ORLANDO — No one should get the sense that there is an ounce of panic in the Rory McIlroy camp as it pertains to the one area of his game that could keep him from winning the career grand slam. Of course, when we put it like that, it seems like a perfect time to panic.

As the Masters draws closer, McIlroy’s putting stroke is going to come under more scrutiny. Mainly, it appears, by McIlroy himself.

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The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, who needs only a green jacket to complete the slam, has been spending extra time on the practice putting green here at Bay Hill Club—as he did last week at the Cognizant Classic and two weeks before that at Riviera Country Club in the Genesis Invitational. Oftentimes, Golf Channel analyst Brad Faxon is looking over his shoulder, trying to help smooth out the rough edges.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler gets a lot of attention for his struggles on the greens, and that only stands to reason when the guy is a ball-striking machine but ranks 144th this season on the PGA Tour in strokes gained/putting. But here’s the thing: McIlroy, No. 2 in the world and the tour leader in strokes gained/off the tee, is ranked even lower, at 150th.

How in the heck are the game’s top two players, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, so thoroughly ordinary with a putter in their hands? Or, to put it another way, how are they ranked as the top two players with the touch of Roberto Duran? Manos de piedra!

McIlroy worked until dusk on Thursday with Faxon hovering and was planning more work after Friday’s second-round 70 that left him at one-under 143 and six strokes behind the sixsome tied for the lead—one of whom is Scheffler. McIlroy broke out a blade putter and put his mallet aside.

“I don’t know what the stats look like, but it definitely felt a little better out there,” said McIlroy, who should have felt like he was appreciably better. Because his stats showed that he led the field in strokes gained at plus 3.157 and needed only 23 putts. Of course, that stat might be skewed by the fact he hit only eight greens in regulation.

On Thursday, McIlroy applied putter to ball 32 times and lost 1.437 strokes on the greens.

“I worked on a couple of little things,” he said. “Sort of sometimes with the mallet, because it is so much easier to start it on-line, you get a little lazy. So, I brought the blade out last night just to hit a few putts to sort of get a feel of what I need to do to get the ball to the start on-line with a real putter.”

He laughed at himself right then.

“Yeah, so worked a little bit on that,” McIlroy added. “A little bit of sort of transition work from sort of back swing to through swing in the stroke.”

It’s not that McIlroy is a bad putter. A bad putter doesn’t have as much success as he’s had—24 PGA Tour wins, 10 more international titles and several stints atop the world ranking. But he isn’t always the most inspired putter. It makes a difference.

McIlroy is working hard to fix the technical aspects of the stroke. That’s not the worst idea. Confidence has to come from somewhere.

“Sometimes I can let the putter rise up a little bit too much on the way through, and then I can catch the ball sort of more on the equator, rather than like more of a level,” he explained. “Like, when I strike a good putt, it almost feels like the ball comes out of the top of the face instead of the middle of the face. So, yeah, focused a little bit on strike, a little bit on just that sort of transition.”

There’s more, including an awareness of his right arm position, “right-sided stuff,” as he called it.

This guy kills it off the tee with a swing that most players want to have more desperately than their next breath, but, like Scheffler, watching a beautiful ball flight isn’t as enjoyable as seeing that dang thing drop into the hole. So they work and sweat … and sweat some more. The agenda is rather simple.

“It’s just about making a few more putts,” McIlroy said.

Actually, a few more at the right time is really what it’s all about.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com