Rory McIlroy's improved putting inspired by Wayne Rooney 'trigger'
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 21/03/18 11:32am
Rory McIlroy has credited Wayne Rooney as an unlikely source of inspiration for his improved putting display at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
After missing the cut at the Valspar Championship in Tampa, McIlroy worked hard on his game with coach Michael Bannon as well as seeking advice on his putting stroke from former Ryder Cup star Brad Faxon, renowned as one of the best putters on the PGA Tour during his career.
McIlroy then produced the best putting performance of his career at Bay Hill as he landed his first title for almost 18 months, a sensational final-round 64 powering him to a three-shot victory which gave him a huge confidence boost with the Masters just a fortnight away.
But ahead of this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, McIlroy revealed more about his discussions on putting with Faxon which included Everton and former England striker Rooney.
"We were talking about different sports," said McIlroy at his press conference in Austin. "Brad was talking about a free-throw shooter in basketball or he was trying to say even something you relate it to with football back home or whatever.
"We're talking about triggers and how do you start your putting stroke - everyone has different ways to start their swings or strokes. And I said Rooney, before he hits a free-kick or before he hits a penalty, he taps his toe on the ground before he actually starts his run-up. And I sort of noticed it when I shot a Nike commercial with him a few years ago."
McIlroy looked a vastly different player on the greens at Bay Hill as he won for the first time since Arnold Palmer passed away on the eve of the Ryder Cup in 2016, and he is looking forward to building on his improvements as he bids to complete his competitive Masters preparations with a second WGC Match Play title.
"It's good to be back at the Match Play, I've always enjoyed this format and this tournament, whether it was in Arizona, San Francisco or here in Austin," he added. "I feel like I've got a pretty good record. I've got to the final once, I won once. and I got to the semi-final here a couple of years ago.
"So I've had a couple of deep runs in the tournament and hopefully I can do that again this week."
McIlroy will take next week off as he turns his attention to his fourth attempt to complete a career Grand Slam of majors, and he feels a lot more confident over his chances at Augusta National following his big win at Bay Hill.
"Obviously I'm very happy to have my game in this shape going into the first major of the year," said the 28-year-old. "Even if I hadn't won last week, just to see the signs that my golf game was in good shape would be good enough to me knowing that going into Augusta I was ready to play well.
"I've had three goes at winning the Slam, but I'd had maybe 12 or 13 majors before I won my first one. So you could say that the first one was maybe a little bit harder. I just needed a few more chances, but I only get one opportunity a year at Augusta.
"The last three years have gone okay. I've played well, but just not well enough, and hopefully I can put the last piece of the puzzle in there this year and get it done."
McIlroy is the sixth seed in Austin and plays Peter Uihlein in his first group match, followed by clashes with Jhonattan Vegas on Thursday and Brian Harmon on Friday.