Golf fans are eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the growing rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods but former world No 1 Nick Faldo has doubts on either player achieving his best this year.
Woods used to intimidate his rivals with his dominant golf and self-belief but all that changed for Faldo after the American’s fall from grace at the end of 2009 amid revelations about his extra-marital affairs. “It’s more than three years since the crash-and-burn in his personal life and I personally think he has a lot to deal with there, right from when it all happened,” Faldo said.
“In golf, you have to be completely engrossed and free just to go out and practise 100 per cent. There’s nothing worse if you then get distracted for good reasons or bad reasons. If somebody is in your ear or you are worried about something, it’s much harder to have that peace of mind.”
Woods clinched his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month but he dropped four strokes in his last five holes in blustery conditions mainly due to wayward driving. “When he’s on form, he’s fabulous, but there are certain shots on the golf course he’s struggling with,” said Faldo.
Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines and his desire to eclipse the record 18 piled up by Jack Nicklaus, in Faldo’s view, will never be fulfilled. “You can’t say it’s impossible but I am leaning towards no,” said Faldo. “I don’t think it will happen The biggest thing is how Tiger must look at himself in the mirror and wonder what happened. It’s a lot to deal with.”
Faldo said McIlroy made a “dangerous move” in changing his club manufacturer this season, while he believes 14-times major winner Woods can never return to golfing dominance without regaining a “go-to shot” to use in pressure situations.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, who won his second major title by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship in August, switched his club brand last month from Titleist to Nike in a deal reported to be worth as much as $250 million over ten years. “Rory went from rookie of the year to world No 1 with the same equipment and now he’s changed absolutely everything, which I know, from personal grief, is dangerous,” said six-time major champion Faldo.
“Once I heard the news, I tweeted it was a dangerous move. It’s risky because it’s all about the feel and sound of the golf ball, it’s the feel and sound of the putter face, it’s the feel and sound and the torque of a driver.
“People say, ‘Oh, Rory can adapt,’ but why should he be adapting at this time in his career? He may just waltz through and it’s all fine. Or you may even say, ‘Hey, whatever his goals were before, he may have made them a little more difficult’.”