putt for dough

Rory McIlroy’s putting advice for Scottie Scheffler: ‘try a mallet’

February 18, 2024

Harry How

We’ve been here before. Over the last year, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler has hit the ball better than anyone on this planet, chipped the ball remarkably well, yet has been among the worst putters on the PGA Tour. The trend continued this week at the Genesis Invitational, where Scheffler ranked second in strokes gained/tee to green, first in SG/around the green and dead last in SG/putting (among the 51 players to play the weekend). He ultimately finished T-10 at Riviera, nine shots behind winner Hideki Matsuyama.

During a week when no one hit the ball better or chipped better, Scheffler made just three putts outside of 10 feet. His week was best encapsulated by the 18th hole on Sunday, where he hit a towering iron shot to 10 feet on one of the toughest holes on the course, only to badly misjudge the speed on the putt, never giving it a chance.

That miss prompted CBS Sports’ Amanda Renner to ask Rory McIlroy—who was joining the telecast after finishing his round—what advice he would have for Scheffler as he works through his putting struggles.

“I've certainly been through my fair share of putting woes over the years, and I finally feel like I've broken through and become a pretty consistent putter,” McIlroy said. He was in a similar position to Scheffler back in the mid-2010s, hitting the ball beautifully but ranking outside the top 100 on tour in putting.

“For me, going to a mallet was a big change,” McIlroy said said after a final-round 70 at Riviera. “I really persisted with the blade putter for a long time, but I just feel like your stroke has to be so perfect to start the ball on line, where the mallet just gives you a little bit more margin for error.

“So, I’d love to see Scottie try a mallet,” McIlroy concluded. “But selfishly for me, Scottie does everything else so well that he’s given the rest of us a chance.”

Over the past couple of years, Scheffler has experimented with a few mallet putters, but has consistently gone back to a more traditional blade style. Over the last few months, Scheffler has been using a putter from Olson Putter Co. that is based off a classic Anser 2 model. (He has also started working with renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon to improve the mechanics of his stroke.)

Yet based on McIlroy’s putting success upon switching to a mallet, he sees that as Scheffler’s next logical move. To understand why a mallet putting might be preferred, and when amateur golfers should try switching, we asked Best in State teacher and putting coach Bill Smittle.

“A high MOI (moment of inertia) is usually better if you have speed control issues or off-center hits, which tend to go hand in hand,” Smittle says, explaining that mallet putters typically have a higher MOI. “If you have a harder time finding the center of the putter, then a mallet generally will allow your distance control to be more consistent.”

When you miss the center of the face with a blade putter, Smittle says, the face will twist more, and there is a greater loss of energy. Both of those cause distance control issues. Smittle says that if you’re consistently hitting the center of the face with a blade putter but are struggling with controlling your start line, then a mallet is unlikely to help because “typically mallets are harder to square up. But if you already square the face up pretty consistently, but your impact is off, then mallets tend to be a better solution.”

In addition to better speed control on off-center hits, Smittle says improved alignment is another benefit of mallet putters. “Sometimes a mallet has a longer line on it and because of that, sometimes it’s easier to aim. When it’s easier to aim, you get the ball started more on line,” Smittle says.

Smittle encourages golfers to test their performance with both blade and mallet putters to see if they are right for them, but generally, players who struggle with distance control or alignment are good candidates for mallet putters.

Whether Scheffler takes McIlroy’s advice and reconsiders a mallet remains to be seen, but after failing to capitalize on another week of stellar ball-striking the World No. 1 still has plenty of work to do on the greens.