There was a time when Rory McIlroy regarded Nick Faldo as the man to guide him to world dominance, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll turn to his former mentor ahead of Thursday’s first round at the British Open.
Faldo’s renowned academy played a major role in the development of a young McIlroy, but the pair now appear to have very differing views on the young Ulsterman’s current career path.
A few short weeks ago, Faldo was highly critical of McIlroy’s switch from Titleist to Nike and all but accused the world number two of selling out for the money.
Now the six-time major winner and TV analyst Faldo has told McIlroy to concentrate solely on golf if he wants to be remembered as one of the game’s truly greats.
His warning comes as McIlroy attempts to rescue a hugely disappointing season at Muirfield, twice the venue for Faldo’s Open triumphs in his own success filled career.
His words may be as timely as they are unwelcome for McIlroy, who has missed the cut at the Irish Open and the European PGA Championship in recent months and counts eighth at the Players Championship as his top finish of the season so far.
Clearly the trauma of his switch to Nike, an ongoing dispute with his Dublin based management company and rumors of problems in his relationship with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki are having an effort on McIlroy’s golf. Faldo clearly thinks so.
Speaking to the media ahead of the British Open, the former champion said, “I actually think it’s a lot going on in his mind. You need 100 percent concentration off the golf course, practicing, as well.
“Most ideal I can think is to go to the club at nine in the morning, hit balls all day long, and leave at five. You have to do that.
“You have a 20-year window of opportunity as an athlete. Concentrate on golf, nothing else. When you retire in your forties, fifties, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it.
“Just concentrate on golf, nothing else. That’s my only words of wisdom to Rory.”
Faldo is also of the opinion that McIlroy’s lucrative $150 million move to Nike may have helped his bank balance but not his golf game.
“Rory very simply messed with a winning formula,” said three time British Open winner Faldo. “He had an equipment company with which he went from rookie of the year to world number one and he thought he could start again.
“As I said from Day One, I tweeted right away when it was announced, this is a dangerous move. People said he can adapt but why should the world Number one be adapting to something new? As we’ve discovered, six months later, he’s still trying putters, still trying drivers. It’s not as easy.
“I was trying to express that we get a millisecond of feel and that’s at impact. If it’s going great, it builds confidence and if it’s suddenly something different to what you’ve been doing, or thinking you’re going to do, that hurts your confidence.
“I hope he hasn’t gone too far that it’s damaged his confidence.”
McIlroy has yet to formally respond to Faldo’s public statements on his career, but he did try another new driver during a practice round at Muirfield on Sunday and declared his fondness for it after a four over par 75.
The Co. Down native said, “I went over to London after the Irish Open, tried a few drivers with different settings and as soon I hit it I said, ‘This is the one.’ It feels great.”
Speaking after the practice round, WeeMac also claimed he is looking forward to the British Open test despite his lack of competitive golf this season.
“It’s going to be a great test. It’s fast and firm and there was a decent wind today,” he said.
“I hit one ball because I wanted to try to get myself in the competitive mode. The thing is, if you hit it in the rough here, you’re chipping out.
“I played okay, but dropped five shots in three holes, but four-over is not the worst score around here. I really like this course and feel I can play well around here.”