“Rory is in a great place right now,” said James Jankowski, a specialist putting coach who is currently working with players on the European Tour.Behind blistering tee shots and gorgeous iron play, McIlroy had one of the best starts to a career in modern golf history. But for years, it has felt like he is being held back by one club: his putter.Inexplicably, the same guy who made driving greens on par-4s feel ordinary could also five-putt at Pebble Beach. “If Rory McIlroy could only putt well,” The Telegraph’s James Corrigan wrote last year, “he would win every week.” Indeed, one of the sport’s most gifted ball-strikers finished the past three seasons 97th, 159th, and tied for 135th in strokes gained per round with the putter. What’s perhaps most remarkable this season, then, is that McIlroy ranks 57th in the metric.He’s sinking 92.9 percent of his putts from 5 feet, which ranks sixth on the tour and is a full 12.2 percentage points higher than last season. He hadn’t ranked higher than 92nd in the metric in the past three seasons. Inside of 10 feet, he’s draining 88.3 percent of his putts, tied for 56th on tour, after finishing 64th last year. He ranked outside of the top 130 in the metric in 2016 and 2017.“Mentally, he seems to be better (this year),” Jankowski said of the man who once screamed, “Who can’t putt?!” at a fan. “Making more important putts and seeming more relaxed about the outcome.”And while those numbers could certainly dip as McIlroy tallies more rounds, he has never putted this well relative to the field at this juncture of the season. And in terms of total true strokes gained, he is doing better than any previous winners had from Jan. 1 until the Masters started. 2013Rory McIlroy13+0.52+1.41T25 2017-0.10+0.18+0.50+1.10+1.65 2014Rory McIlroy12-0.15+2.10T8 True strokes Gained Per Round 2010-0.16+0.01+0.45+0.83+1.41 2009-0.30-0.02+0.37+0.45+1.42 2015Rory McIlroy10+0.26+2.294 2014Bubba Watson16+0.30+2.251 2008Trevor Immelman20-0.91+0.011 2013-0.02+0.06+0.57+0.74+1.04 2006Phil Mickelson23+0.55+2.841 2016Danny Willett8+0.64+1.461 2012Bubba Watson23-0.34+2.151 Source: Data Golf 2019+0.40+0.42+0.97+1.51+2.83 Rory is outdoing himself this yearTrue strokes gained per round in different areas for Rory McIlroy, 2009-19 2005Tiger Woods21+0.20+2.871 2013Adam Scott12+0.18+2.431 2009Angel Cabrera14-0.34+0.171 2019Rory McIlroy23+0.41+3.48? YearPlayerRounds measuredPuttingTotalMasters Finish 2017Rory McIlroy8+0.02+3.02T7 2016-0.15+0.26+0.61+1.38+2.24 2011-0.12-0.09+0.57+1.05+1.94 2010Phil Mickelson25-0.08+1.521 2015+0.02+0.28+0.70+1.27+2.38 SeasonPuttingAround GreenApproachOff The TeeTotal 2010Rory McIlroy10-0.69+0.95CUT McIlroy is in better form than previous Masters winnersHighest true strokes gained per round from Jan. 1 through the start of the Masters for previous Masters winners and Rory McIlroy, 2007-19 2018Patrick Reed23+0.18+1.181 Major-championship season tees off this weekend in Augusta, Georgia, so settle in for some high-definition azaleas, a sweet-sounding Jim Nantz overture and a musky aura of self-importance.The 2019 Masters is not short on juicy questions. In pursuit of his first major victory in more than 11 years, is Tiger Woods about to have a green jacket for every day of the work week? Can Dustin Johnson add the Masters to his list of vanquished tournaments after posting three consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta?1Johnson didn’t play in the 2017 Masters after falling down a staircase. Could this year’s winning putt possibly elicit a more tepid reaction from the gallery than Patrick Reed’s did in 2018?But there is one debate that can be shuttered before it attracts oxygen: The hottest player on the planet is Rory McIlroy, the pint-sized Irishman with bionic power off the tee. No one on any tour is playing better golf than McIlroy.2He leads the PGA Tour in total strokes gained, strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained off the tee, among other valuable metrics. In eight starts this season, McIlroy has a tour-leading seven top-10 finishes, including a win at the Players Championship. Bettors are aware, installing 8-1 odds, the shortest of any player, for the 15-time PGA Tour event champion.A win at Augusta National would make McIlroy just the fourth player in golf’s modern era to complete a career grand slam before turning 30, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.3Joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Bobby Jones completed an in-season grand slam in 1930 at age 28, but that was before the first Masters, when the U.S. and British amateur tournaments joined the open events in both countries as the four majors. And there’s reason to believe this week represents the best opportunity the 29-year-old has had to capture the green jacket that has eluded him.By true strokes gained, which adjusts regular strokes gained for field strength,4True strokes gained appraises the number of strokes better or worse a golfer was in a given round than the average PGA Tour professional in a given season. McIlroy is playing the best golf of his career this season, picking up an average of 2.83 strokes on the field — nearly one full stroke better than his 2018 performance and even more exceptional than his 2014 campaign (+2.56), when he won three tournaments, including two majors. 