Nick Faldo thinks Rory McIlroy should focus more on golf and less on his personal life. It turns out Jack Nicklaus agrees.
Several months ago, Rory's buddy Tiger Woods suggested the 24-year-old get his finger out from a southern area of his anatomy and get back to playing his brand of golf.
More recently, Tiger has suggested that everyone, including Faldo, needs to back off Rory.
On Wednesday, McIlroy defended himself and addressed Faldo's criticism that he isn't working hard enough at his craft.
"He said I should be at the course nine to five," McIlroy told reporters on the eve of the 142nd British Open at Muirfield, per Reuters (h/t Yahoo! Sports).
"I actually was on the range at 6:15 (yesterday) and got out of the gym at 6:15, a 12-hour day compared to his eight-hour day."
Faldo's comments leading up to the British Open and all the talk that has stemmed from it this week is just additional static McIlroy has endured during a confounding slump that undoubtedly has him hearing voices in his head.
But the words are not his own, and the advice is neither productive nor therapeutic for a golfer struggling mightily with equipment, confidence and swing consistency.
It also doesn't help that the public comments about McIlroy’s now 11-month-long winless streak have come from some of the biggest names in the sport. They have been published across mainstream and social media outlets just as the state of Rory’s game and his once-rising star have dimmed significantly.
As the world’s top-ranked golfer, McIlroy made a now-infamous $200 million switch from Titleist to Nike in January, a mere five months removed from his second career major victory at the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island.
Since the change, not only has McIlroy failed to win a tournament, but he has also suffered through inconsistent play, very public missteps and poorly considered comments that have opened him up to considerable criticism and second-guessing.
Most recently, Faldo, a six-time major winner and CBS and Golf Channel commentator, opined that McIlroy needs to focus more on golf and less on other outside pursuits.
“You have a window of opportunity,” Faldo remarked, as reported by The Score. “That’s my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have say 20‑year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf, nothing else. Hopefully when you retire, 40s, 50s, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf.”
Wow. Thanks, Sir Nick. That’s deep advice that will most certainly help Rory this week at Muirfield.
A couple of months before those comments, Tiger suggested the Irishman stop messing around and re-focus himself on winning golf tournaments, albeit in a saltier way. That advice wasn't completely off the mark and was intended to support Rory.
That said, it came just as Woods was taking away McIlroy’s world No. 1 ranking, making it rather poorly timed.
Then, several weeks ago, history’s greatest major champion joined the fix-Rory party while in England to attend a tennis tournament, of all things.
While at Wimbledon, Nicklaus, the most legendary of golfers, who has 18 career majors to his credit, essentially echoed Faldo by suggesting McIlroy lacks focus.
Call it bad icing on the rather bitter cake that has been the first seven months of 2013 for McIlroy.
“He’s been doing sort of other things, and now he’s back and wanting to play golf again, and he’s struggling,” Nicklaus said of McIlroy.
Look, there’s no doubt McIlroy is mired in a terrible slump. He’s struggling with his Nike equipment. He failed to challenge at either the Masters or the U.S. Open this year. He walked off the course at the Honda Classic. He missed the cut in his last start—the Irish Open—heading into Thursday's British Open.
Despite all that, the only voice McIlroy needs to hear and focus on if he wants to end the slump and compete for a first Open Championship title this week is his own.
McIlroy is a two-time major winner and owns six PGA Tour wins in an already stellar career. He’s anything but a cub lost in the woods begging for help.
With all due respect to Faldo and Nicklaus, McIlroy’s issue isn't the time he spends away from the golf course. Rather, the world’s second-ranked player is struggling with a significant, and perhaps ill-conceived, equipment change, and that misery has seeped into his mental and physical approach to the game.
His inability to cobble together consecutive solid rounds and trust his swing when the pressure builds has taken its toll and kept McIlroy from winning as a Nike player the way he did with Titleist.
Considering Woods dealt with the same issues early in his career, he can certainly relate to McIlory.
Given that, Woods has thrown his support behind his friend and competitor heading into the season's third major championship.
“People speculate and analyse about what Rory should or shouldn't do, but deep down he knows what he’s doing,” Woods said, per David Facey of The Sun. “I've gone through that process. He’s going through that right now and he’s making some alterations."
There’s little doubt McIlroy will eventually figure things out and get back to winning tournaments, including majors. It likely won’t happen this week, but better times are ahead.
He’ll get there on his own with the help of his inner circle rather than from people looking from the outside in.
When he does, 2013 will have been a blip on the screen and McIlroy will be basking in the glow of positive opinions and advice rather than the less-than-helpful opinions he’s been hearing of late.
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