, out went Rory’s three practice swings, and all Stockton wants Rory to do is “See the target where you want to hit it, and just go with it." This allows him to be more natural and not get in his own way, especially when it counts under pressure.
I have done a comparison of Rory’s average putts for the first four stroke play tournaments of 2012 where he averaged 28.5 putts per round and had 1 Win, 2 Seconds and 1 Tied 40th.
And when he missed cuts in the Players, Memorial and US Open where he averaged 30.125 per round compared to the last four where he has averaged 27.7 putts per round for 3 Wins and a T24th.
So a very telling fact that when the top players average around 28 putts per round they are usually in contention to win and when they average over 30 putts per round they struggle to make cuts.
In conclusion, it might not be your putting technique holding you back from making more putts but a pre putt routine (PPR) that does not suit you. Once you have identified the PPR that works for you, the next stage is to put it under pressure and test that you’re sticking to it.
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College
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