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Rory McIlroy confident a steady putting performance can herald Masters glory


By Adam McKendry

A strong putting performance will not be the key to success at next month's Masters, according to Rory McIlroy.

The Ulsterman has struggled with putting in his three PGA Tour events so far this year, ranking 40th in one-putt percentage, 98th in three-putt avoidance and 49th in putts per round.

With lightning quick and severely undulating greens at Augusta, a precise putting game usually accompanies the victor of the year's first Major, which starts on April 5.

However, McIlroy believes the focus shouldn't be on making long putts but has instead placed an emphasis on not throwing away needless shots on the greens.

"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 said.

"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," he added.

"Speed is important and lag putting, they are big keys and I feel like I've started to get a 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 will head to Augusta National looking to complete the career Grand Slam having already taken possession of the US Open, US PGA and The Open.

His last four trips to Georgia National have yielded top 10 finishes, with his fourth placed in 2015 the closest he's come to donning the famed Green Jacket, while his infamous Sunday collapse in 2011 will still haunt him.

McIlroy's form this season hasn't exactly inspired confidence either, two fantastic finishes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were followed by a missed cut at Pebble Beach and two middle-of-the-field finishes at Riviera and at the Honda Classic last week.

"I feel like if I just play my game it will all happen soon," he said.

"Winning is important and that's how I will be judged, but right now it's about the journey and getting back there. I'm not that far away.

"Since I won the Open in 2014, the Masters is the biggest event of the year.

"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."

McIlroy also paid tribute to caddie Harry Diamond, his best friend from Holywood who took over from long-time mentor JP Fitzgerald on the bag from last year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

A handy golfer himself, having represented Ulster and Ireland, Diamond won the full-time role as caddie at the start the year.

"He's great," the 29-year old says. "To have someone of that calibre on my bag because of the player he is makes me very comfortable in that he sees shots a certain way, and I think we're on the same wavelength.

"It's been great to have my best mate alongside me out there having fun and enjoying it, and Harry's settled into the role."

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