Ever since Rory McIlroy burst onto the golf scene as a fresh-faced 17-year-old at the Masters, the kid from Northern Ireland has been put under a microscope -- every swing, putt and on-course decision scrutinized and overanalyzed.
When you're one of the top golfers in the sport, having your game scrutinized comes with the territory. But ever since McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open in record-setting fashion, things have been different for the 23-year-old.
Aside from the added media attention at every tournament, the big difference is the amount of attention his off-the-course relationship with tennis star Carolina Wozniacki has received -- especially in the last few months.
Coming off a T-60 at the Open Championship -- his fourth straight major finish outside the top 25 -- he has one final major start to turn things around, but as fellow countryman Graeme McDowell noted during a recent visit on Golf Channel's Morning Drive, his recent struggles may have something to do with the amount of time he's spending in-between starts traveling to watch Wozniacki in tournaments, instead of working on his game.
"There's no doubt, all the travelling is wearing him down a little bit and we are seeing a little bit of fatigue," McDowell said on the Golf Channel yesterday as he co-hosted the Morning Drive show.
"But he's a fit kid and he's a young kid and he has all the talent in the world. It is only a matter of time [before he comes back]."
Following his second straight missed cut earlier this year, McIlroy admitted he needed to focus on his game; however, we've yet to see results on the course. Instead, it's been more photos -- like the one above of McIlroy watching Wozniacki during an Olympic training session -- of the two lovebirds together off the course, smiling and looking incredibly happy.
They're the epitome of young love, two kids in their twenties wanting to spending every waking minute together. I get that. However, when you've been in the kind of funk McIlroy's been recently, you have to wonder if he's ever going to cut back on the traveling and re-focus on his game.
The fact of the matter is, he needs to be smart about how he spends his time in-between events. When you're 23 years old you feel like you can do anything, but traveling that much during off weeks can take a toll -- especially when you're doing it over an entire season.
"He's very happy with his personal life and Caroline is a great girl," McDowell said. "He will be okay. He's had a tough 12 months. Let's be honest, the boy's in love. He's crazy about her. It's not a bad problem to have."
It's definitely a great problem to have, but when you're one of the best golfers on the planet, you need to figure out a way to balance your time on and off the course. Hopefully McIlroy figures out how to balance both in the near future.