Open season on Rory McIlroy: He's no Tiger Woods, says Curtis Strange

Rob Carr

Ditching Titleist for Nike was like "a divorce with 14 clubs," Paul Azinger chimes in about the continuing woes of No. 2.

Rory McIlroy, you may have heard, made a massive equipment change to start the season and his game has foundered ever since. Still the second-ranked player in the world, despite an 0-fer-2013, the two-time major champion enters next week's British Open still struggling to find his game after conceding during last month's U.S. Open that he was "lost."

Many in the punditry (even those not named Nick Faldo) believe swapping Titleist clubs for Nike was a big no-no for McIlroy, who will hit the Scottish links at Muirfield still smarting from his last three starts -- a T57 at the Memorial, a tie for 41st at the U.S. Open and a missed cut at the Irish Open.

"It's one thing to change your driver or wedge, but you're asking for huge trouble when you change all your clubs and your golf ball at the same time,” NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller told the San Francisco Chronicle's Ron Kroichick in a recent interview. "His 9-iron and wedge have been really horrendous, and he just lost the magic with his putting.

"He's hit the grand slam of things you have to watch out for when you're at the top," opined Miller, who noted he went through a lengthy slump after a similar gear change back in the day. "He's a bit of a mess."

Paul Azinger, the winner of 12 PGA Tour tourneys, agreed that McIlroy’s woes stemmed from his discomfort with unfamiliar wands.

"I've changed clubs a lot, and it was always difficult for me. I think he's really struggling with this," Azinger said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "It's almost like he's had a divorce with 14 clubs.

"He's changed every club in his bag, and it is hard to do," Azinger added. "He's working on drivers with Nike trying to figure out which one he wants to use. Now, that is a burden to a player ... He just went through a major change when he changed all 14 clubs, and it's affected him."

Curtis Strange veered away from the popular notion put forth by his fellow commentators, blaming, instead, McIlroy's still evolving game on more than what's in his bag. Terming the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland a "brilliant player," two-time U.S. Open winner Strange believes the golfer Graeme McDowell once tagged as the successor to a certain world No. 1 needed time to adjust to alterations and regain his swagger.

"As Rory matures, learns more about his game, his swing, how to play the game, he will be a more consistent player,"Strange said during the teleconference.

"He will not be in my estimation a Tiger Woods, where he is a grinder to the end, where he is a very consistent player day in and day out; he's not going to be that kind of player," Strange observed, echoing views similar to those of two-time Open Championship titleholder Padraig Harrington. "He's a swashbuckler, but I think he will become a much better player in the future, more consistent player."

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Bubba's hovercraft will be put in play

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Tiger injured again, and the prospect of another lost summer at the majors

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