2011Rory McIlroy8-0.87+1.36T15 2012+0.14+0.31+1.19+1.23+2.49 Source: Data Golf 2018Rory McIlroy15+0.62+1.81T5 2015Jordan Spieth27+0.84+2.551 2011Charl Schwartzel16+0.67+1.491 2009Rory McIlroy12+0.14+1.93T20 2012Rory McIlroy8+0.27+3.24T40 2007Zach Johnson20+0.98+1.281 2004Phil Mickelson23+0.37+2.931 2018+0.15+0.38+0.51+0.91+1.92 2017Sergio Garcia12-0.56+2.231 Strokes Gained 2014+0.36+0.08+0.78+1.52+2.56 2016Rory McIlroy14+0.44+2.12T10 But that will be tested this weekend. Augusta’s sloping bentgrass greens boast nightmare-inducing undulation. Former and current players have described playing on them as “very intimidating,” “the most difficult” and “Mickey Mouse, miniature golf.” Legendary golfer Ernie Els once six-putted to start the tournament and later intimated that he might soon quit the sport. Last year, two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson sent an eagle putt into a greenside bunker. “It embarrasses you,” Charles Coody, who won the tournament in 1971, told Sports Illustrated. “Sometimes you do stuff where you want to walk off and hide.”McIlroy would have been forgiven if he had done just that last year. Trailing Reed by three strokes entering the final round, he logged a 2-over-par 74 and was irrelevant by the back nine. Not trusting his putter, McIlroy told reporters, “made a big difference.”5Nearly half of McIlroy’s 10 highest total-putt performances at majors have come at Augusta.McIlroy is on record, though, not putting too much stock in putting — particularly at the Masters. “At Augusta, you don’t need to putt great,” McIlroy said last year. “You need to not waste any shots.” He isn’t alone with that hypothesis — and there’s more evidence pointing to that conclusion.6Draining shots on the green obviously doesn’t hurt a player’s chances, considering that strokes gained while putting drives 35.8 percent of score variation on tour, more than any other shot category, according to research conducted by Data Golf. Mark Broadie, who pioneered the strokes-gained metrics, found that Augusta has the highest three-putt rate of any stop on tour.7From every distance, pros are 80 percent more likely to need three putts to finish at Augusta, Broadie found. However, Broadie also noted that because the greens are so well manicured, players also sink more putts inside of 10 feet at Augusta than anywhere else. The issue, then, is sticking approach shots within a reasonable distance of the flagstick to limit lag putts and mitigate long-range misreads. McIlroy has been doing just that, picking up 0.97 true strokes gained on approach shots, the second best mark of his career. Additionally, if he maintained his current numbers, McIlroy would set a new career best in three-putt avoidance (1.98 percent of putts). The past 15 champions were picking up 0.18 strokes on the field with the putter entering tournament week. McIlroy is picking up strokes at more than twice that rate.Away from the green, precision from the tee box is valuable, to be sure, but the Masters layout doesn’t exactly do any favors for McIlroy’s preternatural power. His 263.2 yards per drive at the Masters is well below his tee-shot averages in recent seasons and his historical averages at golf’s other marquee events. Although he bashes par-5s like you’d expect, he struggles on par-4s, where on average he’s plus-3.6, according to Golf Stats.Rory’s hot start this season has plenty of observers excited, though it’s not at all rare for McIlroy to surge out of the gate. When his past 11 seasons are compared with the pre-Masters performances of the past 15 Masters champions, McIlroy holds the top three marks in true strokes gained entering the tournament. But his 2019 performance has been prodigious.That McIlroy’s sensational play is setting him up for a potential historic win is made all the more riveting by the baggage he carries into the Georgia pines. In 2011, the then-21-year-old held a four-stroke lead after 54 holes before stumbling to the finish line with a final-round 80, giving him a 15th-place finish. It was the highest closing round by a 54-hole leader in 56 years and is still tied for the fourth-highest round of McIlroy’s professional career. “Rory needs to fly very quickly to Northern Ireland,” broadcaster Nick Faldo said as McIlroy tapped in the final bogey of the day. “And I’m sure that his whole country will give him a big hug.”But eight years later, is this finally when he puts it all together and earns the time-honored tradition of an uncomfortable post-victory interview in Butler Cabin?