Any way you size it up it’s been a tumultuous year for Rory McIlroy. He’s played poorly at all three majors thus far, and has drawn criticism for everything from his phantom toothache at the Honda Classic to his complicated relationship with his new Nike irons.
Gary Player took time last week to issue a conjecture on what might be ailing young McIlroy.
“When you’re in love as a young man naturally golf seems to take second place for awhile,” Player said among other things. Indeed Rory’s relationship with professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki has produced headlines in the year plus that they’ve been dating.
McIlroy responded today in a passive aggressive manner. He admitted first that he hadn’t heard Player’s remarks. When a reporter read them, Rory responded “I have the utmost respect for Gary Player. He is an incredible man.” He continued, “I don’t know what he said. This is the first time I’ve heard it. I don’t really know, all I know is I’ve got a lot of respect for the man, and he’s someone that I definitely look up to.”
With the repetition of “I don’t know,” it seems Rory has either more to say or in some ways agrees with Player’s assertion. For the record, I find Player’s remarks rather benign. Young love is a distraction, especially in McIlroy and Wozniacki’s case where each travels the world for their respective professions. Any hour the two spend together is an hour that Rory could be practicing. It’s likely that the difficulties of such a relationship has weighed on the two time Major champion.
But what is McIlroy supposed to say? In his early career the Irishman has avoided controversy and conducted himself with class quite impressively. He recognizes that there’s little to gain from getting into a skirmish of words with a 77 year old golf legend.
To his credit, Rory has been able to overcome the yips and struggles that have invaded his golf game at inopportune times. His clinic at the US Open at Congressional following the Sunday disaster at Augusta is a testament to that ability.
With a solid performance at the Bridgestone this week- where he finished T-5 last year- Rory can put any talk about distractions behind him and look forward to defending his Wanamaker Trophy in August.
If his poor season continues though, maybe he does need to reconsider how he allocates his time. And Player would be a wise person to talk to.