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Rory McIlroy not yet a master at work

By Kevin Garside

Published 29/03/2016

Ground to make up: Rory McIlroy failed to see off the challenge of Jason Day
Ground to make up: Rory McIlroy failed to see off the challenge of Jason Day

Jason Day, tick (twice), Jordan Spieth, tick, Bubba Watson, tick, Rickie Fowler, tick, Adam Scott, tick (twice). Of the world's top six golfers, only Rory McIlroy has yet to place a swoosh in the win column this term.

He has come close, twice surrendering winning positions on the PGA Tour, and last Sunday missing three times from inside eight feet on the outward nine to let Day off the hook en route to the Australian taking a WGC-Dell Match Play title that might easily have been McIlroy's had the putter not lost conviction again.

Despite a change of grip, McIlroy is not yet free of the frailty on the dance floor that has undermined his imperious game from tee to green.

There have been moments when the ball has rolled true, but episodic flashes do not register against those around him at the top of the rankings, all of whom do not flinch in sight of the cup.

Day leads the putting stats on the PGA Tour from Spieth.

No surprise then, that they should have dominated the last year, and in the case of the Australian, who resumed the No 1 standing with back-to-back wins in Florida and Texas, the present, too.

McIlroy has opted to stay at home in Palm Beach Gardens rather than travel to Augusta to practise this week.

The speed of the greens changes so much in the week of the tournament as to be unrecognisable, rendering work on that aspect of the game almost meaningless this far out.

McIlroy is better served putting on upturned saucers in his garden, the porcelain surface more readily reflecting the Augusta experience, and will not drive through the gates of Augusta National until Sunday.

"I'm not angry with my game, at all. I'm just angry that I didn't do more in the match and convert my chances when I could have," said McIlroy of his semi-final defeat by Day.

"Disappointed with the outcome, but I feel like where my game is, I'm happy with that."

That the Masters remains the only major McIlroy has yet to win will take its place among the many storylines gathering pace.

They include the form of two-time champion Watson, who has moved ominously into position with victory at the Northern Trust Open, followed a fortnight later with second place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Scott heads to Augusta alongside Day as a back-to-back winner, claiming the Honda Classic before reeling in McIlroy to triumph at the WGC-Cadillac.

If there is one stellar figure searching for rhythm it is Spieth, who appears to have hit a wall since his victory in Hawaii and fourth place at Abu Dhabi in January.

A missed cut at the Northern Trust was followed by a tie for 17th at the WGC-Cadillac and 18th at the Valspar a week later.

He took his leave of the WGC-Dell Match Play at the first knock-out stage, complaining about a newly acquired block to the right.

Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter failed to secure his first victory since 2012 as Tony Finau won his maiden PGA Tour title in a play-off in the Puerto Rico Open.

Poulter, who missed out on a place in this week's WGC-Dell Match Play by just 0.044 world ranking points, took a one-shot lead into the final round at Coco Beach but could only manage a closing 72 to finish a shot behind the American pair of Finau and Steve Marino.

Finau eventually won the title with his third straight birdie in the play-off on the par-five 18th after getting up and down from a greenside bunker, while Marino three-putted from long range.

Poulter, who carded one bogey, one birdie and 16 pars in the final round, said: "It's a shame. Just slightly disappointing.

"I'm continuing to work on the game to try and improve and I know if I rectify a couple of poor shots, then my game will improve.

"Obviously, hitting shots slightly too far right at certain times is costly."

Belfast Telegraph

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