Paul McGinley believes Rory McIlroy must step back and seriously assess a wide range of issues this winter if he is to regain his place as golf's prime predator.
The four-time major winner has seen the huge driving advantage he enjoyed three years ago eroded by his rivals.
And after falling to No 6 in the world this week, McGinley knows that it's vital that McIlroy solves his injury problems, gets settled on a caddie and finds a way to improve his wedge game so he can compete with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and a host of others over the next few years.
Speaking before he hit the first ball at the newly-opened Paul McGinley Golf Academy at Mount Juliet Estate on Friday — the Paul McGinley Golf Course Design project has seen the old range brilliantly re-contoured and reconfigured — the 50-year old gave his views on everything from McIlroy's disappointing 2017 season and the European Tour's role in the revamped golfing landscape to Europe's hopes of winning back the Ryder Cup and Shane Lowry's bid to find the perfect schedule.
When it comes to McIlroy, McGinley detected a lack of spark in the 28-year old Holywood star this year as he battled a rib injury and got distracted by a slew of off-course changes from equipment to marriage.
McGinley on Rory
"He hasn't had his normal energy this year when you watch him play. He is not bouncing around the golf course full of the drive and enthusiasm and engagement we usually associate with Rory.
"I think the landscape in professional golf has changed in the last five years. Three or four years ago, when Rory was dominating, there weren't that many guys really close to him in terms of how they played the game.
"He drove the ball longer and straighter than anybody else and was able to take advantage of that. Now he has four or five guys who are able to hit it as long and as straight as him — young guys who are just as talented.
"So the landscape is different and his competition has certainly increased. He has certainly been hampered with his injury and his scheduling this year and his off-course activities.
"Getting married has been a big change in his lifestyle and what goes on off the golf course. He has been distracted this year with his injury, getting new clubs and getting married.
"So hopefully we will see him come out next year with a new caddie in place and a new plan in place and new ideas about how he is going to attack the new challenges he faces.
"He needs to get rid of his injury for a start and come back next year with a clean bill of health. He needs to decide what direction he wants to go with a caddie and have a clear idea of how he is going to attack the game.
"Is he going to work on his wedges the way that Dustin Johnson has on Trackman? Is he going to start improving that element of his game? There are a lot of questions he has to resolve in order to take himself forward again.
"A step back to assess all this is what he needs. It is not ideal from a European Tour point of view, speaking as a Board member, the last thing you want to see is Rory taking three months off when you've got the Race to Dubai going on but it's a long career and a Rory playing well is much more important to the Tour than a Rory who is playing but not really engaged for one reason or another."
Opportunity knocks for the European Tour with the US PGA in May
"Every challenge is an opportunity, and we are well positioned to take advantage of those opportunities. The PGA Tour has set out its stall and the majors are becoming increasingly more important to the players. But we have a lot of offer in Europe. The Rolex Series has got off on the right foot this year and we want to make sure that is empowered going forward and becomes the bedrock of the European Tour.
We feel we are in a good place. We are moving the PGA from May to September and having played Wentworth last week, I can see it will be in even better condition than when we play the BMW PGA back in May. That will benefit the golf course and September is usually a good month weather wise in the UK and the golf course is primed after a summer season of growth.
"There are times of the year when we are going to be strong on the European Tour and times when the top players are going to want to be in America. We understand that. It is the landscape of golf nowadays but we have a lot to showcase on the European Tour, particularly that links swing around The Open. The run of the Irish, Scottish and Open Championship this year was a success."
Ryder Cup. No need to panic year. There's a long way to Paris 2018
"On paper right now we look like massive underdogs. But a year is a long time and at the moment the Americans look very strong with three or four players contending very well in the FedEx Cup.
"They look like they are all flying. But they are not going to sustain that form for 12 months. Some of them are going to go up, some of them are going to go down and some of them are going to flatline. That's what happens. Professional golf is not a constant and their form is not going to remain constant for the next 12 months.
