How Rory McIlroy Needs to Adjust Mindset After 2013 British Open Catastrophe

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2013

A year ago, Rory McIlroy was dominating the sport of golf and looked like a worthy successor to Tiger Woods as the best golfer in the world.

This year, McIlroy is anything but special. He's still ranked as the No. 2 golfer in the world, but his game is in brutal shape as his two-round stay at the British Open indicated.

McIlroy has been slumping most of the year, but a visit to Muirfield for the British Open could have been the springboard to a second half of success in the golf world. If McIlroy took his three steps up the ladder of the springboard, walked to the end and jumped off, he forgot to take the heavy rocks out of his pocket.

McIlroy does not have any known physical problems. He is 24 years old and he should be approaching his peak years as a golfer. He has demonstrated his ability on the course as well as his strong mental game in winning major tournaments in 2011 and 2012.

His ability did not disappear. However, his mental approach has fallen apart. He admitted as much himself when he was interviewed by a British newspaper, The London Express.

“I feel like I’ve been walking around brain dead out there for the last couple of months,” said McIlroy.

“It’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental. I just need to concentrate but sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious."

When a player goes into a slump or there is a noticeable dip in his game, the critics are going to come out and suggest changes.

In McIlroy's case, the biggest critics have been NBC analyst Johnny Miller and six-time major champion Nick Faldo. Per The San Francisco Chronicle, Miller pointed to McIlroy's relationship with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki as a distraction, while Faldo said in a press conference that McIlroy needs to step away from anything that is not golf-related. That means business, charity or relationships.

The two critics may or may not be right about the particulars, but it is clear that something is bothering McIlroy and keeping him from dominating his sport. At the very least, if McIlroy was at his best, he would be battling Tiger Woods for top honors in the sport.

That's not happening and McIlroy's form is simply awful. In shooting 79-75 and failing to make the cut in the British Open, none of his vast skills were on display. His ability to drive the ball off the tee, his iron play, his approach shots and his putting have all been substandard.

Faldo is right in that McIlroy must concentrate on his game and continue to hone his skills. He cannot worry about outside distractions that seem important but really are not.

Perhaps McIlroy needs to head to the practice tee with his respected swing coach Michael Bannon as he prepares for the PGA Championship. He won that tournament last year, so he will defend his title.

But if he does not have a miracle recovery at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. in early August, he'll need to take some time off, get his concentration back on his game and start preparations for a major comeback in 2014.

He needs to get his mind right and his game back together.