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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019
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McIlroy plays down putting problems despite more missed chances on Ballyliffin greens

The world number eight feels too much has been made about his putting this season.

McIlroy missed several putts at Ballyliffin on Friday.
McIlroy missed several putts at Ballyliffin on Friday.
Image: Oliver McVeigh

Adam McKendry reports from Ballyliffin

RORY McILROY HAS denied he has a putting problem after another round filled with promise got away from him on the greens on the first day of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

McIlroy shot an opening two-under 70, three shots behind early leader Ryan Fox, but he missed seven putts inside 10 feet that would have had him well clear at an early stage.

Putting has long been an issue for the world number eight, who is ranked 206th in strokes gained on the green, and it was a big problem during the final round of The Masters earlier this year when he struggled to gain any momentum.

But McIlroy, who is hosting this week’s event at Ballyliffin, insists that while he’s not delighted with his putting, it’s not as big a concern as others make it out to be.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been a problem,” he insisted. “I’ve putted well in periods this year. There have just been times where I haven’t held that many.

“But I still feel like I’ve holed my fair share this year, but you know, I just need to try and be a little bit more consistent.

“I just struggled on the greens. It was either I hit good putts and just didn’t read them right, or sometimes it was maybe a reaction of putts I had hit previously on a couple holes earlier.

“Yeah, I sort of just got into my head a little bit. I held some decent putts. I held a couple of good ones for par. I held a nice one on 12 for birdie but I’m going to need to putt a little bit better over the next three days to have a chance.”

Instead, McIlroy wanted to focus on his game tee-to-green which was as good as it has been at any other point this season.

The Holywood man was accurate off the tee, plotting his way around the course well in the firm conditions, and was firing irons in with dead-eye accuracy from the fairway to back it up.

“(My score) could have been a lot better,” he admitted. “It’s the best I hit the ball in a long time. I put the ball in play, what I needed to do, and drove the ball very well. Iron play was good.

Rory McIlroy tees off at the seventh hole Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“I wouldn’t say I deserved better but it could have been better. I hit the ball very well. I gave myself a lot of chances, which is what you need to do around here.

“You need to put the ball in play off the tee and I was able to do that. And able to do that a lot better than I have done the last few weeks which is positive.”

Just three back, and with the knowledge that there are good scores out there to be had, McIlroy is confident he can push on that extra bit and post a big number on Friday to set a score in the clubhouse.

With the timings reversed, the Northern Irishman will go off in the morning alongside Thorbjørn Olesen and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he grinned. “I like these late/early tee times. I feel like if you do shoot a decent round, you can get back out on the course straightaway in the morning and try to keep the momentum that you have.

“It’s playing like a true links test. It’s firm and fast and you need to think about what you’re hitting off tees and where you land the ball. Hopefully the weather cooperates and it can keep playing like this the next few days.”

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry was downbeat after his round of level par that saw him mix plenty of birdies and bogeys after the turn before slumping to bogeys at the 15th and 18th to take him five shots behind.

The 2009 winner was going along steadily until the final four holes, of which the latter three could be considered birdie opportunities, but he couldn’t take advantage and instead handed two shots back.

“I got a bit frustrated out there and let it get to me a little bit,” he bemoaned. “Try to get out early in the morning. I mean, the scoring is not hectic, is it? Try to get out early in the morning and shoot a score and see what happens.

“I made a few silly bogeys out there, which is what’s been happening. Just very frustrating because I holed a few nice putts for birdie and felt like I was going along nice, and then I had the 3-putt at 15, which was very disappointing.

“But look, could be worse; could be better, obviously, and I’ll give it a go tomorrow.”

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