Rory McIlroy was long finished with his horrific first round at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club but the head-scratching woes of the former world No. 1 were front and center in the Golf Channel booth during Thursday’s afternoon wave at the Memorial Tournament.
“He’s struggling,” tourney host Jack Nicklaus averred in a huge understatement about McIlroy, who struggled to make it to the clubhouse at 6-over 78 in what he has planned as his last competitive golf before the U.S. Open in two weeks.
McIlroy found just seven fairways and 11 greens and made 33 putts in a round he described to PGATour.com’s Helen Ross as “just a bit of a struggle.” He blamed a lack of confidence more than a balky putter or wayward tee and iron shots.
“I talked to Rory a little while ago and he says, ‘it’s between my ears and I’ll sort it out,’” Nicklaus said.
Maybe yes, maybe no, for last year’s PGA Tour Player of the Year, who arrived in Dublin, Ohio, after missing the cut at last week’s European Tour signature event, the BMW PGA Championship. Ending his day 13 shots back of early leader Charl Schwartzel, McIlroy could not quite finger the culprit for his problems.
“I don’t really have many explanations for this,” he said.
Not to worry, because Nick Faldo, who has criticized McIlroy’s equipment change early and often, provided a couple reasons for the two-time major champ’s most recent swoon in a season full of them.
“So much going on, Jack, with the new clubs, and now he’s formed his own management,” Faldo said to his TV booth-mate, referring to McIlroy’s reported move from Horizon Sports Management to his own firm employing his father and perhaps his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki. “Once you start thinking of too many things other than golf -- it gives you enough to think about, this game.”
“It’s part of life,” said the owner of 18 major championship titles. “You have to figure out where you’re going and how you’re going, and sometimes you take a little diversion.”
Nicklaus conceded that he formed his own group when he was 30, but he paid others to deal with the business side of golf.
“I surrounded myself with people and I didn’t have to worry about it,” Nicklaus said. “I could go play golf and that’s what I had to do.”
Bingo, offered Faldo.
“You have a window for 20 years, you hope, and you have enough to concentrate on [inside the ropes],” he said. “You gotta go play.”