McIlroy, of course, is currently dating star tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and his comments about Rory's personal life have unsurprisingly stirred some discussions.
Player, 77, held nothing back on the topic, praising McIlroy's pure ability but questioning his work ethic and dedication. At the heart of those latter issues, Player cited McIlroy's inability to keep his eye on the prize, instead turning his attention to love.
More specifically, to Wozniacki:
I love Rory McIlroy, he’s got talent like you can’t believe but I was quite perturbed when I saw him win the US Open and then the next tournament that he played was one month later...You can’t do that. What he should have done was take a week off after winning the US Open to settle down and then play two tournaments and then the Open. You’ve got to prepare properly.
When you’re in love as a young man naturally golf seems to take second place for a while. It’s natural. Love is still the greatest thing that ever happens in our lives. But the thing is for a man like Rory with talent galore he’s got to make sure he has a woman like I’ve got, who has been married [to me] for 56 years, that has only encouraged me to do well and made sacrifices.
He’s got to be intelligent and find the right wife. If he finds the right wife, if he practices and if he’s dedicated, he could be the man.
Player accurately depicted the inconsistent focus of an individual in love, but McIlroy's struggles are rooted significantly deeper than whom he's dating.
I'm no therapist, but everyone who has ever been involved with a significant other knows that attempted displays of affection can conflict with one's focus in other areas. Whether you're celebrating your anniversary with a dinner instead of writing a college essay or requesting days off from work for a weekend away, it's what comes with being in love.
With that being said, love isn't to blame for McIlroy shooting 12 over par at the 2013 British Open. Love isn't the reason that McIlroy shot 14 over par at the 2013 U.S. Open.
If it is, then it must also be the reason he won the 2012 PGA Championship, as he confirmed he was dating Wozniacki back in August of 2011.
There's no question that off-the-field distractions exist, and Tiger Woods would candidly tell you just that if he weren't too dedicated of a competitor to admit it. With that being said, McIlroy going from the hot new thing to an afterthought is not a product of his relationship with Wozniacki.
And if it is, Player must know some juicy details that have yet to come to light.
The truth is, McIlroy has displayed flashes of brilliance, but his struggles aren't related to his personal relationships. Instead, he's struggling with a different form of commitment.
A commitment to his craft.
The issue for McIlroy is what happens once he's on the course, as his mistakes often stray closer to a loss of focus more so than a lack of preparation. The latter could be a factor, but let's evaluate the facts.
McIlroy hasn't been consistently horrendous—he's failing because mental lapses seem to get the best of him mid-tournament.
During the 2013 Masters Tournament, McIlroy posted a score of two-over par to finish 25th overall. The further you dig, however, the more clear it becomes that it wasn't a two-over type of performance that McIlroy gave as a whole.
He posted rounds of 72, 70 and 69 but fell victim to a dreadful 79 in Round 3 to reach his disappointing finish.
This wasn't an example of Wozniacki making an appearance in the third round, asking to read through his text messages and throwing McIlroy off of his game. Chances are, it wasn't an example of him reminiscing over the mojitos they shared the night before either.
It was cracking under the pressures of fame and expectations.
McIlroy followed the Masters with consecutive top-10 finishes before again faltering in back-to-back major events. This displays just how serious McIlroy's struggles have become, as his issue is not winning when the lights aren't shining quite as bright.
It's performing on the grandest of stages that makes him crumble.
When you're labeled as the player poised to take over as the next best in the world, it's understandable to struggle with the burden of expectation. Seeing as McIlroy saw his rise as Woods found his temporary demise, he faced something no active golfer in the world has ever experienced: He had to take the torch from the most dominant player of our generation.
McIlroy may be lacking the necessary focus to maintain his perch amongst the elite, and Wozniacki could be a reason for it. With that being said, there are deep-rooted issues in McIlroy's approach, and they have more to do with facing expectations than they do finding love.
What else could we expect from a 24-year-old global superstar?