Paul McGinley is not a man given to publicly criticising his potential players for next year’s Ryder Cup, especially the man who almost single-handedly turned the captaincy campaign in his favour with his consistent shows of support in public and on Twitter.
Beyond informal chats at events such as The Players or the BMW PGA at Wentworth, the 48-year old has steered clear of sitting down with McIlroy to specifically give him advice on how to overcome the problems that have bothered the former world No 1 since January.
However, McIlroy’s admission at The Open that his problems are all mental (coupled with the headline grabbing use of the phrase ‘brain dead’) has prompted the skipper to speak up publicly on Sky Sports, having signed a two-year agreement last May to become an ambassador and commentator for the sports network.
“At 46 years of age, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that you have to know who you are and play to your strength, not your weakness,” McGinley told Sky.
“Looking back, when I was 24, I wish I got to know myself better. That would have helped my golf.
“Hopefully, Rory will get to know himself really well. Keep doing what works for him. Identify his package, making it stronger and stronger.
“Rory is not arrogant. He has a lot of common sense and is willing to listen. He will learn and I have no doubt he will come back.”
McIlroy has endured a torrid 2013 since signing a megabucks deal with Nike in January.
He walked off the course at the Honda Classic in February, lost his world No 1 crown to Tiger Woods in March and followed a missed cut in the irish Open with another failure in the Open.
After opening with a 79 in the Open at Muirfield, McIlroy used the phrase “brain dead” to describe some of his decision making.
Before going on to miss the cut, McIlroy confessed: “I don’t know what you can do. You’ve just got to try to play your way out of it.
“But it’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental out there. And then I just need to concentrate — obviously.
“But sometimes I feel I’m walking around out there unconscious. I just need to think more. I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate.
“But I can’t really fathom it at the minute, and it’s hard to stand up here and tell you guys what’s really wrong.”
After going to world No 1 early last year, McIlroy struggled in the middle of the season.
His poor run included a miserable share of 60th in the Open at Royal Lytham but he turned his game around by finishing fifth in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in his next start.
What happened next was one of the great victory runs of recent years — four wins in nine starts including an eight shot demolition of the field in the US PGA.
With the Akron event coming up next week, followed by the US PGA at Oak Hill, McGinley said: “Everybody was saying Rory was playing rubbish after Lytham.
“A month later he went to the US PGA and won by eight.”
McGinley’s assertion that “Rory is not arrogant” is right on the money. The Co Down native has clear ideas on where he wants to go in the long term which according to people close to him, put him in a class way beyond his years.
That said, he’s clearly struggling to find a balance in his career between his on course and off course life, as evidenced by his poorly assembled schedule.
McIlroy strengths are his ability to get on a roll through constant play and his confidence with the driver. With up to eight events pencilled in for the next 10 weeks, he will not be lacking in match practice, providing he makes cuts.
He also appears to have made progress with his driver, putting a new Nike prototpe with a more familiar head-shape in the bag at The Open.