McIlroy not putting well enough to win next week’s Masters, says Begay

Bernie McGuire

Notah Begay III (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy is not putting well enough to win next week’s Masters.

That’s the blunt observation from former Tour player and now respected TV analyst, Notah Begay.

Begay, who turned 50 last September, is one of a handful of Native American golfers to have competed on the PGA Tour, and brilliantly winning four times in an 11-month spell from the last week in August 1999 to the first week of July, 2000.


Though he’s more famous on the golf course for an achievement in 1998, when he shot a score of 59 in the second round of the Nike Tour Dominion Open.

Begay is also a close friend of Tiger Woods and since swapping his golf clubs for a microphone in 2013, he’s become a respected analyst with the Golf Channel and NBC Sports. Much akin to Ireland’s Paul McGinley, when Begay speaks, those who know their golf usually listen.

It’s why his comments in relation to McIlroy’s putting, and speaking yesterday on a NBC Sports Zoom hook-up with members of the American golf media, are interesting to read.

It was a simple question – what did Begay think of McIlroy’s chance to win not only a first major in nine years but a maiden Masters?

“I watched two or three of his matches last week,” said Begay. “I don’t think he’s putting well enough right now. Now, he put a new putter in play. He did see some signs of life in his putting at times.

“But I think that is going to be the singular key. Everything else from the tee to the green is top shelf. There’s no question he is playing as good as anybody in those key areas. But there were just some key putts in certain situations at critical times in the match, and they weren’t difficult putts.

“I don’t know if he just wasn’t quite — stroke wasn’t feeling right. I know he had changed the way he was lining up his putts. He was using a line on top of his ball for the first time in an effort to possibly get more athletic when, in fact, I felt like it made him less athletic.

“It made him less reactive and a little too mechanical, methodical, however you want to characterize it. But that’s going to be it.”

McIlroy revealed ahead of last week’s final edition of the WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship that he packed a Scotty Cameron Tour-Only 009-M into his bag.

Of course, it begs the question if there was no issues with McIlroy’s putting there would not be this continual focus, now over many years, on the shortest club in his bag.

“As far as Rory is concerned, he’s got to find just a little bit of magic in the putter, because the core ingredients to winning major events haven’t changed,” Begay added.

“I know power is what we fixate on because it’s fun. Home run hitters, we love to watch because they’re fun. We could name the last few home run leaders in Major League Baseball, but you probably couldn’t name who led the league in batting percentage. It’s just fun.

“But yeah, it’ll come down to putting a little bit above his normal average. Last week he was ranked 175th in strokes gained putting, and he’s still eighth in strokes gained total, which tells you how good everything else in his game is.”

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