Nick Faldo advises Rory McIlroy to ‘concentrate on golf’

“You have a window of opportunity, that’s my only words of wisdom to Rory. You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf. Nothing else!”

Rory McIlroy (right) during a practice round at Muirfield on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy (right) during a practice round at Muirfield on Sunday.


Nick Faldo, a six-time Major champion, is playing in this British Open for old times sake. He won’t win. Rory McIlroy, a two-time Major champion but less than half the age of the Englishman, is playing for real. He wants to win.

And yesterday Faldo, these days more inclined to be behind a broadcaster’s microphone than hitting golf balls for pay or to chase glory, offered some free advice to McIlroy.

McIlroy may take it, or – more likely – not.

“You have a window of opportunity, 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, 50s, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So, just concentrate on golf!” advised Faldo, who emphasised that a player needs “100 per cent concentration” on the game, “off the course, practising, as well”.

If Faldo’s advice doesn’t actually offer a cure to McIlroy, it does – again – provide an insight from someone who has walked the walk as well as talked the talk in his own career.

As Faldo, the greatest European golfer of his generation in terms of Major wins, also put it, “we know what’s been happening to Rory, he’s still testing clubs, and a lot going on”.

Of McIlroy – who has a new driver in his bag this week after visiting Nike’s technicians in the aftermath of a missed cut in the Irish Open last month – attempting to discover his game on a course with high fescue rough, Faldo added: “You’ve got to hit it solid. Any mis-hits, the bounce is 30 yards off-line here, it’s in the hay.”

If there was a fatherly edge to Faldo’s advice to McIlroy, he pulled no punches either in assessing Tiger Woods’ current state of mind once he goes into a Major championship.

‘Different mode’
“Tiger’s in a different mode, where he’s winning regular tournaments but (once) he gets to the Majors, something happens. As I call it, the self-belief you have to have (to win Majors), maybe there’s a little dent in there. He hits the wrong shot at the wrong time, where before Tiger would hit the right shot at the right time.”

In throwing the two pieces of advice together, Faldo added: “Everybody has had a chance to reboot, rebuild. I’m sure they’ve come here with the right intentions.”

Whatever about the current plight of the respective form of McIlroy and Woods in the Majors, Faldo – once a tower of strength in these particular championships – is here with the avowed intention of trying to make the cut. Thoughts of another Claret Jug are far removed from his mind.

A winner here in 1987 and again in 1992, Faldo – who hasn’t played in the British Open since St Andrews in 2010 with an increasing amount of time spent on course design, broadcasting duties and developing his Faldo Series worldwide in developing junior golf – decided only two months ago to include Muirfield on his to-do list for the year.

He explained: “Early in the year, I was doing a commercial for Glenmorangie and the question was, ‘what’s your favourite golf course?’ And, ‘how would you create your favourite golf course?’ I started off (saying) I wanted Pebble Beach coastline, and the pines of Augusta (National) and the atmosphere of St Andrews. And then thought of the memorability (of Muirfield). I thought, ‘wow, I’ve got a very special place here, the 18th green at Muirfield’. I ended up thinking about it and that won in my heart and my mind. That maybe sowed some seeds.”

Those seed grew to the extent that, during a workout in his gym, he made the decision to, as he put it, “go for it”.

“The bottom line, I hope I’m inspired; that I want to play again and have another go here . . . when you come here and see the test they’ve prepared, you start grand ideas of survival of how close the cut could I get? That would be impressive for a guy that hasn’t hit a competitive shot for three years, if I could be relatively competitive.

“I’m trying to bust my buns to get to know this golf course, because it’s like a main road out there; it’s hard and fast . . . that could be quite an achievement if I could hover close to making the cut, I would have thought.”

So, for this week, Faldo’s thought is mere survival. To make the cut. His advice to McIlroy, though, is aimed more at the long-term. It’s about concentrating on his golf. As if McIlroy needed any more advice. Or distractions.