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McIlroy continues to get to grips with putting switch

By Peter Hutcheon

Top Ulster golf coach Johnny Foster says Rory McIlroy's switch to a cack-handed putting grip is as much a mental and a physical change.

McIlroy unveiled his new style in the practice rounds for the first World Golf Championship at Doral's Blue Monster in Florida after he missed the cut at last week's Honda Classic.

"Making a change like that can simply help a player's confidence and at times that's what is needed," Ballyclare man Foster said.

"It is quite a fundamental change to make to his game, but we've only seen him playing that way this week. We don't know how long he has been working at in practice and I'm sure it's not something he would have done if he wasn't comfortable with it.

"From a purely coaching point of view, putting left hand under right does have the benefit of levelling the shoulders out and it's something that in the past Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer would have encouraged, but any change takes time to bed it."

McIlroy is regarded probably the best driver in the game but he admits to being a 'streaky' putter. "Rory's not a bad putter by any means, but his long game is so strong that maybe it feels that way to him," adds Foster. "He hits the greens so often and gives himself so many birdie chances that he probably comes off the course thinking he's left two or three shots out there every time.

"I think the timing of it is interesting because he's given himself five or six weeks ahead of the Masters and its going to be interesting to see how he does."

McIlroy's change may have been inspired by Jordan Spieth, the man who overtook him last year as world number one, who has developed into one of the world's best putters with the cross-handed style.

Spieth's run of success, starting with his Masters triumph last April, has been largely based on his performance on the greens, notably holing putts from 10 to 12 feet in a manner reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his pomp.

If McIlroy could harness that sort of performance to his enviable long game, then there really would be no stopping him.

"I'm sure Rory is jealous of Jordan Spieth's putting game," said Foster. "But then, I'm sure Spieth would love to have Rory's long game too."

The top three players in the world, McIlroy, Spieth and Australian Jason Day, were grouped together for the opening round of the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral last night offering an early opportunity to see how the putting styles stacked up against one another.

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