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Sam Torrance: Solving his putting woes has improved Rory McIlroy’s Masters chances four-fold

For much of his 18-month drought, which ended with a magnificent victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Sunday, we saw Rory McIlroy playing very well.

The problem was that he struggled to sustain his performance over a whole week, and I think that was borne out of frustration with his putting. It gnawed away at him and sapped his will to keep going.

So he turned to Brad Faxon, one of the greatest putters of all time, for advice last week. Faxon told Rory not to overthink his putting and to try to rediscover a more natural, intuitive approach.

It worked a treat and we saw an enormous change in McIlroy’s stroke as he recorded a three-shot win at Bay Hill.

He putted beautifully especially on the back nine when the pressure was on, holing birdies in five of the last six holes. Putting is totally down to mentality and Rory seemed to have freed his mind.

His triumphant return was great to see because Rory is as good as anyone on tour. He started well on Thursday, playing the first 17 holes in five under par only to double bogey the last after hitting out of bounds, but he kept going brilliantly.

I think we’ll see a huge step up from him now and, less than three weeks out from the Masters, this will have quadrupled his chances of claiming that elusive Green Jacket.

He will be desperate to get to Augusta but he is experienced enough to take everything in his stride.

A lot has been made of him needing the Masters to complete the career grand slam, and his famous final-day collapse in 2011, but I don’t think he is obsessed with it any more.

He has grown in stature as his career has gone on and I think he’s a bigger man than that. He knows in his heart that he will win it one day.

This was his first win since getting married almost a year ago, and we saw with Sergio Garcia at last year’s Masters how important a happy and settled family life can be to a player’s success.


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