After missing the cut last week at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy needed a change — something, anything. McIlroy was tinkering around with his putting during practice over the weekend and decided that he was going to try putting the left-hand low with his grip into competition for the first time since the early days of turning pro in 2008.
He initially revealed to the world that this might be a possibility by posting a picture on Instagram with the cross-handed putting grip and confirmed that it was indeed the case during his press conference at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Wednesday.
“It’s a drill that I’ve been doing for awhile because I feel like my left hand sort of controls my putting stroke and that’s the sort of lead hand for me, and I felt like over the past few weeks, my right hand was becoming a little bit too dominant,” said McIlroy.
“Practiced over the weekend just with left below right and it felt really, really good. I’m going to give it a try this week and see where we go with it. But it felt really, really good. Roll of the ball is really good. The contact is much better, and it really just takes my right hand out of it.
“And that’s really what I wanted to do, because — and everything that I have done in my putting the last few years is all to try and lead with the left hand and really just have the right on there as more of a guide than anything else.
“But I felt like my right hand was becoming a little bit too active in the stroke. So this is a perfect way to sort of deactivate that, and I really just feel like I’m controlling the putting stroke with my left hand only.”
McIlroy, the world no. 2 ranked player, currently ranks 189th in the PGA Tour’s strokes gained putting stats. (So, really, it can’t get much worse.) He plans on sticking with the grip for at least all four rounds at Trump National Doral.
“I feel like it’s something I’m going to stick with regardless of what the outcome is tomorrow or this week or next week,” said McIlroy. “I really do feel like it helps me put a stroke on it that I want to. It’s a great feeling. I feel like it gives my putting stroke a bit more of a better rhythm, as well, a better flow.
“Yeah, look, if it doesn’t work right from the get-go tomorrow, you’re not going to see me on Friday morning putting conventional again. It’s something I’m going to stick with for a while.”
Not that this has any correlation with anything, except me wanting to share the coincidence, but after a poor putting round last Saturday at the nearby Palmer Course at PGA National, a colleague, who has witnessed what a terrible putter I am, suggested that I try putting cross-handed, so I was planning on attempting it for the first time since another lifetime. You see, PGA Tour pros, they’re just like us!
McIlroy also said he missed a couple of putts last Friday at the Honda that he felt before he even made contact with the ball.
“I was sort of, you know, playing around with a few different grips on the putting green over the weekend. This one felt more natural to me because I’ve done it before and I do it quite a lot when I’m just practicing in drills, as well. I thought, why not give it a go.
“I sent JP (Fitzgerald, my caddie,) and (my manager) Sean (O’Flaherty) a couple of videos yesterday and said I’m going with it. I said I’m going to stick with it and go with it. It’s felt good, so we’ll see how it holds up tomorrow.”
In other words, he’s stroking it so poorly that he’s almost desperate and will try anything for at least four rounds to hopefully find some confidence on the greens with this method.
Jordan Spieth, who is largely considered the best putter on the planet, putts using the cross-handed technique with his grip, as well. He learned to putt with a conventional grip, but then switched within the first year of learning how to play golf.
“I’ve kind of messed around with both, and I felt left-hand-low was very solid for me on shorter length putts, but my speed control was off, which is normally what people have a tough time getting adjusted to with it, just because it’s unnatural,” said Spieth, who is ranked no. 1 in the world.
“But for me, I do so many things with my left hand; I throw, shoot. I have a lot of feel with my left hand. I was a quick learner with judging speed, and I think it’s advantageous for me to putt left-hand-low, given the kind of control I have with my left hand and holding that left wrist kind of more square and just putting a good stroke on it.
“The reason, yeah, that would be the reason I switched. I just started having better control with my speed. And then I started to trust it more when the pressure was on. Main reason I switched, when I did conventional, it was very unnatural for me to square my shoulders. I just kind of kept it to where it would be open so I would have a tendency to kind of come over the top of the putt and hit it over my arm line, and putting left-hand-low squared everything up.”
Spieth, along with McIlroy and Jason Day, will tee off together on Thursday at 11:32am. The Big Three together at last (for the second time ever)!