To call 2013 anything but a disaster for Rory McIlroy would be shortsighted. The 24-year-old came into the season a two-time major winner and a man with a new sponsor and all new clubs, and while the introduction by Nike was a spectacle, it was Rory's golf game that never came out of hibernation.
McIlroy has yet to finish in the top-20 at a major, missing the cut at the British Open after playing himself out of a weekend spot at the Irish Open, and just about everyone with a voice in the game has spoke up about the Next Big Thing and what exactly is wrong with him.
Gary Player is the latest, speaking to My Sporting Life about what he thinks might be the problem with McIlroy. His verdict? Rory's relationship isn't supporting his drive to be the best.
“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.”
Now it isn't a complete slight to Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 10 ranked player in women's tennis and Rory's girlfriend, but it does seem that Player is basically calling out the lack of stability within the two as the problem for McIlroy's struggles.
My problem with this point by Player is that in golf there are so many factors for good or bad play. It can be your relationship, your equipment, your confidence, your golf swing and even just a bad dinner that didn't sit well with you, and while it has been a pitiful season for McIlroy, it isn't as if his game is lost forever.
Personally, the problems with Rory lie in his attitude on the golf course. Who knows if that stems from relationship problems or just not being confident over the golf ball, but the way he has approached the game over the last six months has been negative and damaging. When your head is held high on the golf course, and you bounce around with swagger and confidence you are going to play better golf. If your head is down, you can't figure out what you're doing wrong and every shot feels like it has no chance of ending successfully it's tough to post good scores.
I hope Rory finds his game soon. We've seen him struggle at other times in his career, but normally his swing clicks for a stretch during the season and he wins a couple of times to calm the critics. Now he must find a way to push all this off the course stuff out of his mind and simply go out, try to hit the first fairway and stick the next iron shot close.
Golf is a game that never allows you a true mulligan, just a chance to right your wrongs on the next tee, the next fairway and the next green. Rory has had a forgettable 2013 to this point, but he still has some big tournaments left including the major championship he will be defending next month. So far this season his scorecard has been full of squares. Now might be the time to try and make a few birdies to level everything out.