“The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I’m comfortable saying that,” McIlroy said last year. “I don’t care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship, it is the biggest tournament in the world. It is the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype. The most amount of everything is at Augusta.”
The combination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in 2019 may have exorcised the ghosts of the party’s disastrous 2004 ‘India Shining’ campaign.Twitter/IANSExit polls have predicted the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power, sending the markets into a tizzy. The huge majority expected for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has spurred the stock markets to new highs. Traders hope that the prospect of the installation of a market-friendly government will bring back the foreign portfolio investors (FPI) that had taken flight during the six-week-long seven-phase election process.The markets are likely to price in the euphoria ahead of the May 23 counting and there is a chance of the volatility peaking. The election outcome is likely to emerge only in a day or two after the counting begins because of the delay in matching the VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) slips with the EVM (electronic voting machine) numbers.The exit polls predict that the NDA could win between 267 and 354 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In contrast, the BJP-led NDA won 336 seats in 2014, as against 60 of the main opposition Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that is projecting Rahul Gandhi as its prime minister candidate. The mish-mash of regional parties and the left outfits won 147 seats in 2014.But the political observers have been right in cautioning the market to temper the euphoria that the exit polls have triggered. They cite the euphoria created by the exit poll predictions of 2004 after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP mounted the India Shining campaign. Most major exit polls then suggested that the NDA would come back to power with a wide lead over the Congress-led alliance. Congress president Rahul Gandhi would fervently want to draw parallels between 2004 and 2014 Lok Sabha election campaigns.Of course, the figures that the surveys threw up then were much moderate than the 2019 exit polls. Only Sahara DRS and Star News Cvoter surveys placed NDA beyond the half-way mark of 272 seats. Sahara DRS poll projected a tally of 278 seats for NDA against 181 for the UPA, while Star News CVoter survey gave the NDA 275 seats and UPA 186. In fact, the average of five major surveys predicted 260 seats for the BJP-led front and 188 for the UPA. However, the NDA ended up with 189 seats against the UPA’s 225. The rest is history with two stints of Manmohan Singh as prime minister until the 2014 Modi wave.Some experts point out that exit polls would be closer to the actual results in a less emotionally charged election. This is because exit polls often reflect the voters’ perception of the scenario rather than his or her actual preference. In an atmosphere that is extremely vitiated by the social media and massive campaigns, there is all the more a chance of the voters’ perception being influenced by the last message that got imprinted in the memory.Therefore, veteran traders suggest caution while trading the election news with tight stop-loss settings. The market could see some profit-taking ahead of the results on Thursday, especially after the single day surge of more than 1,400 points to close at 39,352 points of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) benchmark Sensex and 400 points of the National Stock Exchange benchmark Nifty to close at 11,828 points taking the benchmark indices to shouting distances of all-time high points.Of course, 2019 is not exactly 2004 and the combine of Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah is not that of Vajpayee and LK Advani. The BJP’s vote share has surged since 2004 and there is no denying that the party has spread into more areas with strong organizational buildups. Therefore, the exit polls this time could hit the bull’s eye.