Rory McIlroy admits his game is stuck in neutral in his last competitive start before the Open, but believes he would “win every week” if he can start firing on all cylinders.
Tournament host McIlroy could only manage a third round of 72 in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin to end his slim chances of winning the title for a second time in three years.
The four-time major winner has been pleased with his long game all week but continued to struggle on the greens as he carded four birdies and four bogeys to remain one under par.
“I’m just sort of stuck in neutral this week and hopefully can finish off with a good one tomorrow,” McIlroy said.
“I think it’s almost to the point where you need to start caring less about whether the putt goes in or not and just make a good stroke. If it goes in, great, and if it doesn’t, it’s not really a different result than you’ve had the last few holes.
“Tee to green has been really good. I could take my tee-to-green game straight to the Open in a couple weeks’ time and be happy where that is. It’s just a matter of being a little more efficient and taking my opportunities when I give myself them, be just a little more efficient with my scoring.”
McIlroy, who will not contest the Scottish Open next week, won the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this season with the best putting statistics of his PGA Tour career.
And asked what would happen if he could combine this week’s ball striking and his putting at Bay Hill, the 29-year-old added: “I would win every week I played. Simple as that. If I had 100 putts every week I played and hit the ball halfway decent, I’d win every week.”
Francesco Molinari won his first PGA Tour title with a convincing eight-shot victory at the Quicken Loans National in Maryland.
The 35-year-old entered the final day level at 13 under with Mexican Abraham Ancer, but two birdies on the front nine saw him pull away from the joint overnight leader.
He then went on a stunning run after the turn, with a 50ft eagle on the par-five ninth sparking him to pick up six shots in five holes before parring his way home for a 62.
The victory is the Italian’s first in the United States and further increases his chances making a third Ryder Cup appearance in September.
Speaking of moving into 42nd in the FedEx Cup standings after the victory, he told a press conference streamed on the PGA Tour’s Twitter page: “I came here obviously because I was right on the bubble in the FedEx and I wanted to gain a better position, so I guess job done.”
He added: “It was (a big risk), but the risk on the other side was I was 123rd on the FedEx Cup. When you play two tours, you need to balance the two things.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, I thought until the last minute whether to go to France or to come here but seems like it was the right choice in the end.”
Molinari finished at 21 under, eight shots clear of American Ryan Armour and 10 ahead of Tiger Woods.
The 14-time major winner fired a closing 66 to record his third top 10 in 11 events this season since returning from injury.
Alex Noren will turn his attention to the Open Championship after staging a remarkable fightback to claim the HNA Open de France title.
Going into Sunday’s final round, the Swede found himself seven shots off the lead, but birdies at the 16th and 17th holes helped him card a 67 to set a target of seven-under-par which ultimately proved beyond the field at Le Golf National in Paris.
That completed a 10-under-par weekend for Noren, who saw American Julian Suri’s challenge dissolve when he found water with his second at the 18th and emerged with a double-bogey six.
He told Sky Sports: “On a course like this, anything can happen and I was just trying to get to six, seven, eight under. I thought that could get you into a play-off.
“The feeling of the birdie on 17, I really wanted that. You always want that and finally, I made one of those when it really matters.
“It’s unbelievable. I never thought I was going to win. It’s a tricky golf course. The first two days were really tough for me and I played a lot better on the weekend.
“It’s not the way you want to see your opponent come in, but we all fight our there and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I feel very happy right now.”
Noren’s second Rolex Series title could hardly be better timed with the Open less than three weeks away.
He said: “The Open has been the best major for me result-wise. I’m going to have a week and a half of good practice and see what I can do.”