‘Distractions’ are not spoiling Rory McIlroy – the ball is just not dropping

Apparently the desire to be with the girl he loves is bad for his golf

This is where it all started to go right for Rory McIlroy, the disappointments of spring and early summer morphed into the mother of all season finales. A top-five at the Bridgestone was followed a week later by victory at the USPGA to claim his second major. He could barely miss from there on in, winning twice in the FedEx play-offs and signing off the Race to Dubai in a blaze of birdies to top the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.

A year on McIlroy finds himself in the worst spot in sport, on the couch of scrutiny, where every aspect of his approach and character are dissected by the massed ranks of experts and commentators in order to come to a definitive truth about the crisis in his game. He will love the latest contribution from Gary Player, who counsels him to get a wife sharpish and stick with her all the way to the 19th hole, after all it never did him any harm.

At the Open recently Sir Nick Faldo advised him to concentrate on the golf, to cut out the “distractions”. For the uninitiated, distractions are the elements in his personal life that are dragged up to account for poor play. A popular target in McIlroy’s case is his relationship with tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki. Apparently the desire to spend time with the girl he loves is somehow counter-productive, it gets in the way of his golf.

Eh? Graeme McDowell attributed his best performance since his US Open triumph three years ago, victory at the Heritage in April, to the presence of family and friends. After missing the cut at the Masters, an event for which he said he was over-prepared, he journeyed to Hilton Head with his fiancée, members of her family, his parents, took two houses and barbecued his way to victory. There were no post-round sessions on the range beating balls that week. It was straight back to the shack to crack open the beers. He beat Webb Simpson in a play-off to claim his first title as a full member of the PGA Tour.

Similarly, after his victory at the US Open this year Justin Rose played one tournament then retreated to the bosom of his family for a fortnight before pitching up at Muirfield for the Open. No one gave him a shelling about family “distractions” when he missed the cut.

Another stick with which to beat McIlroy relates to his business affairs. Someone is certainly in a muddle here. McIlroy is presently engaged in separating from one management company in order to set up his own. Like many elite sportsmen the man has absurd wealth. This confers many an advantage, not least the capacity to delegate. Facing an eviction order for failing to pay the rent might impact negatively on the mood of a golfer on the first tee. I can see that. But paying one lawyer to negotiate with another to get him exactly what he wants seems to me to be a winning position in this thing called life.

And then there is the deal with Nike. This was the killer issue for Faldo. Why chuck away the magic of a winning relationship with one manufacturer for the uncertainty of another? This might have had a short-term consequence but nothing insurmountable. McIlroy could get his ball round with an old mashie. Besides if things were critical in this domain, he could follow the well-trodden path of badging the old driver with a new logo. Hey presto, no one would ever know.

McIlroy’s problem is every player’s problem. It’s called form. And no game demands more of body and mind than golf. The physics of the golf swing requires the kind of precision that no human being can hope to repeat ad infinitum. At some point rhythm breaks down and has to be rediscovered. This is the endless cycle that claims the best of them. Brandt Snedeker could not hit a barn door with beach ball a few months back and on Saturday he shot a 63 to lead in Canada by two strokes. 

If stability is really the issue, consider this. McIlroy’s father and mother, the people who really matter, who nurtured him, who know him best, who keep him grounded, are at his side at most tournaments. McIlroy is 24 years old, and all that comes with it; impulsive, headstrong, excitable, hedonistic, indulgent. What crusty old has-been would not want that kind of distraction in their lives again?

All these inherent drivers were present when the putts were dropping. Only when they stop are they used in evidence against him. Let the lad be. He will work it out. And when he does it won’t be because he has life neatly parcelled up, it will be because the ball is finding the cup. That’s sport. The common experience in golf is failure. Three wins a year from 20-odd events is considered a hot streak. He should know. He has more than most. And guess what? It’s Bridgestone week again.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star