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Rory McIlroy switches putter mid-tournament at Travelers Championship

That Rory McIlroy-TaylorMade Spider pairing? For now, it was short-lived.

McIlroy put the TaylorMade Spider Tour putter in his bag for the U.S. Open, making his entire set of clubs TaylorMade for the first time since signing a deal with the equipment company last month.

The Northern Irishman’s bag is still all TaylorMade, but with another change in putter.

After a two trying rounds at the Travelers Championship, McIlroy began Round 3 with a new flatstick. No longer is he with his Spider. According to Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, McIlroy is now using a TaylorMade TP Mullen model putter.

Oh, and it gets even more interesting. It appears prior to his round Saturday, McIlroy was trying to figure out what he would use on the greens in Round 3 from several putter options.

Change can be a good thing, but a need for it this quickly is a bit disconcerting.

And it’s not a total surprise if you’ve been listening to McIlroy lately.

Following an opening-round 67 at the Travelers, McIlroy spoke about how much lower the round could have been if some putts had dropped.

“I think I hit the hole five or six times where the ball – I hit good putts and it didn’t go in,” McIlroy said. “A few of those go in, it’s a different story, and all of a sudden you’re shooting something in the low 60s and you’re feeling really good about yourself.

“My tee-to-green game is right where it needs to be. Just a matter of converting the chances I’m giving myself.”

After nothing turned around in a second-round 73 that had McIlroy in danger of missing the cut, it was time for a change.

McIlroy even warned Thursday that he might be moving on from the Spider pretty soon, although he said at the time that he was at least using it through the end of the Travelers.

“I made a decision this week I would give (that putter) one more week and see how it performed,” McIlroy said. “It’s nothing to do with the putter. It’s mostly what I’m doing with it. … Worked a little bit on Tuesday on my putting, and just tried to figure a few things out. Had a phone call with Phil Kenyon, on Monday, as well, just to figure out where we go from here.”

For McIlroy fans, this is troubling but not too out of the realm with the Northern Irishman.

McIlroy’s perceived weakness has long been with the putter, and his PGA Tour stats back it up. There are four main strokes gained categories the Tour has stats on for several years: off the tee, approach the green, around the green and putting. Since 2009, McIlroy’s worst strokes gained category among those four has been putting all but once. (Note: Some of those years, he had too few PGA Tour rounds for those stats to be officially counted.)

In seasons where the 28-year-old has played enough rounds to be officially counted in PGA Tour stats, McIlroy has finished the year 115th or worse in strokes gained: putting three times.

The other two years elicited finishes of 88th (2012) and 41st (2014). So in five counting seasons, McIlroy has been a below-average PGA Tour putter three times, essentially an average one in another and only well above average in one campaign.

Comparatively, McIlroy’s putting has actually gone pretty well in PGA Tour events in 2016-17. Heading into this week, the Northern Irishman was gaining .341 strokes per round on the greens in Tour events this season. If he had played enough rounds to count in Tour stats, that would rank him 43rd currently.

Whatever McIlroy was doing with his red Spider – used by Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson (who wields a black version of the Spider) – he’s right that something was off.

In two rounds at the U.S. Open, McIlroy ranked 149th out of 155 players in stroke gained: putting. He lost 2.054 strokes putting to the field in 36 holes at the Travelers. It’s safe to say his four rounds with the Spider were a struggle at best.

Can McIlroy get his putting on track with a new TaylorMade flatstick in the bag? Before the switch, he took an optimistic approach.

“I think if I keep working on stuff and working on the right things and believing in it, hopefully it will turn around sooner rather than later, McIlroy said Thursday.

We’ll see if a change in equipment will accelerate that.

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