McIlroy hoping things will fall into place once he sorts out his ‘miss’

Northern Ireland player one of a quartet of Irish players in the field for the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida

For Rory McIlroy the pieces to the jigsaw are not yet falling into place.

"I'm still searching a little bit," said the Northern Irish man following a tied-sixth finish behind Collin Morikawa in the WGC-Workday Championship.

He is hoping to find the missing pieces of the puzzle on the range with the aim to take it with him on to the golf course. Yet his take on it all is upbeat. The jar is half full, with light at the end of the tunnel, if you would.

"I guess if I can come to a World Golf Championship with the best players in the world and not feel like I'm my best and still contend, I guess that's a good sign," said McIlroy, who continues a busy playing schedule at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida, a tournament he won in 2018.


McIlroy is one of a quartet of Irish players in the limited 123-man invitational field: Shane Lowry, another waiting for all of the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place; Graeme McDowell, playing Stateside for the first time since his Middle East Swing on the European Tour which left more questions unanswered than answered about his game, having now dropped outside the world's top-100; and Pádraig Harrington, on an extended run on the PGA Tour.

One of the big positives for McIlroy in the WGC event was an improvement on the greens. The player switched from the TaylorMade spiderback he had been using to a more traditional blade putter.

“If anything I felt good with the putter,” he said, emphasising that his drives off the tee had also improved on previous weeks.

Long irons

The main area of concern as he moves into the Arnold Palmer Invitational and next week's Players, with the US Masters at Augusta next month looming ever closer, was identified as his mid-to-long irons.

“I’ve still got some work to do. I don’t know where my miss is at the minute. There’s lefts and rights in there, which is not ideal when you’ve got trouble on both sides. At least if you have a one-way miss you can sort of play away from it.

“I’ve got a couple of courses coming up in Bay Hill and TPC (Sawgrass) where there’s some water to contend with and some trouble lurking on both sides, so I think a little more work on the range, [try to] take it on the golf course and just feel a little bit more comfortable with it.”

Incidentally, Viktor Hovland’s tied-second finish behind Morikawa in the WGC had the effect of jumping him up Europe’s Ryder Cup qualifying table, and the Norwegian heads the world points automatic qualifiers (the three players head of him would already qualify off the European points table) as things stand. Hovland has also moved to 13th in the updated world rankings.

“I’m playing really solid, it’s cool to play that way,” said Hovland, who has finished 2nd-6th-5th-2nd in his last four outings on tour and who keeps up a busy sequence of tournaments by also playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week ahead of the Players in a week’s time.

Seasonal debut

Meanwhile Leona Maguire will aim to take the momentum of a strong showing on her seasonal debut in the LPGA Gainbridge Championship at Lake Nona, Florida, – where she had a top-20 finish – on to this week's tour stop, the inaugural Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala resort in Florida.

She will be joined in the field by Stephanie Meadow, aiming to bounce back from a missed cut on her seasonal debut.

It is another strong field headed by world number one Jin Young Ko, with Korda sisters Nelly and Jessica – who have claimed the first two tournaments of the new season – looking to maintain winning ways.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times