Gary Player warns Rory McIlroy to put golf before love

Jan Kruger

Gary Player says Rory McIlroy has ‘talent galore’ to become ‘the man’ -- if he finds ‘the right wife.’

Gary Player has become the latest in a growing line of golf's elder statesmen to tell Rory McIlroy that he’s squandering his otherworldly talents by following girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki around the world from tennis match to tennis match rather than dedicating himself to his own craft.

"I love Rory McIlroy, he’s got such talent like you can’t believe it, and I got quite perturbed [to] see him win the U.S. Open and then the next tournament he plays is one month later, the Open Championship. You can’t do that," Player, sounding the same theme that Sir Nick has expounded on incessantly, told My Sporting Life on Saturday (via Geoff Shackelford). "What he should have done was taken a week off after winning the U.S. Open to settle down and then play two tournaments in a row and then come into the Open. You’ve got to prepare properly."

McIlroy, who lost golf's top ranking to Tiger Woods in March and slipped from No. 2 to the third slot after Phil Mickelson won the British Open earlier this month, appeared to be the second coming of Eldrick Tont after lapping the fields at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship. Along the way, he picked up the 2012 PGA and European money titles and player of the year honor, which were preludes to his megabucks contract with Nike to start the 2013 season.

Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller, among others, have criticized McIlroy for ditching the Titleist gear that helped him reach the top of his game. They have also opined that the 24-year-old’s love life has distracted him from his true calling.

Player concurred, adding that the "right wife" would put the young lad back on course.

"When you’re in love as a young man, naturally golf seems to take second place for a while," said the nine-time major champion. "That’s natural. Love is still the greatest thing that ever happened in our lives. He’ll come back strong.

"Now the thing is, for a man like Rory, the talent galore, he’s got to make sure he has a woman like I’ve got, who has been married [to me] for 56 years, that has only encouraged me to do well and made all the sacrifices," Player said. "He’s got to be intelligent and find the right wife. If he finds the right wife, if he practices and if he’s dedicated, he could be the man."

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