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The word on the street was that Rory McIlroy was the person who convinced Scottie Scheffler to return to a mallet putter as the World No 1 struggled to find his touch on the greens.

Scheffler promptly put a TaylorMade Spider back in his bag and promptly cruised to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational – his first title since last year’s Players at TPC Sawgrass, where he will return as defending champion this week.

And while McIlroy has since dismissed that particular notion – “It was me trying to talk about myself rather than about Scottie. I didn’t know he was going to put it in the bag and win by five!” – if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that when Scheffler wins one, at least one more soon follows.

And that is bad news for McIlroy, with not only the PGA Tour’s flagship event next up but Augusta on the horizon and the latest battle for the Green Jacket he so desperately craves.

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And Paul McGinley, his captain at the Ryder Cup in 2014, says McIlroy needs to stop being “nice” if he wants to get back in the winners’ circle on the biggest stage.

“The competitors and the tough guys – the Raymond Floyds – you don’t see that in the modern game,” McGinley said during the Golf Channel‘s build-up ahead of The Players.

“Everybody seems to be friends. And I think Rory is at his best when he’s got an edge, and he’s got those pointy elbows. We saw that at the Ryder Cup [in Rome]. It was no coincidence he had his best ever Ryder Cup there.

“The thing about Rory is he’s such a nice guy, and when he’s asked a question, he gives such an honest answer, but sometimes that gives an edge to your competitor.

“Tiger Woods was so guarded in that instance. He would never give David Duval a boost up and say how great a player he was, or Ernie Els, or Vijay Singh, his real contemporaries at that stage. You’ve got to keep the foot down!”

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Turning his attention to the Ryder Cup, McGinley added: “Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on, and we always feel that we have an edge but you never want to let the American team know what we’re doing.

“And I don’t think you should be any different when you come out here on tour.

“Yes, you can be friends with them, but don’t give them an edge. Napoleon had a great line about that – [‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’] – and maybe I’ve got a hard-nosed feeling about it, but golf is a very, very tough game. It’s a selfish game. I would like you to keep those little nuggets to yourself.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, has suggested its time for a change at the PGA Tour.

While the four-time major champion says he is behind commissioner Jay Monahan, he thinks the organisation needs to reverse its structure in order to bring back the waning fans.

“This is the problem with a members’ organisation – things are created for the members,” he said ahead of his pro-am at TPC Sawgrass. “Then once those things are created, you’ve got to go sell those things to fans, sponsors, media. That seems a little backwards.

“You need to create things for the fans, for the sponsors, for the media, and then you have to go sell that to the players, tell them to get on board with that, because if they get on board and we’re all part of the business now, if the business does better, we do better.

“That seems pretty simple to me.”

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Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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