LONDON (Reuters) - Gary Player is “perturbed” by some of the decisions being made by Rory McIlroy but the South African great believes the former world number one “could be the man” if he sorts out his problems.
The 24-year-old McIlroy’s game has nosedived since he changed club manufacturer at the start of the season following a switch to Nike that, according to media reports, is worth $250 million over the next 10 years.
Last year the young Northern Irishman stormed to the top of the world rankings and won the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I love Rory McIlroy, he’s got talent like you can’t believe, but I was quite perturbed when I saw him win the U.S. Open (last year) and then the next tournament he played was one month later,” nine-times major winner Player told Britain’s Talksport radio.
”You can’t do that. What he should have done was take a week off after winning the U.S. Open to settle down and then play two tournaments.
“You’ve got to prepare properly. He has a few problems at this stage of his life but everyone has problems,” added the 77-year-old Player.
“He’ll sort it out, he’s got wonderful parents and he’s got great talent. He’ll come back.”
Player’s comments echoed those made about twice major winner McIlroy by former world number one Nick Faldo during last week’s British Open at Muirfield.
Faldo hinted that world number three McIlroy, who missed the cut at the third major of the season, was spending more time than he should on off-the-course activities.
”You have a window of opportunity, that’s my only words of wisdom to Rory,“ said the Englishman who now works as a full-time television commentator. ”You have say a 20-year window as an athlete - concentrate on golf, nothing else.
“Hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it so just concentrate on your golf.”
McIlroy is in a long-term relationship with former world number one tennis player Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Player said he could understand why golf was perhaps not quite as important to the Northern Irishman as it once was.
”When you’re in love as a young man, naturally golf seems to take second place for a while,“ the South African explained. ”It’s natural - love is still the greatest thing that ever happens in our lives.
”But the thing is for a man like Rory with talent galore, he has 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 has made sacrifices.
“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,” said Player.
Reporting by Tony Jimenez; editing by Pritha Sarkar