"The essence of golf is reacting well to the game's inevitable mistakes and misfortunes." These are the words of renowned sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella, a man who Rory McIlroy may soon be in touch with after a shattering first round at the Open Championship at Muirfield this week. McIlroy admitted that he was "brain-dead" at times during the first day of play after opening with a soul-destroying round of 79 which left him at eight over par and thirteen off the lead.
The two-time major champion has not won a tournament since signing a £78 million sponsorship deal with Nike back in January this year, a move which has been met with controversy as he has since struggled adjusting to his new equipment after switching from his previous Titleist clubs.
Facing the media after his turbulent first round, McIlroy said: ""It's nothing to do with technique. It's all mental. I just need to concentrate, obviously, but sometimes I feel like I'm walking around and I'm unconscious. I can't really fathom it at the minute. It's just so brain-dead. It's something I've never experienced before. It's a very alien feeling."
At the highest level, golf is said to be 90% mental. This is why so many have turned to sports psychologists in recent years looking for the missing link in their game which could lead to a major breakthrough, as was the case for Northern Ireland's Padraig Harrington who credits Dr Bob Rotella for his major success. Since there appeared to be no clear answer to his struggling form, McIlroy was asked if he would consider working with Rotella who he has spoken with in the past. Almost admitting defeat, McIlroy replied: "It could be beneficial to see someone like that again."
McIlroy's poor start at Muirfield comes after former English champion, Sir Nick Faldo, stated that the youngster needed to "concentrate more on golf" in order to get himself back to the highs which he has been used to playing at. Acknowledging McIlroy's recent management troubles and off-course worries, Faldo commented: "He's still testing clubs and there is a lot going on in his mind. I always felt as my career went on I got involved in business and other things." Faldo's advice to the youngster was to head back to the practice ground, going back to basics in order to sort his game out.
Given McIlroy's current state of mind, turning to Dr Rotella could be the answer. Having read three of Rotella's works including the appropriately titled 'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect' and 'Golf is a Game of Confidence', I can confirm that his words make complete sense to the professional player as well as the amateur. Along with teaching the reader how to trust their swing, stressing that swing mechanics should not be thought about during a competitive round, Rotella lists frequent mantras in italics throughout his texts, one of which McIlroy may want to bear in mind: "It's not what happens to golfers, but how they choose to respond to what happens that distinguishes champions."