By Doug Ferguson
AP Golf Writer
DUBLIN, Ohio — Rory McIlroy changed his putting grip in March after his first missed cut of the year.
He changed back Thursday coming off his first victory of the year.
McIlroy gave up on the cross-handed grip he had been using since Doral and went back to his conventional grip at the Memorial, where he opened with a 1-under 71. He figured it would help on fast greens at Muirfield Village, and at Oakmont in two weeks at the U.S. Open.
And he said putting had nothing to do with his victory two weeks ago at the Irish Open, where he took 127 putts over four rounds at The K Club.
“I had 32 putts on Saturday and 31 putts on Sunday,” McIlroy said. “Any other week, you’re not going to be doing too well. I had a really good ball-striking week. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, and that’s what made that tournament.”
McIlroy said he noticed the speed of his putts was a little off with the cross-handed grip, where the left hand is under the right hand.
“I feel like to be coming into golf courses like here, where the greens are really quick, and obviously Oakmont where the greens were ridiculously fast, I felt like to give myself the best chance of having a little bit more feel and a little bit more visualization and stuff, I just needed go back to what I’ve done for most of my career,” he said.
The greens at Augusta National are on the quick side, too, and McIlroy never broke 70 when he tied for 10th.
One reason to change to the cross-handed grip was that it allowed him to square his shoulders. Now, he said he’s paying close attention to his alignment, and he is marking his golf ball with a straight line to help.
“I’ve given left-hand low a go,” he said. “I won a tournament with it. I’m moving on.”
It wasn’t a quick change. McIlroy said he started tinkering with the conventional grip on Friday and it felt “sort of weird” for 30 minutes. Saturday felt better, Sunday even more, and then his first test came on his opening hole at the Memorial.
After driving into a bunker, he got back out to the fairway and hit wedge to 10 feet behind the hole for par. He missed.
“I was probably a little anxious over the first putt, because that’s the first time I’ve done it in competition for a while,” he said. “The birdie putt on 12 sort of settled me down. I felt like I putted pretty well after that.”
That birdie putt was 18 feet down the hill. He also had a long lag putt on the par-5 fifth for a birdie, and his others were in the short range. This was not a perfect day. McIlroy made double bogey on the 16th when his putt spun around the cup and came back at him.
Putting has been vexing for him at times, especially with a fine line between putts going in.
“It’s a mental thing for me, as well,” he said. “But I feel like the way I’m putting, I’m on the right track.”