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Rory McIlroy will putt it right in good time for Masters

By Karl MacGinty

Never mind the naysayers, Rory McIlroy is not a bad putter — he just doesn't truly believe he's a great one!

Yet, regardless of his performance in Tucson or Palm Beach over the past fortnight, McIlroy can still relieve Phil Mickelson of the Green Jacket at next month's Masters.

Sure, Graeme McDowell's superlative final-round 64 at the Honda Classic strongly suggests he has regained the form which carried him to US Open glory.

McDowell will be armed with the confidence of a Major champion at the Masters, not to mention this week's Cadillac Championship — G-Mac and McIlroy represent Northern Ireland in the elite World Championship field at Doral.

In contrast, McIlroy is struggling after the Honda. McIlroy finished tied 70th on 16-over with Ernie Els and Jhonny Vegas but thankfully has time to repair any damage well before the Masters, with a visit to Doral offering the perfect antidote.

Forget last year's missed cut at Augusta, where McIlroy plainly was at a low ebb after struggling with a lower back problem through the opening months of the season.

Augusta National so perfectly fits his game, one can't help feeling Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie had guys like McIlroy in mind when they created this golfing masterpiece.

McIlroy's status in golf is best measured by the support he received in recent days from Jack Nicklaus following his assertion that the long game is “the biggest part of golf”.

“I agree with Rory,” said Nicklaus. “I told Rory I never practised my short game because I felt if I can hit 15 greens a round, hit a couple of par-fives in two and can make all my putts inside 10 feet, who cares where I chip it?”

That the most successful player in history sees a kindred spirit in McIlroy is a great compliment. Yet the 21-year-old might be best advised in this instance to overlook what Jack says and pay heed instead to what Jack did.

Nicklaus reputedly wasn't golf's greatest chipper but he was a fearsome putter, who believed he was entitled to make every putt inside 10 feet.

At least that's how it used to appear. Conversely, McIlroy's unimpressive statistics betray a lack of self-belief.

In 2010, for example, McIlroy was 135th in the US for holing putts inside five feet and ranked 167th between five and 10 feet. Yet McIlroy's putting is peerless when the adrenalin flows, as it did during his spectacular surge to victory at Quail Hollow last summer.

You don't make it into the world's top 10 and stay there — McIlroy is currently No 8 — without being a good putter.

As Holywood star McIlroy prepares for his 100th individual event as a professional this week, the only element he's missing is that unyielding sense of entitlement which Nicklaus exuded on the greens, yet it's something McIlroy can and will acquire.

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