Gullane, United Kingdom – Tiger Woods had some words of comfort for Rory McIlroy on Tuesday, telling the struggling Northern Irishman that he endured a similar form slump early in his career.
The 37-year-old American and the 24-year-old McIlroy have had contrasting seasons so far, with Woods winning four tournaments and regaining the world number one spot from the USPGA champion, who is winless all year.
The trouble for McIlroy stems from his decision to switch equipment providers, moving from Titleist to Nike, the long-time suppliers of Woods.
He missed the cut, as did Woods, in his first tournament of the season in Abu Dhabi and has struggled to get fully to grips with his new clubs, missing the cut once again in the Irish Open, his last tournament before Muirfield.
Woods though said that such changes took time to absorb, especially for a player as young and developing as McIlory.
“I won a major championship (1997 Masters) my first one out as a professional, and then I proceeded to alter my swing a bit with Butch (Harmon),” he said after completing a third nine-holes of practice at Muirfield.
“And it took me the better part of a year and a half, maybe almost two years before it really clicked in.
“I was getting questioned quite a bit through that era, that stage of my career, why would you do something to that nature? There's a lot of questions of, why would you change something? And do this, do that, and how could you change something that won the Masters by 12?
“And, yeah, I've gone through that, that process. I think that for him, he's going through that right now and he's making some alterations.
“Only he knows it's for the betterment of his game. People obviously speculate and analyse and hypothesise about what he should or shouldn't do, but deep down he knows what he's doing.”
There were words of advice also for McIlroy, who will have a new driver in his bag this week for what will be his sixth British Open campaign, from Nick Faldo.
The Englishman, who has temporarily come out of retirement to play one more time at a course where he won two of his three Opens, believes that the Ulsterman needs to once again fully commit himself to the game.
“You have a window of opportunity, that's my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf. Nothing else,” he said.
“Hopefully, when you retire (in) your 40s, 50s, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So, just concentrate on golf,” advised Faldo, who emphasised that a player needs “100 per cent concentration” on the game, “off the course, practising, as well”. – Sapa-AFP