Rory not quite ready for Augusta
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy’s finishing hole at Trump National Doral summed up his week. After knocking his drive into the drink, McIlroy then hit *that* club — yep, his famous 3-iron — into the water guarding the left side of the par-4 18th. He chipped in to post a double-bogey six and finish with an even-par 72 in the final round of the Cadillac Championship.

Despite not playing up to the high standards as the world’s no. 1 golfer, McIlroy managed to place in a tie for ninth for a sneaky top 10. However, his game still needs quite a bit of work if he wants to contend and win next month’s Masters to complete the Rory Slam.

“My game’s just not quite there,” said McIlroy after carding one-under for the tournament. “I’ve got a week off now to try and work on it a little bit. I’m pretty disappointed with how I played overall. I felt it was a little better again today for the most part, but it was bit of a disappointing finish. Just not quite 100 percent.”

McIlroy, who missed the cut in his 2015 PGA Tour debut last week at the Honda Classic, mentioned being tentative with his swing repeatedly over the past two weeks. Although he hit the ball a little better in the final round at Doral, Rory’s still feeling shaky.

“I’m a little bit scared to play certain shots, because I feel like I can’t at the minute,” he said. “So, I’m hitting away from flags, trying to make sure that I’m missing it in the right areas. Just playing quite conservatively — which is very unlike me because of the way I usually play.”

McIlroy only has one start scheduled before the season’s first major — he’s playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time the week after next. He’s not concerned that he needs more competitive rounds under his belt, though.

“I have no concerns about that at all,” he said. “It’s not something I need to play my way out of. It’s just something that I need to stand on the range and beat balls until I feel comfortable with it again.”

However, over the past two weeks, McIlroy has voiced frustration with taking his game from the range to the course.

His greatest concern is being incapable to shape the ball right-to-left, which, in the past, has been something that came naturally to him and gave him an advantage at Augusta National.

“My inability to hit the ball right-to-left isn’t something that you want going into Augusta,” admitted McIlroy. “Something I want to try and work on a little bit.”

In the past couple of years, Rory’s worked on becoming more comfortable hitting the ball left-to-right, which has contributed to his success.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I did so well last year, the last few years, is my ability to get to sort of backright pin positions and hit the ball both ways,” said McIlroy. “But I was always able to do, you know, hit the right-to-left shot at will, and now it’s just a little bit – it’s not quite as easy. And especially with some of those strong left-to-right winds out there, it makes it quite hard.

“So if I’m really trying to draw it, like the ones on 18, I’ll come over it on the right shoulder and come in and it will start left and draw, and that’s the one I’m trying to get rid of.”

McIlroy’s disheartening performance over the past two weeks comes as a surprise given how well he started on the European Tour’s Middle East swing. He kicked off the year with a second-place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and then followed it with a win the next week at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

“(My caddie) JP (Fitzgerald) said to me on the last green, ‘I think we left our game in the desert,'” Rory recounted. “It’s still sort of back there.

“I’m surprised a little bit (with how I’ve played the last two weeks). Just some shots were just very unlike me. Getting the two-way miss, doublecrossing it, hitting it left, or hitting that sort of slicy block out to the right, it’s not like me. If I knew I was missing it one way, it would be a bit easier. But it was just a bit of a struggle this week.”

Regardless of his disappointment, McIlroy does feel a little more confident than he did last week at the Honda.

“I feel a bit better about my game after this week compared to playing two days at Honda,” he said. “I mean, it has not been all bad. It’s a top-10 somehow. But I’ll move on and I’ll practice hard the next sort of – well, I’ll practice hard all week next week and get ready for Bay Hill.”

McIlroy is taking a trip next week to play a few practice rounds at Augusta National with his dad Gerry and some friends, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“I’ll just be trying to hit shots that I need,” said McIlroy. “I’ll be hitting a lot of draws, or trying to hit a lot of draws, anyway. Just playing shots, getting comfortable with the place again.

“You don’t really get Augusta at tournament speed until the week of the tournament, so there’s no reason to be trying  you know, just reacquaint myself, try and play the shots that I’ll need and try to get some visuals going into the next couple weeks.”