GULLANE, Scotland —
There's nothing wrong with McIlroy physically, but he's suddenly playing second fiddle to players such as Adam Scott and Justin Rose, the winners of the year's first two majors.
When Scott captured the Masters in a playoff, McIlroy was never much of a factor on the way to finishing 25th. When Rose held on to win the U.S. Open, the young Irishman limped to the end in 41st.
From Azinger's perspective, McIlroy lost the baseline on his game when he changed up all that equipment. When something goes wrong, he's not sure what might be contributing to the problem — the club or the ball. He's trying to figure it all out again, and that's not easy to do when you're in the midst of the season, even for a player with his enormous skills.
Faldo, meanwhile, urged McIlroy to eliminate some of the distractions that have cropped up since he surged to stardom.
"You have a window of opportunity," the three-time Open champion said. "That's my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf, nothing else. Hopefully when you retire, in your 40s or 50s, you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf."
Even if Woods falters again and McIlroy continues to struggle, Muirfield will likely produce a worthy champion.
That's just the way it goes at this place.