"I think it is okay that the Europeans are a little bit off the boil right now. That could very well change over the next 12 months as form sea-saws, as it has always done.
"I think home advantage is huge for Europe and I think Jon Rahm is going to be a massive addition to the team and Thomas Pieters, two years on from Hazeltine with all the experience he has and the game he has, is going to be huge.
"Tommy Fleetwood won around Le Golf National this year and is comfortably in the top echelons of the world rankings on a consistent basis. So I certainly think we are going to be very very strong in 12 months time and like it always is, it is going to be a very closely contested Ryder Cup and it's way too early to start predicting by looking at form 12 month out. There are so many variables."
Shane Lowry and the quest for the perfect schedule
"Shane's challenge at the moment is his life off the course. He just got married and had a baby. That's a huge change for any professional golfer and it takes a huge adjustment. He's trying to find his feet at the moment and trying to find a pathway.
"That pathway could be basing himself in Europe as Pádraig has done and taking himself over and back to America. Or he could say, I am not going to play the PGA Tour and only going over for the Majors and WGCs. Or, as he has said, it could be going over to rent in America for a period and bringing his family. Ge hasn't quite figured all that out yet. That's a challenge for Shane next year.
"He has tried to do it the Pádraig way this year, and it hasn't worked for him. Now he is going to try the way of living in America and bringing Wendy and his baby over and see how that works out. He hasn't quite found his feet yet, but we all know how good a player he is.
"He has won on the big stage over there. He has won one of the biggest events in the world. We all know his abilities, and when he finds that pathway, then we can start to critique where he regards his game.
"But scheduling is a huge challenge for Shane right now and all the players who are married with kids. Yes, getting back into the top 50 in the world is important but he has to find a pathway for himself and work out how to find that balance between family life and getting back into the top 50 and contending in majors and trying to win them. He hasn't done that yet and that's his challenge at the moment."
Mount Juliet's Paul McGinley Golf Academy
As for his own career, McGinley has several projects simmering but for now, he's just happy to have opened the spectacular Paul McGinley Golf Academy at Mount Juliet Estate.
The new range gives golfers the facilities to replicate all the shots they play on the course, including full-length fairways to practice your draws and fades.
Facilities also include two putting greens and a short game area, and the Academy is using the most advanced teaching software, the Trackman 4e, allowing all aspects of the game to be developed and taught.
All instruction is based on McGinley's playing philosophy, and the instructors chosen are selected and trained by the McGinley team.
A new swing room is under development where many of the leading brands will be available for custom-fit, including Taylormade, Callaway and Vega.
All clubs will be expertly fitted with the use of Trackman 4e which will also be used for all forms of coaching at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy. With Trackman Certified coaches on site it is the ideal environment in which to take your game to the next level.
The latest initiative represents an investment of €4.5 million in total spend on all golf facilities/course and the Paul McGinley Golf Academy at Mount Juliet Estate.
The new Director of Golf, Matt Sandercock, AA PGA Professional and Trackman certified coach, is delighted that the new Academy is ready to open to the public.
And McGinley is thrilled with the work carried out by his design company's Project Coordinator, Joe Bedford.
"Joe Bedford has been very instrumental in the academy," McGinley said. "We have re-contoured and redesigned the driving range and signed off on the building work that is going to go on in terms building the academy and putting in the Trackman facilities.
"There's already a fantastic Jack Nicklaus designed golf course there, so we are obviously going to do nothing to that. This is just purely a driving range and academy and trying to invest the 26 years' experience I've had on tour in helping people play better golf.
“Mount Juliet Estate has long been a top golfing destination on the world stage of golf. So I am delighted to be partnering with the owners, Tetrarch Capital."
Mount Juliet Estate has recently completed the development of a state-of-the-art Clubhouse to complement the new Paul McGinley Golf Academy.
All memberships are subject to €5K joining fee (not effective until March 1st 2018) with the exception of the Corporate Golf membership package.