Rory McIlroy insists he doesn't lose any sleep over criticism
McIlroy recorded 29 putts, and breaking 30 putts in a round for a first time this new PGA Tour season, on route to a second straight Honda Classic two-over par 72 for a four-over tally on the PGA National course.
The bright but very windy conditions have played havoc with the game’s best including the past three Honda champions in Rickie Fowler (71 & 76), Adam Scott (73 & 72) and Padraig Harrington (76 & 76) and with Fowler and Scott scrapping through right on the five-over par mark.
McIlroy capped his day with two birdies, including starting his round from the 10th and holing an 11-footer for birdie.
Though sticking out like a dog’s hind leg was a triple bogey ‘6’ at the par-3 17th or the eighth hole of his round when he found the water guarding the green with a 5-iron shot and then sent his third into a rear greenside bunker.
McIlroy, however, did delight in holing a testy six-footer for par at the last.
“It was another tough day out there with the greens a little firmer and with the wind not making it easy and very much like playing an Open Championship venue but here in Florida,” he said.
“It just seemed that when we had a right-to-left wind the pin would be on the right and then vice-versa, so it was hard to get it close.
“But I was proud to ground it out especially after the ‘6’on 17 and to play a good 10 holes after that, and hole that six-footer on my last was very pleasing.”
Duva, winner of the 2001 Open Championship, is now an analyst on The Golf Channel and along with Chamblee, who won a lowly Tour event in 1998 and then lost his playing card in 2003 to take on a career of generating controversy in front of the camera.
The pair combined to tear shreds off McIlroy’s putting and also putting coach, Phil Kenyon.
“Since, he started working with Phil Kenyon in 2016 and you can see it hasn’t worked,” Chamblee said bluntly.
“Maybe he looks like he’s got a bit too much tension in his setup, he looks a little too bent over to me. Maybe he looks a little too wooden and carries the grip end a little bit more towards the hole.
“All of those things certainly stand out to me but he kind of looked that way in 2011, 12, 13, 14 as well – but he was a better putter then and he’s a worse putter now. So at some point you need to ask yourself, what do I need to do differently?
“He’s been working with the same guy for two years and these are big years – the prime of his career – and he’s letting things slide away because he’s missing a lot of makeable putts.”
Duval added: “It seems like there’s still too much pull and drag. If you look at the freedom of Tiger and Rickie – it’s a beautiful stroke and a beautiful release.
"It just seems so mechanical, so forced. The freedom and beauty with which he swings a golf club and drives the ball, it doesn’t match. Something’s just a little bit off."
McIlroy responded directly to the criticism.
“My putting feels good. I think probably I'm pretty sure I was strokes gained today on the greens,” he said.
Rory McIlroy is four-over par heading into the weekend
“I held some nice ones when I needed to. It was nice to hole that sort of 6-footer at the last to sort of guarantee being in for the weekend.
“I feel after the last couple of weeks in California on the poa annua, I started to second guess myself with reads and lines. Just a little more commitment, a little more trust over the last couple days.
“So, it’s not like I am going home losing sleep, geez, no,” he said.
“Not at all. I think I've made, as I said, I've made big strides in my putting, and I'll have days like I have yesterday where I might lose a stroke to the field but I'll have days like today where I probably gained over a shot on the field.
“I feel good about it.
“Mechanically it's much better than it has been, and it's just, again, it's more of a mind-set and being committed and trust what I'm doing out there.”
American Luke List (66) enjoyed the early clubhouse lead at four-under par.
European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood, and in windy conditions more like his beloved Southport, posted a 68 to be in a group just one shot off the lead at two-under par.