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Rory McIlroy's new putting stroke looks familiar

DORAL, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy was worried.

Not scared, not frightened. Just worried.

In the days leading up to this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship, he was changing the grip on his putting stroke, and that got him thinking about the potential backlash.

Let's not confuse the message here: He wasn't worried about how switching to a left-hand-low style would negatively impact his performance. He'd been working on this method in practice sessions for a while and had confidence in his ability to hole more putts in competition.

No, he was worried about inevitable comparisons to a certain fellow superstar.

"It's funny, I've been playing it around in my head a little bit about making the switch," he revealed. "And the one thing that I was sort of worried about was the 'McIlroy copying Spieth.' That was my big thing. That was the whole thing for me."

It takes a confident golfer to make such a switch in the prime of a burgeoning career. It takes a confident person to admit such insecurities in a public setting.

Each of those descriptions fit McIlroy perfectly, though -- as does the new putting style he has copied from Jordan Spieth.

As playing partners once again during Friday's second round, Spieth had a front-row seat to just how well his left-hand-low brother-in-arms could roll the rock using his new stroke.

McIlroy dropped eight birdies in a 7-under 65 that moved him within two strokes of leader Adam Scott entering the weekend. And more importantly, he needed just 23 total putts for the day.

"I felt like when I put my right hand on the grip, to square my shoulders up, my right hand got stronger and stronger -- that's why it got a little bit more active," he explained after the round. "So to be able to put your hands on the grip and know your shoulders are perfectly square before you even try to hit a putt, knowing that your fundamentals and everything are set, it makes it much easier to not think about that and rock your shoulders and make a good stroke."

That doesn't mean the move is a magic elixir that will lead to instant success -- even if his second round tried to prove otherwise.

McIlroy's 23 putts were 10 fewer than the previous day. He was just one putt from the lowest single-round putting total of his career. He made just more than 100 feet worth of putts and ranked fourth in the field in strokes- gained putting.

All of which makes him very dangerous right now.

For a guy who rarely struggles from tee to green, McIlroy needs only to putt just above average to climb the leaderboard.

If that sounds familiar, it's a similar refrain as the guy he's chasing. Scott has overcome the anchored putting ban in spectacular fashion, finishing runner-up two weeks ago, winning last week and leading once again this week.

"You see what Adam's done, and Adam's worked really hard," McIlroy said. "All of us out here, we're good enough to make anything work, as long as you believe in it and you trust it and you work hard enough at it. I think that's the thing. If I wanted to go to the claw, and I spend enough time at it, I could make it work. But this is the one that just feels really comfortable to me."

Even before the tournament rounds started here at Trump National Doral's TPC Blue Monster course, McIlroy insisted this wasn't some quick-fix strategy that would be abandoned if there wasn't an immediate payoff.

Of course, with the Masters Tournament just five weeks away -- the one major keeping McIlroy from becoming the sixth player in history to claim the career grand slam -- this was always going to be a risky proposition.

So far, it's paying off in dividends, even if he tried to downplay the decision.

"I don't think it takes that much courage," he explained. "In my mind, it couldn't really have gotten any worse. So why not make a change, and the change is feeling very comfortable at the minute. As I said at the start of the week, I'm willing to stick with it for as long as I can."

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but McIlroy isn't worried any longer.

No, he's not worried about what everyone will say after he basically copied the style of putting favored by a fellow superstar who won two major championship titles last year.

As for Spieth, he doesn't mind the company.

At one point during their rounds together this week, he sidled up to McIlroy and the two of them discussed the left-hand-low stroke.

Before that conversation ended, Spieth smiled a bit and told him, "You've switched to the dark side, I see."

So far, McIlroy is realizing the power of this dark side.